Eckstine, Billy (jazz) [Eckstein, William Clarence; Mr. B]
- Barry Kernfeld
[Eckstein, William Clarence; Mr. B]
(b Pittsburgh, July 8, 1914; d Pittsburgh, March 8, 1993). American singer and bandleader. After studying at St. Paul Normal and Industrial School, Lawrenceville, Virginia, and Howard University in Washington, DC, he embarked on a career as a singer and master of ceremonies in Buffalo in 1934. He worked his way in late 1937 to Chicago, where in 1939 he became the principal vocalist in Earl Hines’s big band. He remained with the pianist until 1943, learning to play trumpet while on the band’s tours, because, according to Hines, he could stop being pressured to join the American Guild of Variety Artists by presenting himself as a member of the musicians’ union. From 1944 to 1947 he led an unsuccessful but now highly acclaimed bop big band, which may be appreciated in the film Rhythm in a Riff (1946). After briefly leading a septet that included Wardell Gray (...