Jazz Birthday

Sonny Greer by Joe Busam

Sonny Greer

William Alexander “Sonny” Greer was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, on December 13, 1895 (according to most sources). Sonny Greer met and befriended Edward

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Willie "The Lion" Smith by Joe Busam

Willie “The Lion” Smith

William Henry Joseph Bonaparte Bertholoff Smith was born on November 25, 1897, in Goshen, New York. Young Willie began playing piano when he was six

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Clarence Williams

Clarence Williams

Clarence Williams was born October 6, 1893, in Plaquemine, Louisiana. He ran away from home when he was 12 to join Billy Kersands’ Traveling Minstrel

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Phil Napoleon by Joe Busam

Phil Napoleon

Phil Napoleon was born Filippo Napoli in Boston, Massachusetts, on September 2, 1901. Napoleon took up the trumpet early and first played in public when

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Arthur Fields

Arthur Fields

Arthur Fields was born Abraham Finkelstein in Philadelphia on August 6, 1888, with his family relocating to Utica, New York, shortly thereafter. Young Abe was

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Omer Simeon by Joe Busam

Omer Simeon

Omer Simeon was born July 21, 1902, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Though born in the Crescent City, Simeon ironically did not start to play clarinet

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Ted Lewis

Ted Lewis

Ted Lewis was born Theodore Leopold Friedman on June 6, 1890, in Circleville, Ohio. He learned piccolo as a member of the Circleville Boys’ Band

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Vic Burton

Vic Berton

Vic Berton was born Victor Cohen in Chicago on May 7, 1896. Vic grew up in a middle-class household, though one with a streak of

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Alberta Hunter

Alberta Hunter

Alberta Hunter was born April 1, 1895, in Memphis, Tennessee. She never knew her father, and was not happy with her stepfather. She left home

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Frank Teschemacher

Frank Teschemacher

Frank Teschemacher was born March 13, 1906, in Kansas City, Missouri. After his family moved to Chicago in 1912, Frank took up a number of

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Joseph “Wingy” Manone

Joseph “Wingy” Manone was born February 13, 1900, in New Orleans. Manone acquired his lifelong nickname when, at the age of 10, his right arm

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Harry Reser

Harry Reser

Harry Reser was born Harrison Franklin Reser on January 17, 1896, in Piqua, Ohio. Harry, a first cousin of the airplane-inventing Wright Brothers, demonstrated remarkable

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Irving Fazola

Irving Fazola

Irving Henry Prestopnik (Irving Fazola) was born in New Orleans on December 10, 1912. He started on piano, but as he switched to reed instruments—first

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Buck Clayton

Buck Clayton

Wilbur Dorsey “Buck” Clayton was born November 12, 1911, in Parsons, Kansas. Buck learned piano at an early age, then studied trumpet with his father

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Max Morath by Joe Busam

Max Morath

We are delighted to extend birthday greetings to ragtime scholar, polymath, and entertainer Max Morath, who turns 95 on October 1st. Max was born on

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Raymond Scott by Joe Busam

Raymond Scott

Harry Warnow, known to us as Raymond Scott, was born in Brooklyn, New York, on September 10, 1908. Warnow grew up with parallel interests in

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Helen Kane by Joe Busam

Helen Kane

Helen Kane was born Helen Claire Schroeder in New York City on August 4, 1904. Her first stage experience was in school theatricals, but by

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Seger Ellis

Seger Ellis

Seger Pillot Ellis was born July 4, 1904, in Houston, Texas. As a teenager, Seger much admired the local pianists in the city, Jack Sharpe,

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Don Murray

Don Murray

Don Murray was born in Joliet, Illinois, on June 7, 1904, and attended high school in Chicago. In his teens he earned a reputation as

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Red Nichols

Red Nichols

Ernest Loring “Red” Nichols was born May 8, 1905, in Ogden, Utah. He began playing cornet when he was five, played with his father’s brass

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Jimmie Noone by Joe Busam

Jimmie Noone

Jimmie Noone was born April 23, 1895, in Cut Off, Louisiana. Noone started playing clarinet after his family moved to New Orleans in 1910. By

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Jean Goldkette by Joe Busam

Jean Goldkette

Jean Goldkette’s date and place of birth remain a matter of conjecture. According to Wikipedia, he was born March 18, 1893, though May 18 of

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Lil Hardin Armstrong

Lil Hardin Armstrong

Lillian Hardin was born February 3, 1898, in Memphis, Tennessee. Lillian received piano tutelage first from her third-grade teacher, eventually matriculating at a more formal

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Lew Shaw

Lew Shaw

This month we celebrate one of our own: Lew Shaw, who turns 95 on January 14, and whose latest installment of Jazz Jottings may be

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