Teddy Hill was was born on December 7, 1909 in Birmingham, Alabama. After moving to New York City, he had early gigs with the Whitman Sisters, George Howe and Luis Russell’s orchestra in the Twenties. He later put together his own band in 1934, which found steady work over the NBC radio network.
Over several years it featured such major young musicians as Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Coleman, Roy Eldridge, Bill Dillard, Dicky Wells, Russell Procope, Howard E. Johnson, Chu Berry, Sam Allen, John Smith, Richard Fullbright, Bill Beason, Shad Collins, Bill Dillard, Frank Newton, Kenneth Hollon, Cecil Scott, Beatrice Douglas and Robert Carroll.
They played at the Savoy Ballroom regularly, and toured England and France in the summer of 1937. In 1935, he recorded a four song session for the American Record Corporation. In 1936, he recorded two sessions for Vocalion, then signed with Bluebird the following year and recorded 18 songs over three sessions.
After leaving the band business, Hill began managing Minton’s Playhouse in 1940, which became a Harlem hub for the bebop style, featuring such major musicians as Thelonious Monk and Kenny Clarke. Leaving Minton’s in 1969, long after its musical significance had waned, he then became the manager of Baron’s Lounge.
Married twice, Teddy had two daughters, Gwendolyn and Beatrice, one by each wife. Beatrice would later emerge as the successful actress and singer known by her stage name, Melba Moore.
Drummer, clarinetist, soprano and tenor saxophonist Teddy Hill, who was also a big band leader and the manager of Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem, passed away on May 19, 1978 in Cleveland, Ohio.