Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 23 Sep. '07, Chicago; d there 5 Dec.'49) Piano. Playing from age ten; drove a taxi in Chicago c'24, as did Meade Lux Lewis; appeared around town with various groups, residencies in Chicago clubs '34--8; became more famous when blues-based genre boogie woogie became national fad late '30s. First records '36 on Decca as Albert Ammons' Rhythm Kings. To NYC '38; appeared at Carnegie Hall with Pete Johnson and Lewis and the trio recorded 'Boogie Woogie Prayer' that year. Accidentally cut the tip off a finger while making a sandwich '41, later suffered paralysis in both hands, but recovered. At Cafe Society, etc. often in duo with Johnson; in '39 he recorded six solos for Solo Art and nine for Blue Note for which he will be remembered, never losing the blues feeling which is the essence of boogie woogie. For Blue Note there were also two duets with Lewis and five sides with the Port of Harlem Jazzmen the same year; later on other labels, incl. Commodore '44 with Don Byas, Vic Dickenson, Hot Lips Page and others; later on Mercury, with Sippie Wallace and with son Gene (see below). Toured USA, played President Truman's inaugural in '49. Complete Blue Notes reissued in limited edition on Mosaic '83.