Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 2 July '05, Butler MO; d '83, LA) Reeds, leader; aka 'Mike'. Attended Lincoln High School in Kansas City; studied clarinet under Major N. Clark Smith, ex- military bandleader who also taught Walter Page, Charlie Parker, many others; studied saxophones with Paul Tremaine, who later led society dance bands in NYC. Turned pro at 17, joined Benny Moten '23, led reed section until band split '31; Leonard and trombonist Thamon Hates were among those who left, formed twelve-piece Kansas City Skyrockets with trumpeter Ed Lewis (later lead with Count Basie), Vic Dickenson, Jesse Stone on piano: the band was successful, went to Chicago '34 but got kicked out of town by James C. Petrillo's local musicians' union: Stone went to work for Earl Hines, Hayes quit performing in disgust and worked in a KC music store. Leonard re-formed Harlan Leonard and his Rockets, which recorded for Bluebird '40 (16 sides once available in RCA LPV series): 14-piece band had Ernie Williams, Myra Taylor as vocalists, with Efferge Ware on electric guitar, Jesse Price (Basie's original drummer), good soloists in Henry Bridges on tenor and Fred Beckett on trombone. The excellent band was a link between the Swing and Bop Eras, with arr. by Stone, Buster Smith, Eddie Durham, Tadd Dameron, trumpeter James Ross, others. (Charlie Parker should have played on the records but had lasted only five weeks; Leonard was a disciplinarian.) Bridges received an offer from Benny Goodman and was about to leave when he was drafted: the war wrecked the band, Leonard quit music, worked for the IRS on West Coast. Bridges (b c'08, OK) had played with Charlie Christian, later with him in Alphonso Trent band; left full- time music after WWII; Beckett (b 23 Jan. '17, Nellerton MS; d 30 Jan. '46, St Louis) was among the most advanced of KC trombonists: worked with Smith, Andy Kirk '37, Lionel Hampton '40--44, was drafted and caught TB in the army.