Wendell Marshall was born into a musical family on October 24, 1920 in St. Louis, Missouri. He took up the bass in emulation of and receiving his first lessons from his cousin Jimmy Blanton. He began playing professionally around his hometown in the late ‘30s and played with Lionel Hampton in ’42. Graduating from Lincoln University, he then served in the Army during World War II.
After his discharge, Marshall played and recorded with Stuff Smith, relocated to New York City and played with Mercer Ellington prior to his tenure with Duke Ellington from 1948 to 1955, appearing in several films with the orchestra.
Departing from Duke, Wendell played in pit orchestras on Broadway, freelanced with Mary Lou Williams, Art Blakey, Donald Byrd, Milt Jackson and Hank Jones among others. He was the house bassist for Prestige Records known for his rich tone, reliable sense of time and fine technique making him a popular collaborator.
It is estimated that he recorded with a prodigious list of musician with albums numbering over 150 including his own in 1955 as a leader, Wendell Marshall with the Billy Byers Orchestra. He was also a part of the Jazz Lab quintet led by Donald Byrd and Gigi Gryce.
However, by 1968 he retired from music and returned to St. Louis where he set up his own insurance business. Double bassist Wendell Marshall passed away of colon cancer on February 6, 2002 in his hometown of St. Louis.
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Vinicius de Moraes was born Marcus Vinicius de Moraes on October 19, 1913 in Rio de Janiero, Brasil. As a child he was exposed to various musicians and composers and in high school he was writing his first compositions. He went on to graduate college at twenty and published two books of poetry.
Over the next several years he held a variety of banking, government and diplomatic positions while still writing and publishing his poetry. But it wasn’t until the ‘50s that he moved into the realm of pop culture. He studied film festival management, wrote his first samba, contributed lyrics to several classical pieces and in 1956 Vinicius staged his musical play Orfeu da Conceicao that would later become Orfeu Negro or Black Orpheus and win an Academy Award for Best For Language Film in 1959, a British Academy Award and the French Palm d’Or at Cannes.
Collaborating with Antonio Carlos Jobim, Moraes was at the fore when the bossa nova movement began with the release of Elizete Cardoso’s album Cancao do Amor Demais that consisted of the pairs music and a then unknown Joao Gilberto. They went on to compose Garota de Ipanema, Insensitez and Chega de Saudade. Vinicius’ songs would go on to be included in another Cannes winner Un Homme et une Femme (A Man and A Woman) in 1966.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Vinicius continued collaborating with many renowned Brazilian singers and musicians, in particular with Baden Powell venturing into Afro-Brazilian influences that came to be known as collectively as Afro-Sambas. A known bohemian and diplomat, Vinicius also had a problem with alcohol that ultimately had him drummed out of the diplomatic corps by the military regime. But with his new partner, guitarist and singer Toquinho, he continued to realize success on both music and literary landscapes releasing several popular and influential albums.
Vinicius de Moraes, composer, playwright and diplomat nicknamed O Poetinha (The Little Poet), passed away on July 9, 1980 in Rio de Janiero after a long spell of poor health. Hundreds of jazz musicians and performers worldwide have recorded more than 400 of his songs. In 2006 he was reinstated into the diplomatic corps and in 2010 was posthumously promoted to the post of Ambassador by the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies.
Harry “Sweets” Edison was born on October 10, 1915 in Columbus, Ohio but spent his early childhood in Kentucky, getting his first introduction to music by his uncle. Moving back to Columbus at age 12, he started playing trumpet with local bands.
In 1933, he became a member of the Jeter-Pillars Orchestra in Cleveland, went on to play with the Mills Blue Rhythm Band followed by Lucky Millinder. In 1937 he moved to New York joining Count Basie’s Orchestra playing alongside Buck Clayton, Lester Young (who named him Sweets), Buddy Tate and Jo Jones among others.
Edison came to prominence in the Basie band as a soloist and as a composer and arranger for the band. He spent 13 years with Basie until the band was temporarily disbanded in 1950. He then pursued a varied career as leader of his own groups, freelancing with other orchestras and traveling with Jazz At The Philharmonic.
In the early 1950s, he settled on the West Coast and became a highly sought-after studio musician, making important contributions to recordings by such artists as Billy Holiday, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. In 1956 he recorded the first of three albums with tenor great Ben Webster.
Through the 60s and 70s Harry worked in many orchestras on TV shows, including Hollywood Palace and The Leslie Uggams Show, specials with Sinatra; prominently featured on the sound track and album of Lady Sings The Blues, was musical director for Redd Foxx, toured Europe and Japan.
Jazz trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison, the first tribute Honoree from the Los Angeles Jazz Institute, and twice Los Angeles Jazz Society’s tribute Honoree in 1983 and 1992, passed away on July 27, 1999.
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J. C. Heard was born James Charles Heard on October 8, 1917 in Dayton, Ohio. A very supportive drummer, versatile enough to fit comfortably into swing, bop and blues settings, he landed his first important professional job with Teddy Wilson in 1939. This kicked off a long and fruitful career.
By 1946 he was recording with top bop musicians such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Dexter Gordon. Heard would go on to lead his own groups and in the Fifties spent a few years in Japan. Late in the decade he returned to New York and freelanced, even reuniting with Teddy Wilson in ’61.
Throughout his career J. C. would play, record and tour with Lena Horne, Coleman Hawkins, Cab Calloway, Benny Carter, Erroll Garner, Jazz At The Philharmonic, Pete Johnson, Sir Charles Thompson and Roy Eldridge among others.
In 1966 J.C. Heard moved to Detroit, worked as a bandleader and a mentor to younger musicians into the mid-’80s and passed away on September 27, 1988 in Royal Oak, Michigan.
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Vaughn Wilton Monroe was born on October 7, 1911 in Akron, Ohio and didn’t study music until attending the New England Conservatory in 1935 and then only one semester of voice. By 1940 he formed his first orchestra becoming lead vocalist and recording for the Bluebird label. That same year he built The Meadows, a restaurant/nightclub outside Boston and hosted the Camel Caravan radio program on location in 1946.
Monroe recorded extensively for RCA Victor into the 1950s and his signature tune was “Racing with the Moon” among his many other hits such as In The Still Of The Night, There I’ve Said It Again, Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow; and Riders In The Sky are just a few. A composer, he also wrote a number of songs.
His interest turned to acting and as the movies also beckoned he pursued but with little vigor. He co-authored The Adventures of Mr. Putt Putt, a children’s book about airplanes and flying, published in 1949.
He hosted The Vaughn Monroe Show on CBS television in the Fifties, and appeared on Bonanza, the Mike Douglas Show, the Ed Sullivan Show, the Jackie Gleason Show and American Bandstand. A major stockholder in RCA, Monroe appeared in print ads and television commercials for the company’s TV and audio products.
Vaughan Monroe, baritone singer, trumpeter, bandleader actor and composer died on May 21, 1973 shortly after having stomach surgery. He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for recording and radio.