William C. “Buster” Bailey was born July 19, 1902 in Memphis, Tennessee and was educated on the instrument by classical teacher Franz Schoepp, the man who taught Benny Goodman. He got his start with the W.C. Handy Orchestra in 1917 when he was just fifteen years old. After two years of touring with Handy, he quit while the band was in Chicago and in 1919 Bailey joined Erskine Tate’s Vendome Orchestra.
1923 saw Buster joining up with Joe “King” Oliver as part of his King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. It was here that he met and became friends with fellow band mate Louis Armstrong. In 1924, when Armstrong left King Oliver’s Jazz Band to join the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra in New York. It was less than a month that Armstrong extended an invitation for Bailey to join the band and accepting, he moved to New York City.
During the late 1920s Bailey became a highly respected sideman with Perry Bradford, Clarence Williams and others, Recording both clarinet and soprano saxophone. He toured Europe with Noble Sissle’s orchestra in 1927, returned and performed with Edgar Hayes and Dave Nelson, rejoined Sissle in 1931. By 1934 he was back with Henderson and then settled in with the John Kirby Band. Off and on he would perform with the mills Blue Rhythm Band, Midge Williams and Her Jazz Jesters and record as a leader as Buster Bailey and His Rhythm Busters.
In 1947 he joined Wilbur de Paris and performed with him until 1949. During the early 1950s Bailey was with Big Chief Russell Moore but for most of the decade he played with Henry “Red” Allen. From 1961 to 1963 he performed with Wild Bill Davison, the Saints And Sinners, and rejoined his old friend Armstrong and became a member of Louis Armstrong and His All-Stars.
Buster appeared on film three times during his career in That’s The Spirit in 1933, Sepia Cinderella in 1947 as part of John Kirby’s band and in When The Boys Meet The Girls in 1965 with Louis Armstrong. He also appeared in 1958 in the DuMont TV series Jazz Party and in 1961 on the TV program The Dupont Show of the Week in an episode titled “America’s Music – Chicago and All That Jazz”.
Clarinetist Buster Bailey, who was also well versed on saxophone and one of the most respected session players of his era, passed away in Brooklyn, New York on April 12, 1967 of a heart attack.
Babe Russin was born Irving Russin on June 18, 1911 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He played with some of the best-known jazz bands of the 1930s and 1940s, including Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller. He solos on the Glenn Miller band recording of A String of Pearls on Bluebird Records in 1941.
In the early Forties he briefly led his own band. In 1950, Babe was credited as a musician with the backup band on two Frank Sinatra tunes, Should I? and You Do Something To Me. He co-wrote the instrumental “All the Things You Ain’t” with Jimmy Dorsey that was recorded and released in 1945. He also recorded with Jack Hoffman in 1947 and Georgie Auld in 1955.
In 1953 he appeared briefly in the 1953 Universal-International movie The Glenn Miller Story. He plays Cheating On Me with a small group on the soundtrack to the 1954 Warner Bros. Judy Garland movie A Star Is Born. He also appeared in the 1956 movie The Benny Goodman Story. Tenor saxophonist Babe Russin passed away on August 4, 1984.
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Eddie Beal was born June 13, 1910 in Redlands, California. He started on drums but switched to piano in his teens. Early in the 1930s he worked in the orchestras of Earl Dancer and Charlie Echols and 1933 to 1936 he toured China with Buck Clayton. Following that stint he freelanced in California with Maxine Sullivan and others until 1941.
After military service from 1941–43, Beal accompanied Ivie Anderson and then led his own trio accompanying Billie Holiday at one point. He also worked in the Spirits of Rhythm. As a composer, he penned the tunes “Softly” (covered by Holliday) and “Bye and Bye”, a hit for The Turbans. He plays on the soundtrack to the 1951 film The Strip, he also makes an appearance in the film.
His later recording credits included but not limited to work with Toni Harper, Jimmy Mundy, Herb Jeffries, Helen Humes and Red Callender. He led his own group in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1973-74, and in 1974-75 he played with Tommy Dorsey.
Pianist Eddie Beal passed away on December 15, 1984 in Los Angeles, California.
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Valaida Snow was born on June 2, 1903 in Chattanooga, Tennessee into a family of musicians where her mother taught her and sisters Alvaida and Hattie, and brother Arthur Bush how to play multiple instruments. She was taught to play cello, bass, violin, banjo, mandolin, harp, accordion, clarinet, saxophone and trumpet. By the young age of fifteen she was already a recognized professional singer and trumpeter and while her beauty attracted audiences, it was her incredible talent as a jazz trumpeter which truly captivated them. Obtaining the nickname, “Little Louis” due to her Louis Armstrong-like playing style, hitting those high C’s just like Louis.
Snow toured and recorded frequently in the United States, Europe and the Far East both with her own bands and other leaders’ bands. She took part in a session with Earl Hines in New York in 1933 and also performed with Count Basie, Teddy Weatheford, Willie Lewis and Fletcher Henderson at various places and times.
Not limiting herself to jazz she branch out to the stage and as an actress she debuted on Broadway in 1924 as Mandy in Eubie Blake and Noble Sissles’s musical ‘Chocolate Dandies.’ Later, she appeared on Broadway in Ethel Waters’ show, ‘Rhapsody in Black’ in 1934; she appeared in the London production of ‘Blackbirds’ in 1935 with Johnny Claes and also in its Paris production. She could be seen in ‘Liza’ across Europe and Russia in the 30’s and was also in the Hollywood films ‘Take It from Me’ in 1937, ‘Irresistible You,’ ‘L’Alibi’ and ‘Pieges’ in 1939 with her husband Ananais Berry. Valaida Snow shocked people in the USA, with her eccentric behavior. She traveled in an orchid colored Mercedes, dressed in an orchid suit, her pet monkey rigged out in an orchid jacket and cap, with the chauffeur in orchid as well.
Snow’s incarceration has been written about several times and debunked by a few that while touring through Denmark in 1941, she was arrested by the Nazis during the German occupation and kept at Vestre Faengsel (Western Prison), a Danish prison in Copenhagen that was run by the Nazis. She was released on a prisoner exchange in May 1942. What is know is that Snow stayed in wartime Denmark by choice, that she survived the Nazis and was never shy about using and stretching the truth to suit her purposes.
By the early 1950s Valaida recorded for the Derby label with the Jimmy Mundy Orchestra. The result was “Tell Me How Long The Train’s Been Gone” and “When A Woman Loves A Man”. The record does nicely in certain areas, especially Philadelphia and St. Louis. The Derby release is her first real effort since her tragic imprisonment and it does well. She embarked on a tour of the Northeast and is a particular favorite at the Monte Carlo in Pittsburgh. In the fall she is at the 845 Club in New York and is held over. In a bit of a surprise she leaves Derby Records and signs with Apollo Records late in the year.
In February of 1951 she records “Porgy” and “The More I Know About Love” for Apollo with the Bobby Smith Orchestra. She continues her many in person appearances throughout the country, and in early 1952 embarks on a true R & B tour with Joe Liggins & His Honeydrippers up and down the West coast. Her records are sporadic, and after a well-attended stay at Chicago’s Crown Propeller Lounge in late 1953, Snow signed with that city’s Chess label. “I Ain’t Gonna Tell” and “If You Mean It” are released by Chess. The next two years are spent mostly appearing in the musical revues that have always been her first love.
It is just at this time that the final curtain descends on Valaida Snow, who spoke seven languages, was billed as “Queen Of The Trumpet”, performed in the top theatrical productions of her day, wrote and recorded her theme song, “High Hat, Trumpet and Rhythm” and was the toast of Paris and London, passed away on May 30, 1956 of a cerebral hemorrhage backstage at the Palace Theater in New York. She left this world doing what she loved most, entertaining the public with her great talents.
Helen O’Connell was born on May 23, 1920 in Lima, Ohio but grew up in Toledo, Ohio. By the time she was 15, she and her older sister, Alice, were singing duets in clubs and hotels and on hometown radio stations. She launched her career as a big-band singer with Larry Funk and his Band of a Thousand Melodies. She was singing with Funk’s band in Greenwich Village when Jimmy Dorsey’s manager discovered her. She joined the Dorsey band in 1939 and achieved her best selling records in the early 1940s with Green Eyes, Amapola, Tangerine and Yours.
By 1953, O’Connell and Bob Eberly were headlining TV’s Top Tunes with Ray Anthony and his orchestra. She became a featured singer on The Russ Morgan Show and had her own 15-minute program, The Helen O’Connell Show, twice a week on NBC.
She retired from show business upon her first marriage in 1943 but returned when her marriage ended in 1951, achieving some chart success and making regular appearances on television. At one point she was interviewing celebrities on her own NBC program Here’s Hollywood, hosted the pageants and sang duets with Bing Crosby, Johnny Mercer and Dean Martin.
She won the Down Beat Readers Poll as best female singer in 1940 and 1941, won the 1940 Metronome magazine poll for best female vocalist and was named as the darling of GIs during World War II.Her 1942 recording of Brazil with the Jimmy Orchestra was a 2009 addition to the Grammy Hall of Fame. On September 9, 1993 vocalist Helen O’Connell succumbed to her battle with Hepatitis C in San Diego, California.
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