James Witherspoon was an American jump blues singer. Witherspoon was born in Arkansas, he first attracted attention singing in Calcutta, with Teddy Weatherford's band, which made regular radio broadcasts over the U. S. Armed Forces Radio Service during World War II. Witherspoon made his first records with Jay McShann's band in 1945, he first recorded under his own name in 1947, two years with the McShann band, he had his first hit, "Ain't Nobody's Business," a song that came to be regarded as his signature tune. In 1950 he had hits with two more songs identified with him—"No Rollin' Blues" and "Big Fine Girl"—and with "Failing by Degrees" and "New Orleans Woman", recorded with the Gene Gilbeaux Orchestra for Modern Records; these were recorded at a live performance on May 10, 1949, at a "Just Jazz" concert in Pasadena, sponsored by Gene Norman. Another classic Witherspoon composition is "Times Gettin' Tougher Than Tough". Witherspoon's style of blues—that of the "blues shouter"—became unfashionable in the mid-1950s, but he returned to popularity with his 1959 album Jimmy Witherspoon at the Monterey Jazz Festival, which features Roy Eldridge, Woody Herman, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Earl Hines and Mel Lewis, among others.
Witherspoon recorded with Gerry Mulligan, Leroy Vinnegar, Richard "Groove" Holmes and T-Bone Walker. In 1961 he toured Europe with Buck Clayton and returned to the UK on many occasions, featuring on a mid-'60s live UK recording, Spoon Sings and Swings, with tenor sax player Dick Morrissey's quartet. In 1970, Witherspoon appeared on Brother Jack McDuff's London Blue Note recording To Seek a New Home together with British jazz musicians, including Dick Morrissey and Terry Smith. In the 1970s Witherspoon recorded the album Guilty! with Eric Burdon and featuring Ike White & the San Quentin Prison Band. He toured with a band of his own featuring Robben Ford and Russ Ferrante. A recording from this period, featured Witherspoon accompanied by Robben Ford, Joe Sample, Cornell Dupree, Thad Jones and Bernard Purdie, he continued recording into the 1990s. Other performers with whom Witherspoon recorded include Jimmy Rowles, Earl "Fatha" Hines, Vernon Alley, Mel Lewis, Teddy Edwards, Gerald Wiggins, John Clayton, Paul Humphrey, Pepper Adams, Kenny Burrell, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Jimmy Smith, Long John Baldry, Junior Mance, Ellington bassist Jimmy Woode, Kenny Clarke, Gerry Mulligan, Jim Mullen, Count Basie, Van Morrison, Dutch Swing College Band, Gene Gilbeaux, among others.
In the 1995 film Georgia, Witherspoon portrayed a traveling, gun-collecting blues singer, who has a relationship with the troubled character Sadie, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. He played Nate Williams in Percy in To Sleep with Anger. Witherspoon died of throat cancer on September 1997, in Los Angeles. Witherspoon's grandson Ahkello Witherspoon is the starting cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers, and his granddaughter Alexis Witherspoon, better known to the world as Lecsi Tomorrow is an American upcoming artist wjo is signed with WARROOM MUSIC GROUP, Inc. 1957: Wilbur De Paris Plays & Jimmy Witherspoon Sings New Orleans Blues 1957: Goin' to Kansas City Blues 1959: Battle of the Blues, Vol. 3 1959: Feelin' the Spirit 1959: Jimmy Witherspoon 1959: Jimmy Witherspoon & Jay McShann 1959: Singin' the Blues 1960: Jimmy Witherspoon at the Monterey Jazz Festival 1960: Jimmy Witherspoon Sings the Blues 1961: Spoon 1961: There's Good Rockin' Tonight 1962: A Spoonful of Blues 1962: Hey, Mrs. Jones 1962: Roots 1963: Stormy Monday and Other Blues By Jimmy Witherspoon 1963: Baby, Baby released as Mean Old Frisco 1963: Evenin' Blues 1963: Blues Around the Clock 1964: Blue Spoon 1964: Some of My Best Friends Are the Blues 1965: Spoon in London 1966: Spoon Sings and Swings 1966: Blues for Easy Livers 1966: Blues for Spoon and Groove 1966: Blue Point of View 1966: Blues Box 1966: In Person 1967: The Blues Is Now 1968: Spoonful of Soul 1969: Blues Singer 1970: Handbags & Gladrags 1970: Huhh 1970: Ain't Nobody's Business, with Dutch Swing College Band 1971: Guilty 1972: Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival 1973: Groovin' & Spoonin' 1974: Jimmy Witherspoon & Ben Webster 1975: Love Is a Five Letter Word 1975: Spoonful Avenue 1976: Live: Jimmy Witherspoon & Robben Ford 1976: Live Crosscut 1980: Jimmy Witherspoon with Panama Francis & the Savoy Sultans Sings the Blues 1980: Spoon's Life 1980: Spoon in Australia 1981: Big Blues 1985: Patcha, All Night Long 1986: Midnight Lady Called the Blues 1988: Rockin' L.
A. 1989: Spoon Concerts 1990: Live at Condon's 1991: Call Me Baby 1992: Live at the Notodden Festival 1992: The Blues, the Whole Blues & Nothing but the... 1993: Hot Licks: Ain't Nobody's Business 1993: Blowin' In from Kansas City 1994: Amazing Grace 1995: Spoon's Blues 1995: Ain't Nothin' New About the Blues, recorded live 1995: Taste of Swing Time 1995: American Blues 1996: Live at the Mint 1996:'Spoon & Groove 1997: Tougher Than Tough 1997: Jimmy Witherspoon with the Junior Mance Trio
Edith Peters was an American singer and actress. She appeared in more than sixteen films from 1957 to 1981. Peters was the fourth of five sisters, her sisters Virginia and Anne were known as The Peters Sisters. She sang in a duo with her sister Joyce known as The Peters Sisters. In 1958 she married her Italian agent Silvio Catalano, moved to Italy where she appeared in movies, commercials and TV dramas. Edith Peters on IMDb EDITH PETERS & LINO PATRUNO with Large Band Rockin Chair on YouTube
Louis Thomas Jordan was an American musician and bandleader, popular from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. Known as "The King of the Jukebox", his highest profile came towards the end of the swing era. Jordan was a talented singer with great comedic flair, he fronted his own band for more than twenty years, he duetted with some of the biggest solo singing stars of his time, including Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Jordan was an actor and a film personality—he appeared in dozens of "soundies", made numerous cameos in mainstream features and short films, starred in two musical feature films made for him, he was an instrumentalist who specialized in the alto. He played the piano and clarinet. A productive songwriter, he wrote or co-wrote many songs that were influential classics of 20th-century popular music. Jordan began his career in big-band swing jazz in the 1930s, but he became known as one of the leading practitioners and popularizers of jump blues, a swinging, up-tempo, dance-oriented hybrid of jazz and boogie-woogie.
Performed by smaller bands consisting of five or six players, jump music featured shouted syncopated vocals and earthy, comedic lyrics on contemporary urban themes. It emphasized the rhythm section of piano and drums. Jordan's band pioneered the use of the electronic organ. With his dynamic Tympany Five bands, Jordan mapped out the main parameters of the classic R&B, urban blues and early rock-and-roll genres with a series of influential 78-rpm discs released by Decca Records; these recordings presaged many of the styles of black popular music of the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and exerted a strong influence on many leading performers in these genres. Many of his records were produced by Milt Gabler, who went on to refine and develop the qualities of Jordan's recordings in his production work with Bill Haley, including "Rock Around the Clock". Jordan ranks fifth in the list of the most successful African-American recording artists according to Joel Whitburn's analysis of Billboard magazine's R&B chart.
Though comprehensive sales figures are not available, he had at least four million-selling hits during his career. Jordan topped the R&B "race" charts and was one of the first black recording artists to achieve significant crossover in popularity with the mainstream American audience, having simultaneous Top Ten hits on the pop charts on several occasions. Jordan was born on July 8, 1908, in Brinkley, where his father, James Aaron Jordan, was a music teacher and bandleader for the Brinkley Brass Band and for the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, his mother, died when Louis was young. Jordan studied music under his father. In his youth he played in his father's bands instead of doing farm work, he played the piano professionally early in his career, but alto saxophone became his main instrument. However, he became better known as a songwriter and vocalist. Jordan attended Arkansas Baptist College, in Little Rock, majored in music. After a period with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels and with local bands, including Bob Alexander's Harmony Kings, he went to Philadelphia and New York.
In 1932, Jordan began performing with the Clarence Williams band, when he was in Philadelphia he played clarinet in the Charlie Gaines band. In late 1936 he was invited to join the influential Savoy Ballroom orchestra, led by the drummer Chick Webb. Based at New York's Savoy Ballroom, Webb's orchestra was renowned as one of the best big bands of its day and beat all comers at the Savoy's legendary cutting contests. Jordan worked with Webb until 1938, it proved a vital stepping-stone in his career—Webb was a fine musician but not a great showman; the ebullient Jordan introduced songs as he began singing lead. This was the same period when the young Ella Fitzgerald was coming to prominence as the Webb band's lead female vocalist. In 1938, Webb fired Jordan for trying to persuade Fitzgerald and others to join his new band. By this time Webb was seriously ill with tuberculosis of the spine, he died at the age of 34, after spinal surgery on June 16, 1939. Following his death, Fitzgerald took over the band.
Jordan's first band, drawn from members of the Jesse Stone band, was a nine-piece group, but he soon scaled it down to a sextet after landing a residency at the Elks Rendezvous club, at 464 Lenox Avenue, in Harlem. The original lineup of the sextet was Jordan, Courtney Williams, Lem Johnson, Clarence Johnson, Charlie Drayton and Walter Martin. In his first billing, as Louie Jordan's Elks Rendez-vous Band, his name was spelled Louie so people would know not to pronounce it Lewis; the new band's first recording date, for Decca Records on December 20, 1938, produced three sides on which they backed an obscure vocalist, Rodney Sturgess, two novelty sides of their own, "Honey in the Bee Ball" and "Barnacle Bill the Sailor". These recordings were credited to the Elks Rendezvous Band, but Jordan subsequently changed the name to the Tympany Five, since Martin used tympani in performance. (The word tympany is an
Bulee "Slim" Gaillard known as McVouty, was an American jazz singer and songwriter who played piano, guitar and tenor saxophone. Gaillard was noted for his comedic vocalese singing and word play in his own constructed language called "Vout-o-Reenee", for which he wrote a dictionary. In addition to English, he spoke five languages with varying degrees of fluency, he rose to prominence in the late 1930s with hits such as "Flat Foot Floogie" and "Cement Mixer" after forming Slim and Slam with Leroy Eliot "Slam" Stewart. During World War II, Gaillard served as a bomber pilot in the Pacific. In 1944, he resumed his music career and performed with notable jazz musicians such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Dodo Marmarosa. In the 1960s and 1970s, he acted in films—sometimes as himself—and appeared in bit parts in television series such as Roots: The Next Generations. In the 1980s, Gaillard resumed touring the circuit of European jazz festivals, he followed Dizzy Gillespie's advice to move to Europe and, in 1983, settled in London, where he died on 26 February 1991, after a long career in music and television, spanning nearly six decades.
Along with Gaillard's date of birth, his lineage and place of birth are disputed. Many sources state that he was born in Detroit, though he said that he was born in Santa Clara, Cuba. Of an Afro-Cuban mother called Maria and a German-Jewish father called Theophilus who worked as a ship's steward. During an interview in 1989, Gaillard added: "They all think I was born in Detroit because, the first place I got into when I got to America." However, the 1920 census lists one "Beuler Gillard" as living in Pensacola, having been born in April, 1918 in Alabama. Researchers Bob Eagle and Eric LeBlanc have concluded that he was born in June 1918 in Claiborne, where a "Theophilus Rothchild" had been raised the son of a successful merchant in the small town of Burnt Corn. At the age of twelve, he accompanied his father on a world voyage and was accidentally left behind on the island of Crete. On a television documentary in 1989, he said, "When I was stranded in Crete, I was only twelve years old. I stayed there for four years.
I traveled on the boats to Beirut and Syria and I learned to speak the language and the people's way of life." After learning a few words of Greek, he worked on the island "making shoes and hats". He joined a ship working the eastern Mediterranean ports Beirut, where he picked up some knowledge of Arabic; when he was about 15, he re-crossed the Atlantic, hoping the ship would take him home to Cuba, but it was bound for the U. S. and he ended up in Detroit. He never saw either of his parents again. Alone and unable to speak English, he tried to get a job at Ford Motor Company but was rejected because of his age, he worked at a general store owned by an Armenian family, with whom he lived for some time tried to become a boxer. During Prohibition in 1931 or 1932, he drove a hearse with a coffin, packed with whiskey for the Purple Gang, he taught himself to play guitar and piano. When Duke Ellington came to Detroit, he met his hero. Determined to become a musical entertainer, he moved to New York City and entered the world of show business as a'professional amateur'.
As Gaillard recalled much later: Gaillard first rose to prominence in the late 1930s as part of Slim & Slam, a jazz novelty act he formed with bassist Slam Stewart. Their hits included "Flat Foot Floogie", "Cement Mixer" and the hipster anthem, "The Groove Juice Special"; the duo performs in the 1941 movie Hellzapoppin'. Gaillard's appeal was similar to Cab Calloway's and Louis Jordan's in that he presented a hip style with broad appeal. Unlike them, he was a master improviser whose stream of consciousness vocals ranged far from the original lyrics, he sang wild interpolations of nonsense syllables, such as "MacVoutie O-reeney". One such performance is celebrated in the 1957 novel On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Gaillard, with Dodo Marmarosa on piano, appeared as a guest several times on Command Performance, recorded at KNX radio studios in Hollywood in the 1940s and distributed on transcription discs to American troops in World War II. In 1943, Gaillard was drafted in the United States Army Air Forces and "qualified as a pilot flying B-26 bombers in the Pacific" and resumed his music career on his release from the draft in 1944.
Upon his return he released the song Atomic Cocktail, which featured lighthearted lyrics laced with symbolism about nuclear war. Gaillard teamed with bassist Bam Brown, they can be seen in a 1947 motion picture featurette O'Voutie O'Rooney filmed live at one of their nightclub performances. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Gaillard opened at Birdland for Charlie Parker, Flip Phillips, Coleman Hawkins, his December 1945 session with Parker and Dizzy Gillespie is notable, both musically and for its relaxed convivial air. "Slim's Jam", from that session, is one of the earliest known recordings of Parker's speaking voice. Gaillard managed to turn the performance from jazz to comedy, he would play the guitar with his left hand fretting with fingers pointing down over the fingerboard, or would play credible piano solos with his palms facing up. Gaillard wrote the theme song to the Peter Potter radio show. In addition, in 1950 he wrote and recorded the "Don
Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression, it emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes and response vocals and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms"; as jazz spread around the world, it drew on national and local musical cultures, which gave rise to different styles. New Orleans jazz began in the early 1910s, combining earlier brass-band marches, French quadrilles, biguine and blues with collective polyphonic improvisation.
In the 1930s arranged dance-oriented swing big bands, Kansas City jazz, a hard-swinging, improvisational style and Gypsy jazz were the prominent styles. Bebop emerged in the 1940s, shifting jazz from danceable popular music toward a more challenging "musician's music", played at faster tempos and used more chord-based improvisation. Cool jazz developed near the end of the 1940s, introducing calmer, smoother sounds and long, linear melodic lines; the 1950s saw the emergence of free jazz, which explored playing without regular meter and formal structures, in the mid-1950s, hard bop emerged, which introduced influences from rhythm and blues and blues in the saxophone and piano playing. Modal jazz developed in the late 1950s, using the mode, or musical scale, as the basis of musical structure and improvisation. Jazz-rock fusion appeared in the late 1960s and early 1970s, combining jazz improvisation with rock music's rhythms, electric instruments, amplified stage sound. In the early 1980s, a commercial form of jazz fusion called smooth jazz became successful, garnering significant radio airplay.
Other styles and genres abound in the 2000s, such as Afro-Cuban jazz. The origin of the word "jazz" has resulted in considerable research, its history is well documented, it is believed to be related to "jasm", a slang term dating back to 1860 meaning "pep, energy". The earliest written record of the word is in a 1912 article in the Los Angeles Times in which a minor league baseball pitcher described a pitch which he called a "jazz ball" "because it wobbles and you can't do anything with it"; the use of the word in a musical context was documented as early as 1915 in the Chicago Daily Tribune. Its first documented use in a musical context in New Orleans was in a November 14, 1916 Times-Picayune article about "jas bands". In an interview with NPR, musician Eubie Blake offered his recollections of the slang connotations of the term, saying, "When Broadway picked it up, they called it'J-A-Z-Z', it wasn't called that. It was spelled'J-A-S-S'; that was dirty, if you knew what it was, you wouldn't say it in front of ladies."
The American Dialect Society named it the Word of the Twentieth Century. Jazz is difficult to define because it encompasses a wide range of music spanning a period of over 100 years, from ragtime to the rock-infused fusion. Attempts have been made to define jazz from the perspective of other musical traditions, such as European music history or African music, but critic Joachim-Ernst Berendt argues that its terms of reference and its definition should be broader, defining jazz as a "form of art music which originated in the United States through the confrontation of the Negro with European music" and arguing that it differs from European music in that jazz has a "special relationship to time defined as'swing'". Jazz involves "a spontaneity and vitality of musical production in which improvisation plays a role" and contains a "sonority and manner of phrasing which mirror the individuality of the performing jazz musician". In the opinion of Robert Christgau, "most of us would say that inventing meaning while letting loose is the essence and promise of jazz".
A broader definition that encompasses different eras of jazz has been proposed by Travis Jackson: "it is music that includes qualities such as swing, group interaction, developing an'individual voice', being open to different musical possibilities". Krin Gibbard argued that "jazz is a construct" which designates "a number of musics with enough in common to be understood as part of a coherent tradition". In contrast to commentators who have argued for excluding types of jazz, musicians are sometimes reluctant to define the music they play. Duke Ellington, one of jazz's most famous figures, said, "It's all music." Although jazz is considered difficult to define, in part because it contains many subgenres, improvisation is one of its defining elements. The centrality of improvisation is attributed to the influence of earlier forms of music such as blues, a form of folk music which arose in part from the work songs and field hollers of African-American slaves on plantations; these work songs were structured around a repetitive call-and-response pattern, but early blues was improvisational.
Classical music performance is evaluated more by its fidelity to the musical score, with less attention given to interpretation and accompaniment. The classical performer's goal is to play the composition. In contrast, jazz is characterized by the product of i
Sarah Lois Vaughan was an American jazz singer. Nicknamed "Sassy" and "The Divine One", she won four Grammy Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, she was given an NEA Jazz Masters Award in 1989. Critic Scott Yanow wrote that she had "one of the most wondrous voices of the 20th century". Vaughan's father, Asbury "Jake" Vaughan, played guitar and piano, her mother, Ada Vaughan, was a laundress. The Vaughans lived in a house on Brunswick Street in Newark for Vaughan's entire childhood. Jake was religious; the family was active in New Mount Zion Baptist Church at 186 Thomas Street. Vaughan began piano lessons at age 7, sang in the church choir, played piano for rehearsals and services, she developed an early love for popular music on the radio. In the 1930s, she saw local and touring bands at the Montgomery Street Skating Rink. By her mid-teens, she began venturing illegally into Newark's night clubs and performing as a pianist and singer at the Piccadilly Club and the Newark Airport. Vaughan attended East Side High School transferred to Newark Arts High School, which opened in 1931.
As her nocturnal adventures as a performer overwhelmed her academic pursuits, she dropped out of high school during her junior year to concentrate on music. Vaughan was accompanied by a friend, Doris Robinson, on her trips into New York City. In the fall of 1942, by which time she was 18 years old, Vaughan suggested that Robinson enter the Apollo Theater Amateur Night contest. Vaughan played piano accompaniment for Robinson. Vaughan decided to go back and compete as a singer herself, she sang "Body and Soul", won—although the date of this victorious performance is uncertain. The prize, as Vaughan recalled to Marian McPartland, was $10 and the promise of a week's engagement at the Apollo. On November 20, 1942, she returned to the Apollo to open for Ella Fitzgerald. During her week of performances at the Apollo, Vaughan was introduced to bandleader and pianist Earl Hines, although the details of that introduction are disputed. Billy Eckstine, Hines' singer at the time, has been credited by Vaughan and others with hearing her at the Apollo and recommending her to Hines.
Hines claimed to have discovered her himself and offered her a job on the spot. After a brief tryout at the Apollo, Hines replaced his female singer with Vaughan on April 4, 1943. Vaughan spent the remainder of 1943 and part of 1944 touring the country with the Earl Hines big band, which featured Billy Eckstine, she was hired as a pianist so Hines could hire her under the jurisdiction of the musicians' union rather than the singers union. But after Cliff Smalls joined the band as a trombonist and pianist, her duties were limited to singing; the Earl Hines band in this period is remembered as an incubator of bebop, as it included trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, saxophonist Charlie Parker, trombonist Bennie Green. Gillespie arranged for the band, although the contemporary recording ban by the musicians' union meant that no commercial recordings exist. Eckstine quit the Hines band in late 1943 and formed a big band with Gillespie, leaving Hines to become the band's musical director. Parker joined Eckstine, over the next few years the band included Gene Ammons, Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Kenny Dorham, Dexter Gordon, Lucky Thompson.
Vaughan accepted Eckstine's invitation to join his band in 1944, giving her the opportunity to record for the first time on December 5, 1944 on the song. "I'll Pray" for De Luxe. Critic and producer Leonard Feather asked her to record that month for Continental with a septet that included Dizzy Gillespie and Georgie Auld, she left the Eckstine band in late 1944 to pursue a solo career, although she remained close to Eckstine and recorded with him frequently. Pianist John Malachi is credited with giving Vaughan the moniker "Sassy", a nickname that matched her personality, she liked it, the name and its shortened variant "Sass" stuck with colleagues and the press. In written communications, Vaughan spelled it "Sassie". Vaughan began her solo career in 1945 by freelancing on 52nd Street in New York City at the Three Deuces, the Famous Door, the Downbeat, the Onyx Club, she spent time at Braddock Grill next to the Apollo Theater in Harlem. On May 11, 1945, she recorded "Lover Man" for Guild with a quintet featuring Gillespie and Parker with Al Haig on piano, Curly Russell on double bass, Sid Catlett on drums.
That month, she went into the studio with a different and larger Gillespie/Parker aggregation and recorded three more sides. After being invited by violinist Stuff Smith to record the song "Time and Again" in October, Vaughan was offered a contract to record for Musicraft by owner Albert Marx, although she would not begin recording as a leader for Musicraft until May 7, 1946. In the intervening time, she recorded for Crown and Gotham and began performing at Café Society Downtown, an integrated club in New York's Sheridan Square. While at Café Society, Vaughan became friends with trumpeter George Treadwell, who became her manager, she delegated to him most of the musical director responsibilities for her recording sessions, allowing her to concentrate on singing. Over the next few years, Treadwell made changes in Vaughan's stage appearance. Aside from a new wardrobe and hair style, she had her teeth capped, eliminating a gap between her two front teeth, her recordings for Musicraft included "If You Could See Me Now", "Don't Blame Me", "I've Got a Crush on You", "Everything I Have Is Yours" and "Body and Soul".
With Vaughan and
William Clarence Eckstine was an American jazz and pop singer, a bandleader of the swing era. He was noted for his rich, resonant operatic bass-baritone voice. Eckstine's recording of "I Apologize" was awarded the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999; the New York Times described him as an "influential band leader" whose "suave bass-baritone" and "full-throated, sugary approach to popular songs inspired singers like Joe Williams, Arthur Prysock and Lou Rawls." Eckstine's paternal grandparents were William F. Eckstein and Nannie Eckstein, a mixed-race, married couple who lived in Washington, D. C.. William F. was born in Nannie in Virginia. His parents were William Eckstein, a chauffeur, Charlotte Eckstein, a seamstress of note. Eckstine was born in Pennsylvania. Billy's sister, was a well-respected Spanish teacher at Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh, he attended Peabody High School before moving to Washington, DC. He attended Armstrong High School, St. Paul Normal and Industrial School, Howard University.
He left Howard in 1933, after winning first place in an amateur talent contest. Heading to Chicago, Eckstine joined Earl Hines' Grand Terrace Orchestra in 1939, staying with the band as vocalist and trumpeter until 1943. By that time, Eckstine had begun to make a name for himself through the Hines band's juke-box hits such as "Stormy Monday Blues", his own "Jelly Jelly." In 1944, Eckstine formed his own big band and it became the finishing school for adventurous young musicians who would shape the future of jazz. Included in this group were Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Charlie Parker, Fats Navarro, as well as vocalist Sarah Vaughan. Tadd Dameron, Gil Fuller and Jerry Valentine were among the band's arrangers; the Billy Eckstine Orchestra is considered to be the first bop big-band, had Top Ten chart entries that included "A Cottage for Sale" and "Prisoner of Love". Both were awarded a gold disc by the RIAA. Dizzy Gillespie, in reflecting on the band in his 1979 autobiography To Be or Not to Bop, gives this perspective: "There was no band that sounded like Billy Eckstine's.
Our attack was strong, we were playing bebop, the modern style. No other band like this one existed in the world." Eckstine became a solo performer with records featuring lush sophisticated orchestrations. Before folding his band, Eckstine had recorded solo to support it, scoring two million-sellers in 1945 with "Cottage for Sale" and a revival of "Prisoner of Love". Far more successful than his band recordings, these prefigured Eckstine's future career. Eckstine would go on to record over a dozen hits during the late 1940s, he signed with the newly established MGM Records, had immediate hits with revivals of "Everything I Have Is Yours", Rodgers and Hart's "Blue Moon", Juan Tizol's "Caravan". Eckstine had further success in 1950 with Victor Young's theme song to "My Foolish Heart," and the next year with a revival of the 1931 Bing Crosby hit, "I Apologize", his 1950 appearance at the Paramount Theatre in New York City drew a larger audience than Frank Sinatra at his Paramount performance. Eckstine was the subject of a three-page profile in the 25 April 1950 issue of LIFE magazine, in which the photographer Martha Holmes accompanied Eckstine and his entourage during a week in New York City.
One photograph taken by Holmes and published in LIFE showed Eckstine with a group of white female admirers, one of whom had her hand on his shoulder and her head on his chest while she laughed. Eckstine's biographer Cary Ginell, wrote of the image that Holmes "...captured a moment of shared exuberance and affection, unblemished by racial tension." Holmes would describe the photograph as the favorite of the many she had taken in her career as it "...told just what the world should be like". The photograph was considered so controversial that an editor at LIFE sought personal approval from Henry Luce, the magazine's publisher, who said it should be published; the publication of the image caused letters of protest to be written to the magazine, singer Harry Belafonte subsequently said of the publication that "When that photo hit, in this national publication, it was if a barrier had been broken". The controversy that resulted from the photograph had a seminal effect on the trajectory of Eckstine's career.
Tony Bennett would recall that "It changed everything... Before that, he had a tremendous following...and it just offended the white community", a sentiment shared by pianist Billy Taylor who said that the "coverage and that picture just slammed the door shut for him". Among Eckstine's recordings of the 1950s was a 1957 duet with Sarah Vaughan, "Passing Strangers", a minor hit in 1957, but an initial No. 22 success in the UK Singles Chart. The 1960 Las Vegas live album, No Cover, No Minimum, featured Eckstine taking a few trumpet solos and showcased his nightclub act, he recorded albums for Mercury and Roulette in the early 1960s, appeared on Motown albums during the mid to late 1960s. After recording sparingly during the 1970s for Al Bell's Stax/Enterprise imprint, the international touring Eckstine made his last recording, the Grammy-nominated Billy Eckstine Sings with Benny Carter in 1986. Eckstine made numerous appearances on television variety shows, including on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Nat King Cole Show, The Tonight Show with Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, The Merv Griffin Show, The Art Linkletter Show, The Joey Bishop Show, The Dean Martin Show, The Flip Wilson Show, Playboy After Dark.
He performed as an actor in the TV sitc