Willie Dixon was born July 1, 1915, in Vicksburg, MS.
Illustration: William Stout / Legends of the Blues
James Cotton was born July 1, 1935, in Tunica, MS.
Illustration: Jack Coughlin / A Brush with the Blues: 26 Portraits
Willie Dixon and James Cotton with Muddy Waters, Sunnyland Slim, Otis Spann, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, and Mable Hillery in 1966 at the Canadian CBC Television studio, recording a portion of a CBC “Festival” series:
Born in Chicago, Illinois in the United States, into a large, impoverished family of immigrants. Goodman experienced hard times while growing up. Encouraged by his father to learn a musical instrument, Goodman and two of his brothers took lessons; as the youngest and smallest he learned to play the clarinet. These early studies took place at the Kehelah Jacob Synagogue and later at Hull House, a settlement house founded by reformer Jane Addams. From the start, Goodman displayed an exceptional talent and he received personal tuition from James Sylvester and then the renowned classicist Franz Schoepp. Before he was in his teens, Goodman had begun performing in public and was soon playing in bands with such emerging jazz artists as Jimmy McPartland, Frank Teschemacher and Dave Tough. Goodman’s precocious talent allowed him to become a member of the American Federation of Musicians at the age of 14 and that same year he played with Bix Beiderbecke. By his mid-teens Goodman was already established as a leading musician, working on numerous engagements with many bands to the detriment of his formal education.
The summer of 1932 saw Benny organise his first band which starred singer Russ Columbo. The second band that he formed (in 1934) got a job at Billy Rose’s Music Hall. This band made some great recordings and began appearing on the 3-hour NBC radio program called “Let’s Dance.”
After this, the Benny Goodman Orchestra began touring (with not so fantastic results) until August 21, 1935, when the Benny Goodman Orchestra opened in the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles. After playing a few dance tunes, he told the band to play some Fletcher Henderson arrangements. The mostly young crowd promptly started something of a riot. After this public approval of the music – this thing called “Swing” – there was no looking back!
Benny did for clarinet what Louis Armstrong had done for the trumpet. He gave it a newly assertive leadership role in the jazz ensemble.
His was the most popular and influential swing band of the 1930s and ‘40s, and his unique trios, quartets and sextets shaped small-band Jazz style. Before Benny, clarinet was rarely a lead instrument for a band. His success made it the most popular instrument for other bandleaders like Artie Shaw, Jimmy Dorsey and Woody Herman.
Benny Goodman Discography: http://www.discogs.com/artist/254768-Benny-Goodman
Billie Holiday was the pre-eminent jazz singer of her day and among the most revered vocalists of the century. Although her brief life was fraught with tragedy, Holiday left a transcendent legacy of recorded work. Her pearly voice, exquisite phrasing and tough-tender persona influenced the likes of Janis Joplin and Diana Ross, among others. She performed and recorded in a jazzy “swing-sing” style from 1933 to 1958 with pianist-bandleaders Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Count Basie, Artie Shaw and others. She was closely associated with tenor saxophonist Lester “Prez” Young, who dubbed her “Lady Day.”
There are varying accounts of her birth: in her memoirs, Holiday claimed she was born in Baltimore; but biographer Donald Clarke notes the time of birth, name of the doctor, and original spelling of her name on her birth certificate dated April 7, 1915 from Philadelphia General Hospital, in Billie Holiday: Wishing on the Moon. As a teenager, she began singing along with records by such artists as Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong in after-hours clubs in Baltimore. Her mother, Sadie Fagan, decided to move to New York, and Billie followed her. She began performing in nightclubs in Harlem, and she took the stage name Billie Holiday after film star Billie Dove. In 1933, when she was 18, she was discovered performing in a Harlem club called Monette’s by Columbia A&R man John Hammond. Her first commercial recording session occurred that November.
Strange Fruit: the first great protest song~ http://www.theguardian.com/music/2011/feb/16/protest-songs-billie-holiday-strange-fruit
New York Times obituary~ http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0407.html
Looking For Lady Day’s Resting Place? Detour Ahead~ http://www.npr.org/2012/07/17/156686608/looking-for-lady-days-resting-place-detour-ahead
For more Billie Holiday links see 2015’s post~ https://schristywolfe.com/2015/04/07/billie-holiday-born-on-april-7-1915/