Ben Thigpen was born Benjamin F. Thigpen on November 16, 1908 in Laurel, Mississippi. He played piano as a child and was trained by his sister Eva. He played in South Bend, Indiana with Bobby Boswell in the 1920s before moving to Chicago, Illinois to study under Jimmy Bertrand.
Chicago saw Ben playing with many noted Chicago bandleaders and performers, including Doc Cheatham. He played with Charlie Elgar’s Creole Band from 1927 to 1929 but never recorded with them. Following this he spent time in Cleveland, Ohio with J. Frank Terry, and then became the drummer for Andy Kirk’s Clouds of Joy, where he stayed from 1930 to 1947.
Much of his work is available on collections highlighting the piano work of Mary Lou Williams, who also played in this ensemble. After his time performing and recording with Kirk, his career was not well documented and it appears that he never recorded as a leader. He did however, lead his own quintet in St. Louis, Missouri, recorded with Mary Lou Williams, Booker Collins and Ted Robinson and also recorded Dixieland with Singleton Palmer in the 1960s.
Drummer Ben Thigpen, father of Ed Thigpen, who followed in his footsteps, passed away on October 5, 1971.
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Muggsy Spanier was born Francis Joseph Julian Spanier on November 9, 1906 in Chicago, Illinois. He borrowed the nickname from the manager of the NY Giants, John “Muggsy” McGraw. In the early 1920s, he was playing cornet with The Bucktown Five in Chicago.
He led several traditional hot jazz bands, most notably Muggsy Spanier and His Ragtime Band, that actually played Dixieland. This band set the style for all later attempts to play traditional jazz with a swing rhythm section of key members George Brunies on trombone and vocals, clarinetist Rod Cless, pianists George Zack or Joe Bushkin, Ray McKinstry, Nick Ciazza or Bernie Billings playing tenor saxophone, and Bob Casey on bass.
Muggsy’s theme song was Relaxin’ at the Touro, named for the infirmary in the New Orleans, Louisiana hospital where Spanier was treated for a perforated ulcer in 1938. Saved by Dr. Alton Ochsner he homaged a song titled Oh Doctor Ochsner.
Spanier made numerous Dixieland recordings, co-led a quartet, the Big Four, with Sidney Bechet in 1940 and co-led a traditional band with pianist Earl Hines at the Club Hangover in San Francisco, California in the 1950s. He followed this engagement up playing with the Bob Crosby band. Winding down his career in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s by 1959 he was leading a small band at the College Inn in the Sherman Hotel, then appeared in the Blue Note, Jazz Ltd. and in the Empire Room of the Palmer House, all in Chicago. His last appearance was at the Newport Rhode Island Jazz Festival in 1964.
Cornetist, composer and bandleader Muggsy Spanier passed away on February 12, 1967.
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Charlie Barnet was born Charles Daly Barnet on October 26, 1913 in New York City. His parents divorced when he was two and he was raised in well-to-do surroundings by his mother and her grandparents. His grandfather was Charles Frederick Daly, a vice-president for the New York Central Railroad, banker and businessman. He attended various boarding schools, both in the New York and Chicago areas, learning to play piano and saxophone as a child. He was often found leaving school to listen to music and to try to gain work as a musician.
By sixteen, Barnet had done road work with a Jean Goldkette satellite band and was in New York, where he joined Frank Winegar’s Pennsylvania Boys on tenor saxophone. Always restless, by 1931 he had relocated to Hollywood and appeared as a film extra while trying to interest local bandleaders in hot music, which was increasingly unpopular due to the Great Depression. By late 1932 he was 18 and returning east, where he persuaded a contact at CBS’ artist bureau to try him out as an orchestra leader.
Charlie began recording in 1933, during an engagement at New York’s Park Central Hotel, but was not a great success for most of the 1930s. Regularly breaking up his band and changing its style by early 1935 he attempted to premiere swing music at New Orleans’ Hotel Roosevelt. However, Louisiana’s Governor Huey Long, disliking the new sound, had the band run out of town, arranged with Joe Haymes to take several of his now-jobless sidemen, and he went to Havana, Cuba as an escort to well-to-do older women.
1936 saw another swinging Barnet edition featuring the up-and-coming vocal quartet The Modernaires but this too quickly faded from the scene. The height of Barnet’s popularity and his first really permanent band came between 1939 and 1941. It was a period that began with his hit version of the Ray Noble tune Cherokee arranged by Billy May. 1944 saw him with another big hit with Skyliner. During his swing period his orchestra included Buddy DeFranco, Roy Eldridge, Neal Hefti, Lena Horne, Barney Kessel, Dodo Marmorosa, Oscar Pettiford, Art House, Maynard Ferguson, Doc Severinsen, Clark Terry and trumpeter Billy May was his arranger before joining Glenn Miller in 1940.
He was one of the first bandleaders to integrate his band; the year is variously given as 1935 or 1937. He was an outspoken admirer of Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Ellington recorded the Charlie Barnet composition In a Mizz. In 1939, Basie lent Barnet his charts after Barnets’ had been destroyed in a fire at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, California. Throughout his career he was an opponent of syrupy arrangements, however, in the Billy May song The Wrong Idea, he lampooned the “sweet” big band sound of the era.
Barnet penned an autobiography The Swinging Years where he noted the orchestra was a notorious party band where drinking and vandalism were not uncommon. He had several hits across America and in Europe during the late 1940s, thanks to the U.S. Armed Forces Network powerful twin 100 kW transmitters stationed in Munich, Germany.
By 1947, he started to switch from swing music to bebop and in 1949 he retired, apparently because he had lost interest in music. He was able to retire when he chose because he was one of the few heirs in a very wealthy family. He occasionally returned from retirement for brief tours but never returned to music full-time. Tenor, alto and soprano saxophonist, composer and bandleader Charlie Barnet passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s disease and pneumonia on September 4, 1991 in San Diego, California.
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Chubby Jackson was born Greig Stewart Jackson on October 25, 1918 in New York City and began at the age of seventeen as a clarinetist but soon after changed to bass.
In the 1950s, Jackson worked as a studio musician, freelanced, and hosted some local children’s TV shows: Chubby Jackson’s Little Rascals and The Chubby Jackson Show, from 1959 to 1961. He briefly served as the fourth and last emcee of WOR TV’s Looney Tunes Show/The Chubby Jackson Show weekday afternoons, the first six months of 1962.
Jackson performed and/or recorded over the course of his career with Louis Armstrong, Raymond Scott, Jan Savitt, Henry Busse, Charlie Barnet, Oscar Pettiford, Charlie Ventura, Lionel Hampton, Bill Harris, Woody Herman, Gerry Mulligan, Lennie Tristano and others.
Double-bassist Chubby Jackson, who was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame and is best known for his spirited work both with the Herman bands and as a leader of his own small and big bands, passed away on October 1, 2003 in Rancho Bernardo, California at the age of 84.
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Adelaide Louise Hall was born on October 20. 1901 in Brooklyn, New York and began her stage career in 1921 on Broadway in the chorus line of the Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake hit musical Shuffle Along. She went onto appear in a number of similar black musical shows including Runnin’ Wild on Broadway in 1923, in which she sang James P. Johnson’s hit song Old-Fashioned Love.
In 1925, Hall toured Europe with the Chocolate Kiddies revue that included songs written by Duke Ellington, backed by the Sam Wooding Orchestra. The following year appeared in the short-lived Broadway musical My Magnolia after which she appeared in Tan Town Topics with songs written by Fats Waller and had a short road tour on the TOBA circuit. She then starred in Desires of 1927, with a score written by Andy Razaf and J. C. Johnson, that toured America for a year between 1926 and 1927.
In 1927 Adelaide recorded her wordless vocals on Creole Love Call, The Blues I Love To Sing and Chicago Stomp Down with Duke Ellington and his Orchestra. The recordings were worldwide hits and catapulted both careers into the mainstream. She and Duke Ellington went on to record I Must Have That Man and Baby. She starred on Broadway with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Tim Moore and Aida Ward in Blackbirds of 1928. The show became the most successful all-black show ever staged on Broadway at that time and made Hall and Bojangles into household names. It was this musical that not only secured her success at home and abroad in Europe when the production was taken in 1929 to Paris, France, where it ran for four months at the Moulin Rouge. In Europe she rivaled Josephine Baker for popularity on the European stage.
With Blackbirds′ music score written by Jimmy McHugh and lyrics by Dorothy Fields, Hall’s performances of the songs I Can’t Give You Anything but Love, Baby, Diga Diga Do, Bandanna Babies and I Must Have That Man made them into household hits, and they continued to be audience favourites throughout her long career. Through the 1930s she would perform on Broadway again with Bojangles in Brown Buddies, toured worldwide, discovered and hired blind pianist Art Tatum and recorded with him Strange as it Seems, I’ll Never Be The Same, This Time it’s Love and You Gave Me Everything but Love. She would continue to tour America, Canada and South America before turning to Europe once again and settling in Paris, France. Her husband, Bert Hicks, opened a nightclub for her called La Grosse Pomme where she entertained often. The Quintette du Hot Club de France featuring Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli were one of the house bands at the club.
Leaving Paris for London, England in 1938, she lived out the rest of her days there, becoming one of the most popular singers of her time. Hall recorded I Can’t Give You Anything But Love and That Old Feeling at London’s Abbey Road Studios with Fats Waller. Throughout her career she made more than 70 records for Decca, had her own BBC Radio series Wrapped in Velvet, making her the first black artist to have a long-term contract with the BBC, became one of the highest paid entertainers in the United Kingdom and appeared on the stage, in films, and in nightclubs, of which she owned her own in New York, London and Paris.
Adelaide would go on to record with Humphrey Lyttleton, and perform alongside Lena Horne, Spike Milligan, John Betjeman, Ethel Waters, Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Fela Sowande, Rudy Vallee, Jools Holland, Tony Bennett, Phyllis Hyman, Jacques Loussier, Alan Downey, Wayne Sleep, Ronnie Scott, Stan Tracey, the New Swingle Singers, Elisabeth Welch, Gregory Hines, Bobby Short, Honi Coles, Edith Wilson, Nell Carter, John W. Bubbles, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Stephane Grappelli, Mel Torme, Zoot Sims, Carmen McRae and Chick Corea, among a list too vast to mention.
She pioneered scat singing along with Louis Armstrong and is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s first jazz singers, holds the accolade of being the 20th century’s most enduring female recording artist, her recording career having spanned eight decades, In the 100 Great Records of the 1920s she is at number 26 with Duke Ellington’s Orchestra, singing The Blues I Love To Sing, and her recording of the Dorothy Fields/Jimmy McHugh tune I Can’t give You Anything But Love represent 1928 in the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) celebration of its centenary timeline of songs chosen to represent the past hundred years.
Singer, dancer, actress and nightclub chanteuse Adelaide Hall, who entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 2003 as the world’s most enduring recording artist having released material over eight consecutive decades, passed away on November 7, 1993, aged 92, at London’s Charing Cross Hospital.
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