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Alyn Shipton and Bill Dobbins

[Thomas Wright]

(b New York, May 21, 1904; d Kansas City, MO, Dec 15, 1943). American jazz and popular pianist, organist, singer, bandleader and composer.

Alyn Shipton

His father Edward Waller, a Baptist lay preacher, conducted open air religious services in Harlem, at which as a child Fats Waller played the reed organ. He played the piano at his public school and at the age of 15 became organist at the Lincoln Theatre on 135th Street. His father hoped that Waller would follow a religious calling rather than a career in jazz, but after the death of his mother, Adeline Waller, in 1920 he moved in with the family of the fellow African American pianist Russell Brooks. Through Brooks, Waller met James P. Johnson, under whose tutelage he developed as a pianist, and through whose influence he came to make piano rolls, starting in 1922 with Got to cool my doggies now...


Nico Schüler

(b Tyrone, PA, June 9, 1900; d University Park, PA, July 29, 1984). American musician, bandleader, choral conductor, radio-television personality, educator, and businessman. He grew up in a musical family, singing and playing guitar, drums, and banjo. Together with his brother Tom, he founded an ensemble in 1918 at Pennsylvania State University that in 1922 adopted the name “Waring’s Pennsylvanians” and had early hits with “Sleep” in 1923 and with “Collegiate” in 1925. A key characteristic of Waring’s ensemble was that all instrumentalists were also required to be strong vocalists. The group toured the United States as a stage act in film theaters and were featured in the early sound film Syncopation (1929), and by the 1930s they appeared on Broadway and became one of the most sought-after groups for radio hosting shows as well as in theaters. The ensemble was featured in the Cole Porter musical ...


Jack Litchfield

revised by Mark Miller

(b Glasgow, Oct 31, 1896; d Peterborough, Canada, Aug 12, 1959). Canadian pianist and bandleader. He was taken to Canada as a child and studied piano in Toronto, where he formed a dance orchestra (c1923). Under the influence of his trumpeter, the American Curtis Little, he soon moved towards a “hot dance” style. The band played locally in the mid-1920s on radio and appeared at Sunnyside and Ginn’s pavilions and the Prince George Hotel. The ten numbers it recorded in 1925–6 (including St. Louis Blues, Domino 21563) are among the earliest jazz recordings made by a Canadian band. Watson later turned away from jazz, and retired in 1942 after several years as a society bandleader at Toronto’s Old Mill.

J. Litchfield: The Canadian Jazz Discography, 1916–1980 (Toronto, Buffalo, and London, 1982) M. Miller: Such Melodious Racket: the Lost History of Jazz in Canada, 1914–1949 (Toronto, 1997)...


William H. Tallmadge

(b Santa Cruz, CA, Dec 19, 1911; d Santa Rosa, CA, Nov 5, 1989). American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. In 1938 he founded a swing band in Oakland from which, in 1940, he extracted a small unit, the Yerba Buena Jazz Band, to revive the New Orleans small-band style of King Oliver. Although other small dixieland bands existed at this time, notably Muggsy Spanier’s and Bob Crosby’s, the sense of alleged authenticity projected by Watters’s group set it apart and stimulated a large-scale revival of New Orleans and Chicago jazz throughout the world. Of the many revivalist bands formed during this period, two of the most successful were led by former sidemen in Watters’s group, the trumpeter Bob Scobey and the trombonist Turk Murphy. Watters retired from professional music activities in 1957.

M.W. Stearns: The Story of Jazz (New York, 1956, London, 1957, rev. and enlarged 1970/R)...


J. Bradford Robinson

[William Henry ]

(b Baltimore, Feb 10, 1905; d Baltimore, June 16, 1939). American jazz and popular drummer and bandleader . He moved to New York around 1925 and from January 1927 led a group at the Savoy Ballroom that later became one of the outstanding bands of the swing period. Although the group did not include any prominent soloists during its years of prolific recording activity, it developed a distinctive style thanks in part to the compositions and arrangements provided by Edgar Sampson, for example, Let’s get together, Stomping at the Savoy (both 1934, Col.), Don’t be that way and Blue Lou (both 1934, Decca), and especially to Webb’s forceful drumming. In 1934 Ella Fitzgerald was engaged as the band’s singer, and it soon achieved popular success with performances of such tunes as A-tisket, A-tasket (1938, Decca). Webb’s band remained at the Savoy intermittently during the late 1920s and held long residencies there in the 1930s, regularly defeating rival bands in the ballroom’s famous cutting contests. After Webb’s early death, Fitzgerald led the group until ...


Derek Coller

(Horace )

(b London, Oct 8, 1917; d London, March 10, 2010). English pianist and bandleader. In 1942 he formed a band which shortly afterwards became known as George Webb’s Dixielanders; its members included Wally Fawkes and Eddie Harvey. It began by performing once a week at the Red Barn in Barnehurst, Kent (see Nightclubs and other venues), then, through its recordings (including South, 1946, Decca F8735) and performances on radio and in clubs, the group stimulated the jazz-band movement that came to be known as “trad.” After the Dixielanders disbanded in 1948 Webb joined his former sideman Humphrey Lyttelton, with whom he performed until 1951, when he ceased full-time playing. He ran several jazz clubs and worked in jazz promotion and as a booking agent. He again led his own band in 1972–4, and he continued to perform in the 1980s and 1990s at his own pubs and in reunions with Lyttelton’s group....


Eddie Lambert

[Lawrence Arthur ]

(b Peru, IN, July 18, 1906; d South Bend, IN, Nov 4, 1994). American bandleader and drummer. His nickname refers to his ability in high school as a baseball pitcher. He began by learning violin and mellophone, but changed to drums. After performing locally in 1923, he helped to form a cooperative band, the Hoosier Melody Lads, in 1925; he later assumed leadership of the band and in 1926 led it in a recording session for Gennett (though the results were not issued). It moved to California (1926), where it was resident at various clubs and appeared in several films (1928–9), the soundtracks of which, however, may have been recorded by studio orchestras (see Films §I 2.). From 1929 Webb led a number of bands, mostly conducting them but occasionally playing drums and singing; among his sidemen were Roy Eldridge, Teddy Buckner, Vic Dickenson, Teddy Wilson, and Art Tatum. Webb ceased full-time performing in ...


Wim van Eyle

(b Harlingen, Netherlands, Jan 22, 1908; d Putten, Netherlands, Sept 14, 1988). Dutch bandleader and arranger. He studied piano and played with the Electorians (1926–8), under the bandleader Juan Llossas (in Germany, 1931–2), and with the drummer Bobby ’t Sas (1933). In 1934 he formed a big band, the Red, White and Blue Aces, that played in a musically adventurous style and achieved little success; the following year he moved to London in February to write arrangements for Jack Hylton and to Chicago in October to write arrangements for Benny Goodman and the conductor André Kostelanetz. He went to Argentina in 1938, then returned to the Netherlands after ending his career as a musician. He is the composer of the well-known song Penny Serenade, recorded by, among others, Nat Gonella (1938). Weersma may be heard leading his big band on the pairing ...


Günther Huesmann

(b Menden, Germany, c1910; dc1944). German bandleader, violinist, trumpeter, and singer. He studied at the Hanover Conservatory at the age of 12; after moving to Berlin around 1930, he formed a trio and then led a sextet. At the beginning of 1935 he formed a dance band which played in a style similar to that of the Casa Loma Orchestra; the players varied in number from 10 to 15 and included Willy Berking. The band, which earned a reputation for the refinement of its playing, made numerous recordings for Telefunken from ...


[Samuel M. ]

(b New York, Sept 1, 1910; d Encino, CA, Dec 18, 1977). American drummer and bandleader. From 1931 he performed and recorded in New York with the alto saxophonist and singer Gene Kardos (1931–8), Benny Goodman (1934), Tommy Dorsey (1935–6), Louis Prima (1935, 1937), and Artie Shaw (1936). He also worked with Paul Whiteman and made numerous recordings as a freelance with such musicians as Adrian Rollini (1935), Wingy Manone (1935, 1936), Miff Mole (1937), Louis Armstrong and Lil Armstrong (both 1938), and the pianist and singer Erskine Butterfield (1940, 1942) and also in a trio with Johnny Guarnieri (1944). After moving to California (May 1945) he formed his own orchestra, which became very successful; he continued to work as a leader through the 1960s, though he briefly rejoined Goodman from ...


Clarrie Henley

revised by Barry Kernfeld

(b Edinburgh, July 9, 1929; d London, June 25, 1982). Scottish trumpeter, singer, and bandleader. He first played cornet, and worked with Archie Semple (1951) and Sandy Brown (1953). After moving to London in 1954 he formed his own group, which within a year had played several times at the Royal Festival Hall, made its first broadcasts and recordings, and established a reputation for its dedication to the dixieland style and the excellence of its playing. From 1955 it made several tours overseas, and in 1968 it played to great acclaim at the Newport Jazz Festival. The band accompanied many American soloists, including Bud Freeman, Wild Bill Davison, Earl Hines, and Ruby Braff. In 1957 Welsh was invited to join Jack Teagarden, but did not accept. Fred Hunt and Lennie Hastings were among his longstanding sidemen; although his ensemble was noted for its few personnel changes, by ...


Charles Fox

revised by Digby Fairweather

[Michael John David ]

(b High Wycombe, March 21, 1936). English jazz composer, pianist and bandleader . After working in an accountant’s office and studying painting he took up music professionally; he was largely self-taught and has an empirical approach to composition. Around 1960 he organized a jazz workshop in Plymouth, where he wrote for a small ensemble that included John Surman, then in 1962 he moved to London. From that time he has written pieces for a number of his own ensembles: the Mike Westbrook Band (1962–72), the Mike Westbrook Concert Band (1967–71), the multi-media group Cosmic Circus (1970–72), the jazz-rock band Solid Gold Cadillac (1971–4), the Mike Westbrook Brass Band (established in 1973 to perform in the theatre and on television), the Mike Westbrook Orchestra (formed in 1974), A Little Westbrook Music (formed in 1982) and the Dance Band (formed in ...


Ryan D.W. Bruce

[Randolph Edward ]

(b Brooklyn, NY, April 6, 1926). American jazz pianist, bandleader, composer, and club owner. Weston did not identify with his classical music lessons as a youth, choosing instead to explore a percussive piano style under the influence of Duke Ellington. Other early influences include Count Basie, Nat “King” Cole, Art Tatum, and Coleman Hawkins. Weston’s playing was transformed after attending a concert by Hawkins and Thelonious Monk in 1945: Monk became Weston’s mentor from 1947–9, and inspired his heavy attack and improvisatory rhythmic displacements. He was hired by Marshall Stearns in 1949 to provide demonstrations of different jazz styles for university lectures given throughout the United States; their work lasted eight summers and fostered Weston’s interest in African music.

Beginning with his debut in 1954, his early recordings acquired critical recognition and included band members such as Art Blakey, Cecil Payne, Ahmed Abdul-Malik, and Coleman Hawkins. Some of his compositions of the time, especially “Little Niles” and “Hi-Fly,” gained popularity and have been recorded by many others. Weston also worked with arranger ...


Carl Johnson

(b Denver, March 28, 1890; d Doylestown, PA, Dec 29, 1967). American jazz and dance-band leader. He played the viola in the Denver SO from 1907 and in the San Francisco SO from 1914. During World War I he led a 40-piece navy band, playing march tunes by day and show music by night. Sensing new dimensions for popular music in the transition from ragtime to jazz, he organized a dance band in San Francisco in 1919, and later moved to Los Angeles and Atlantic City, New Jersey, before settling in New York in 1920. There he soon became the best-known American bandleader, particularly with his recording of Whispering and Japanese Sandman (1920, Vic.), which sold more than a million copies. By the early 1920s his lush orchestral style was widely copied on countless bandstands at home and abroad. He toured the British Isles in 1923 and Europe in ...


[Zach ]

(b Richmond, KY, 1898; d Kentucky, March 10, 1967). American bandleader and banjoist. He studied at Wilberforce College, Ohio, where he joined Horace Henderson’s student band as an arranger and banjoist. He formed his own group around 1923, and in the late 1920s he began to lead the Chocolate Beau Brummels. Although the band was very successful it made only a small number of recordings, among them ...


Rainer E. Lotz

[Josef ]

(b Siegburg, Germany, March 19, 1916). German bandleader. He studied violin, drums, and piano at the conservatory in Bonn. At the age of 22 he played drums in the dance orchestras of Will Glahé and Bernard Etté, and in 1942 he was appointed director of the Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft dance orchestra. He entertained German and British troops during and after the war and also broadcast on the BBC. From ...


Erik Kjellberg

revised by Lars Westin

[Hans-Olof ]

(b Borlänge, Sweden, Sept 10, 1924; d Grycksbo, Sweden, Feb 14, 2006). Swedish clarinetist and bandleader. He became a professional musician in 1944, when he joined the violinist Hasse Kahn for a summer tour; he then worked in Stockholm in the quintet led by the double bass player Arthur Österwall at Nalen (1944–5) and in the band led by Miff Görling and Gösta Törner at La Visite (1945–6). After playing very briefly with Simon Brehm he rejoined Kahn's band in 1947, while it was at Nalen. In autumn 1948 Kahn was obliged to leave for military service, and Wickman took over the leadership of what was then a sextet; Kahn’s longstanding sideman Reinhold Svensson remained in the group, serving as pianist and arranger for Wickman through its years at Nalen (to 1960).

Wickman was in the Swedish all-star band that appeared at the Paris Jazz Fair in ...


Rainer E. Lotz

[Kurt ]

(b Berlin, March 2, 1906; d Berlin, Nov 27, 1954). German bandleader. He began playing professionally with local bands in 1924. His own hot quintet was resident at the Imperator Diele in Berlin for ten years (1933–43), and he made his first recordings of dance music and jazz as the leader of a big band in ...


Richard March

[Whoopee John ]

(b New Ulm, MN, May 11, 1893; d St Paul, MN, June 15, 1961). American polka musician and bandleader. “Whoopee John” Wilfahrt is the bandleader most responsible for developing and popularizing the type of German American polka music known as “Dutchman.” He was born on a farm in Sigel Township near New Ulm, Minnesota. Like most of the people in the community, his family was descended from Germans from Bohemia. Recognizing his musical talent, John’s mother Barbara purchased a concertina for him in 1904, and by 1909 John had formed a trio with his brother and a cousin, which featured concertina, trumpet, and tuba.

In the ensuing years, John’s band grew, adding additional brass and reed instruments, as well as piano and drums. Moreover, the band’s reach grew with the possibilities afforded by the technological advances of the early 20th century: records and radio, as well as paved roads and automobiles to facilitate touring. In the 1920s the band became consistently known as the Whoopee John Band. According to anecdote, an enthusiastic fan shouted, “Whoopee, John is here,” when he arrived late to an engagement, creating Wilfahrt’s moniker....


Wim van Eyle

(b 1911; d 1970). Dutch bandleader. He played piano with Kai Ewans in Copenhagen (1928), led a band with his brother, the pianist Philip Willebrandts (1929–34), and worked with the bass player Jack de Vries (1935–8) and under the bandleader Klaas Van Beeck (...