Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 5 Aug. '02, Careening Clay, an island off Panama; d 11 Dec. '63, NYC) Pianist, composer, bandleader. Had winning lottery ticket, used money to bring himself, mother and sister to New Orleans. Played with King Oliver in NYC, other bands; formed own band and cut four sides in Chicago '26 as sextet Heebie Jeebie Stompers with Darnell Howard and Barney Bigard on reeds; went to the Saratoga Club in Harlem with Red Allen and Bill Coleman on trumpets, Albert Nicholas and Charlie Holmes on reeds, Paul Barbarin on drums, later J. C. Higginbotham, Dicky Wells, Teddy Hill etc and was one of the best young black bands in the land when it recorded more than 30 sides for various labels '29--34, incl. backing Louis Armstrong on 'Song Of The Islands' '30 with violins added. They backed Armstrong for two days at the Savoy '35; subsequently Joe Glaser took them over as Louis's permanent backing band and they lost their identity, Russell mus. dir. for Louis until '43. He led other bands mid-'40s but styles had passed him by; he ran a candy shop, gift shop, worked as a chauffeur and piano teacher. Compilations on Classics and Gazelle feature some of the era's most delightful music, incl. 'Call Of The Freaks', 'Saratoga Shout', 'Jersey Lightning', etc; vocal on 'On Revival Day' by songwriter Andy Razaf.