Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 19 August 1906, San Marcos TX; d 6 March 1987) Trombone, guitar, arranger. Six brothers were also musicians. He toured with territory bands including Walter Page's Blue Devils, then with Benny Moten '29-33, Cab Calloway, Andy Kirk; with Count Basie on a tour of Arkansas '34; then Jimmie Lunceford ('Pigeon Walk', 'Lunceford Special', 'Blues In The Groove'); back with Basie's historic band '37-8: Dickie Wells wrote, 'Basie really began to get a book together when Ed Durham was in the band. Basie and Ed would lock up in a room with a little jug, and Basie would play the ideas, Ed would voice them.' (The jug must have been for Basie, because it is said that Durham never drank.) Durham wrote or co-wrote 'Out The Window', 'Time Out', 'John's Idea', 'Swinging The Blues'; 'Topsy' (with Edgar Battle; revived '58 for a pop hit). 'Good Morning Blues' and 'Sent For You Yesterday And Here You Come Today' were co-written with Basie and vocalist Jimmy Rushing; some say it was Durham and Buster Smith who created 'One O'Clock Jump', one of the biggest hits of the whole era.
He was an early master of the electric guitar, doing beautiful work on a Lester Young session at Commodore '38. He arranged for Glenn Miller ('Slip Horn Jive', 'Glen Island Special'), Jan Savitt, Ina Ray Hutton, Artie Shaw; he had his own big band '40, then was music director for Bon Bon and his Buddies: Bon Bon (George Tunnell) was a black 'sweet' vocalist for the white Savitt band and went solo; Durham co-wrote 'I Don't Want To Set The World On Fire' '41, recorded by Bon Bon; hit versions the same year were by Horace Heidt, Ink Spots, Tommy Tucker. Music director of the all-girl touring band International Sweethearts of Rhythm, later had his own all-girl band (he said that the eomen could be just as good as the men anytime). Durham led a touring band with Wynonie Harris in the early '50s; from '57 led small groups in East Coast residencies; he worked with a Harlem Blues And Jazz Band early '80s.
WKCR NYC broadcast marathon 69-hour round-the-clock celebration of Durham's 79th birthday, with lectures, interviews and music: like Jesse Stone and Budd Johnson, Durham had enormous influence without becoming a household name. Phil Schaap, disc jockey and archivist at WKCR, says that although Joe Garland (with the Edgar Hayes band) got composer credit for 'In The Mood', already a well-established riff at the time, it was Eddie Durham who wrote the famous arrangement, copied note-for-note by Glenn Miller for one of the biggest hits of the century.
Like Don Redman, Durham was one of the most influential people in American music in the first half of the 20th century, but even more than Redman, he didn't care to work at becoming famous, and was just happy to be doing what he did. Writer Jim Gerard has written an appreciation of Durham's career, published in 2012 in the Jersey Jazz Journal; read it here on Gerard's website.