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Allen, Henry “Red” (07 January 1908–17 April 1967), trumpeter, was born Henry James Allen, Jr., in Algiers, Louisiana, the son of Henry James Allen, Sr., a trumpeter and leader of a brass band, and Juretta (maiden name unknown). Allen received instruction from his father and his two uncles, who were also trumpeters. Rehearsals were held at home, giving Allen the opportunity to hear New Orleans greats like ...

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Anderson, Cat (12 September 1916–29 April 1981), jazz trumpeter, was born William Alonzo Anderson, Jr., in Greenville, South Carolina. Nothing is known of his parents, who died when he was four. Anderson grew up in Jenkins’ Orphanage in Charleston, where as a boy he received the nickname “Cat” after scratching and tearing in a fight with a bully. He played in the orphanage’s renowned bands, beginning on trombone and playing other brass and percussion instruments before taking up trumpet. From 1929 onward he participated in orphanage band tours, and in Florida in 1933 he formed the cooperative Carolina Cotton Pickers with fellow orphanage musicians. Returning to Charleston in 1934, they continued playing as the Carolina Cotton Pickers and then resumed touring....

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Armstrong, Louis (04 August 1901–06 July 1971), jazz trumpeter and singer, , known universally as “Satchmo” and later as “Pops,” was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the illegitimate son of William Armstrong, a boiler stoker in a turpentine plant, and Mary Est “Mayann” Albert, a laundress. Abandoned by his father shortly after birth, Armstrong was raised by his paternal grandmother, Josephine, until he was returned to his mother’s care at age five. Mother and son moved from Jane Alley, in a violence-torn slum, to an only slightly better area, Franklyn and Perdido streets, where nearby cheap cabarets gave the boy his first introduction to the new kind of music, jazz, that was developing in New Orleans. Although Armstrong claims to have heard the early jazz cornetist ...

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Brown, Lawrence (03 August 1907–05 September 1988), jazz trombonist, was born in Lawrence, Kansas, the son of John M. Brown, a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal church, and Maggie (maiden name unknown), who played pump organ for the church. When Brown was six the family moved to Oakland, California, where he learned piano; tuba, which he began to play in the Oakland public school system; and violin. He also briefly experimented with alto saxophone before taking up trombone, to which he became intensely devoted after the Browns relocated across the bay to San Francisco....

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Butterfield, Billy (14 January 1917–18 March 1988), jazz trumpeter, was born Charles William Butterfield in Middleton, Ohio. His parents’ names are unknown. He studied privately with cornetist Frank Simons in his youth. At Transylvania College in Lexington, Kentucky, his intended medical studies gave way to work with dance bands. He soon quit school to join Andy Anderson’s local band. While playing with Anderson’s band in 1936, he was heard by bandleader ...

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Clayton, Buck (12 November 1911–08 December 1991), jazz trumpeter and arranger, was born Wilbur Dorsey Clayton in Parsons, Kansas, the son of Simeon Oliver Clayton, a musician, and Aritha Anne Dorsey, a schoolteacher, pianist, and singer. His father’s church orchestra rehearsed at their home, and in his youth Clayton experimented with different instruments, learning their basic scales. He took piano lessons from ages six to eighteen. At about age sixteen he was deeply impressed by a trumpeter in ...

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Coleman, Bill (04 August 1904–24 August 1981), jazz musician, was born William Johnson Coleman in Centerville, Kentucky, the son of Robert Henry Coleman, a cook, and Roberta Johnson, a seamstress. Coleman’s parents had separated by the time he was five, and he grew up with his mother and an aunt in Crawfordville, Indiana. When he was seven, he moved with his mother to Cincinnati, a popular stop on the Theater Owners’ Booking Association circuit and a city that hosted traveling circuses, riverboats, jug bands, and medicine shows. He saw blues singers ...

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Davis, Miles (25 May 1926–28 September 1991), jazz trumpeter and bandleader, was born Miles Dewey Davis III in Alton, Illinois, the son of Miles Dewey Davis, Jr., a dentist, and Cleota Henry. When Davis was one year old, the family moved to East St. Louis, Missouri, where his father practiced dental surgery and farmed, raising special breeds of hogs. They settled in a white neighborhood while Davis was in elementary school....

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Davison, Wild Bill (05 January 1905–14 November 1989), jazz cornetist, was born William Edward Davison in Defiance, Ohio, the son of Edward Davison, a railroad engineer, and Ann Kreps, a pianist and singer. In 1913, after his father left home, Davison and his mother moved in with his maternal grandparents. With the help of an older friend, he started playing mandolin at age eleven and then learned bugle while a member of the Boy Scouts, moving on to banjo and cornet two years later. One of the local bands he played with during 1919–1920 was the Ohio Lucky Seven, and while on a job with them in 1922 he first heard and met ...

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De Paris, Sidney (30 May 1905–13 September 1967), jazz trumpeter, was born in Crawfordsville, Indiana, the son of Sidney De Paris, a trombonist, music teacher, and leader of the De Paris Family Band. De Paris’s mother (name unknown) played alto horn, and his older brother, ...

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De Paris, Wilbur (11 January 1900–03 January 1973), jazz trombonist, was born in Crawfordsville, Indiana, the son of Sidney De Paris, a trombonist, music teacher, and bandleader. Nothing is known of his mother except that she played alto horn. In 1907 Wilbur also started playing the alto horn, and by 1916 he was playing baritone horn in his father’s band. His younger brother ...

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Dorsey, Jimmy (29 February 1904–12 June 1957), and Tommy Dorsey (27 November 1905–26 November 1956), jazz musicians and bandleaders, were born James Francis Dorsey in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, and Thomas Francis Dorsey, Jr., in Mahanoy Plane, Pennsylvania, respectively, the sons of Thomas Francis Dorsey, Sr., a miner, and Theresa “Tess” Langton....

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See Dorsey, Jimmy

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Eldridge, Roy (30 January 1911–26 February 1989), musician, was born David Roy Eldridge in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the younger son of Alexander Eldridge, a contractor, and Blanche Oakes Eldridge, who ran a local restaurant. Eldridge was playing drums at the age of six and, finding that he could play anything he could hear, subsequently taught himself trumpet, flugelhorn, and piano. He dropped out of David B. Oliver High School at age fifteen and joined his saxophone-playing brother Joe's band as drummer....

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Gillespie, Dizzy (21 October 1917–06 January 1993), jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer, was born John Birks Gillespie in Cheraw, South Carolina, the son of James Gillespie, a mason and musician, and Lottie Powe. Gillespie’s father kept his fellow band members’ instruments at their home, and thus from his toddler years onward Gillespie had an opportunity to experiment with sounds. He entered Robert Smalls public school in 1922. He was as naughty as he was brilliant, and accounts of fighting, showing off, and mischief extend from his youth into adulthood....

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Hackett, Bobby (31 January 1915–07 June 1976), cornetist, trumpeter, and bandleader, was born Robert Leo Hackett in Providence, Rhode Island. His father was a blacksmith; his parents’ names are unknown. Hackett played ukelele at age eight and studied violin for a year at age ten. He had added banjo by age twelve, when he acquired his first cornet. At fourteen he quit school to play guitar in what he described as a lousy band at a Chinese restaurant; he endured the job by courting Edna (maiden name unknown), his childhood sweetheart and future wife. He played banjo and guitar in little-known bands in Providence and Syracuse, where he began performing on cornet as well. From 1933 to 1934 he worked alongside ...

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Higginbotham, J. C. (11 May 1906–26 May 1973), jazz trombonist, was born Jay C. Higginbotham in Social Circle, Georgia. Little is known of his parents or early family life other than that he was the thirteenth of fourteen children, all of whom were raised in a musical environment. A sister and one brother played trombone, another brother played trumpet, and his niece was a composer....

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James, Harry (15 March 1916–05 July 1983), trumpeter and bandleader, was born in a show business hotel in Albany, Georgia, the son of Everette Robert James, director of and trumpet soloist in the touring Mighty Haag circus, and Maybelle Stewart, a circus aerialist. His middle name was Haag. James’s father taught him drums around age seven and trumpet by age ten. Within a few years James was leading the second band in the Christy Brothers Circus. In 1931 the family settled in Beaumont, Texas, where he attended high school and where his father eventually headed a music school....

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Johnson, Bunk (27 December 1889?–07 July 1949), trumpeter, was born William Geary Johnson in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of William Johnson and Theresa (maiden name unknown), a cook, both former slaves. Though his early life remains shrouded in obscurity, Johnson claimed that he learned to play the cornet from Professor Wallace Cutchey, a music teacher at New Orleans University. His mother bought him an inexpensive cornet when he was about fourteen, and he played his first job with Adam Olivier’s band in 1904 or 1905. Johnson also claimed that he played with ...

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Johnson, Francis (16 June 1792–06 April 1844), musician, bandleader, and composer, also known as Frank Johnson, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Little is known of his youth and parentage. Most sources cite Martinique as his birthplace, but Stephen Charpié's (1999) work with baptismal records establishes his birth date, birthplace, and status as a free African American. Though skilled at a number of instruments, Johnson seems to have first attained local prominence as a fiddler at dances, parties, and the like; there is some evidence that he played with Matthew “Matt” Black's band in the late 1810s. Johnson also seems to have received some limited instruction during this period from Richard Willis, an Irish immigrant who later directed the West Point military band and who introduced the keyed bugle (also known as a Kent bugle) to the United States....