Ikey Robinson also known as Banjo Ikey was born Isaac L. Robinson on July 28, 1904 in Dublin, Virginia. He moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1926, playing and recording with Jelly Roll Morton, Clarence Williams, and Jabbo Smith during 1928-1929.
He went on to put together groups that included Ikey Robinson and his Band with Jabbo Smith, The Hokum Trio, The Pods of Pepper, Windy City Five, and Sloke & Ike.
His jazz style influenced many subsequent players, and his 1929 recording Rock Me Mama is often cited as an early use of the term “rock” as it evolved from black gospel into rock and roll.
Robinson reunited in the 1970s with Jabbo Smith for a global tour and appeared in the 1985 film Louie Bluie, a documentary about fellow musician Howard Armstrong. Having never previously met Armstrong he was initially hesitant to meet him because of their differing musical styles. However, the two got on well and perform together in the documentary. Banjoist and vocalist Ikey Robinson passed away on October 25, 1990.
Happy Caldwell was born Albert W. Caldwell on July 25, 1903 in Chicago, Illinois. He began on clarinet at age 16, playing in the Eighth Illinois Regimental Band and soon after in an Army band. He studied to be a pharmacist but eventually gave up his medicinal studies for jazz.
He worked with Bernie Young early in the 1920s in Chicago, where he recorded for the first time in 1923 and began doubling on tenor saxophone. In the middle of the 1920s he played with Mamie Smith’s Jazz Hounds, Bobby Brown’s Syncopaters, Elmer Snowden, Billy Fowler, Thomas Morris, Willie Gant, and Cliff Jackson. By 1929 he had recorded with Louis Armstrong.
The 1930s saw him playing with Vernon Andrade, Tiny Bradshaw, and Louis Metcalfe, and leading his own band, the Happy Pals. He played at Minton’s in New York City for a short time before moving to Philadelphia, where he played with Eugene Slappy and Charlie Gaines. Returning to New York he put together a new ensemble in the Forties and continued to work in small settings for several decades. In the 1970s he played with Jimmy Rushing, including on international tours. Never leading his own sessions, clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Happy Caldwell, sometimes misspelled as Cauldwell, passed away on December 29, 1978 in New York City at age 75.
Omer Victor Simeon was born on July 21, 1902 in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of a cigar maker. His family moved to Chicago, Illinois but he learned to play the clarinet from the New Orleans master Lorenzo Tio, Jr., and started playing professionally in 1920.
He worked in Chicago and Milwaukee, Wisconsin with various bands, including Jimmy Bell’s Band and Charlie Elgar’s Creole Orchestra. Starting in 1926 he began playing with Jelly Roll Morton, and made a well regarded series of recordings with Morton’s Red Hot Peppers and smaller groups.
By 1927 he was a member of King Oliver’s Dixie Syncopators with whom he moved to New York City. After time back in Chicago with Elgar, he joined Luis Russell in Manhattan, New York then again returned to Chicago in 1928 to play with the Erskine Tate Orchestra. 1931 saw him beginning a 10-year stint with Earl Hines.
In the 1940s he worked with Coleman Hawkins and Jimmie Lunceford. After some recordings with Kid Ory’s band, he spent most of the 1950s with the Wilbur de Paris band, including a tour of Africa in 1957. In 1954 he played saxophone in a duet on Louis Armstrong’s popular dixieland recording of Skokiaan.
Clarinetist Omer Simeon, who taught music and also played soprano, alto, and baritone saxophones and bass clarinet, passed away of throat cancer on September 17, 1959 in New York City at the age of 57.
Eddie Farley was born on July 16, 1904 in Newark, New Jersey. He received his trumpet education at Sacred Heart and St. Benedict Prep School in Newark. After graduating he played in dance orchestras led by Bert Lown and his Hotel Biltmore Orchestra, an outfit he began playing with in the late ’20s for several years and with drummer Will Osborne in the early Thirties. By 1935 he organized his own orchestra with Mike Riley for his NBC radio program and his career was doing quite well around New York City in addition to touring the country.
He is best known for the mid ’30s hit The Music Goes ‘Round and Round”, and was the high point in the songwriting and bandleading partnership of Farley and Mike Riley. However the thrill of working together only lasted until 1936 and after firing their own respective combo cannonballs Eddie had success with it, adding his own pleasant vocals to the mix and holding down stints at ritzy venues such as the Midnight Club and Meadowbrooks.
Joining ASCAP in 1941, his chief musical collaborator was Mike Riley, and his other popular-song compositions include I’m Gonna Clap My Hands, There’s Something In the Wind and Looking for Love. The ’50s saw his group featured at the Ivanhoe Club in Irvington, New Jersey, Farley making his home within a short drive from the gig in Essex, New Jersey where the trumpeter, composer, vocalist, conductor, author and songwriter passed away in 1983.
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Will Bradley was born Wilbur Schwichtenberg on July 12, 1912 in Newton, New Jersey. He became one of the premier trombonists on the New York swing scene, and he often participated in jam sessions broadcast on The CBS Saturday Night Swing Club. In 1939 he and drummer Ray McKinley formed a big band with pianist Freddie Slack that became well known for boogie-woogie, with hit records Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar and Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat and Down the Road a Piece. The latter song was recorded with Bradley, Ray McKinley, Doc Goldberg, Freddie Slack, with guest vocals by songwriter Don Raye.
He was one of the first band-leaders in the 1940s to appear in Soundies, three-minute musical films made for coin-operated movie jukeboxes. Their wide distribution gave the band valuable exposure with drummer Ray McKinley doing most of the vocals. After McKinley left to form his own band, Bradley joined the United States Air Force, where he played in the Glenn Miller Air Force Band and he disbanded his group due to the problems of wartime. He would go on to record with Ruth Brown and Charlie Parker and he became a studio musician, playing for many years in the The Tonight Show Band during the Johnny Carson era.
He was the band-leader for the Summer Silver Theater on CBS radio in 1941, with Ed Sullivan as the show’s host. Trombonist and bandleader Will Bradley, known for swing, sweet dance music and boogie-woogie songs, passed away on July 15, 1989, three days after his 77th birthday.
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