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Swing Music.Net Biography
Jimmie Lunceford
The Jimmie Lunceford Big Band swings
Jimmie Lunceford
Jimmie Lunceford is best known for his orchestra's consistently swinging and showy live performances
The tight ensembles and colorful shows of the Jimmie Lunceford big band made them a major attraction during the Swing era.
Jimmie Lunceford
Lunceford, James Melvin
leader, saxophone, arranger
Born; Fulton, MS., 6-6-1902
Died; 7-12-1947
Jazz Radio Audio
The live feed of our Tuesday jazz music radio show streaming online at 4:00 PM Pacific with a focus on the history of jazz music and jazz music that swings from the 1930s to today.

Our Jazz Radio Show Info Page
The sordid history of our jazz music radio show, est. 1985. Lends credence to the theory that FCC radio deregulation survival may be linked to narcissistically twisted disorders.

History Of Jazz Part 1
Early hot jazz bands, the hotel dance bands and the history of jazz music leading up to the Big Band era.

History Of Jazz Part II
The role of economics, early recording technology, and radio relative to jazz history and the Big Band era.

The Recording Ban Of 1942
Scans of a 1942 Down Beat magazine article detailing a dramatic event in jazz history during the Big Band era; the James Petrillo / AFM recording ban.

Webb Cuts Basie At The Savoy
Another of the many jazz magazine articles on the site detailing big events in jazz history. This piece recounts the Count Basie vs. Chick Webb big band music Battle Of Swing held at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom in January of 1938.

Jimmie Lunceford will long be remembered as the leader of a swinging big band that rivaled on record, and exceeded in person, the orchestras of Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Count Basie. His band differed from many of the other big bands of the 1930s and 1940s in that Lunceford's group was noted less for its soloists than for its ensemble work. Furthermore, most bands of the period used a four-beat rhythm while the Lunceford Ork developed a distinctive two-beat swing often played at medium tempo. The unique sound became known during the Swing era as the Lunceford two-beat.

Jimmie Lunceford’s music education included studying under Wilberforce J. Whiteman, the father of Paul Whiteman. His scholastic education included receiving a BA from Fisk University and later attending New York City College. Although Lunceford became proficient on all reed instruments he preferred the alto saxophone.

Jimmie Lunceford recruited the nucleus of his band while an athletic instructor at Manassas High School in Memphis, Tennessee. It was here, in 1927, that he organized a student jazz band called the Chicksaw Syncopators. The personnel of this band included Moses Allen (bass) and Jimmy Crawford (drums). Later, Willie Smith (alto) and Eddie Wilcox (piano) were added. The group turned professional in 1929, waxing its first recordings for RCA in 1930. After playing for several years in Cleveland and Buffalo, in 1934, the band began a high profile engagement at the famed Cotton Club in Harlem. At first the band played flashy, stiff instrumentals in the early Casa Loma orchestra manner such as two hot recordings made the same year, Jazznocracy and White Heat, with arrangements by Will Hudson.

While Wilcox and Smith both contributed early arrangements, it was the addition of ace arranger and trumpet man Sy Oliver that gave the Lunceford band its distinguished two-beat sound. Paul Webster on trumpet, Eddie Durham and later Trummy Young on trombone, and vocalist Dan Grissom were also important mid 1930s additions to the Lunceford band. By 1935 the group, then called Jimmie Lunceford's Orchestra, had achieved a national reputation as one of the top black swing bands.

The Jimmie Lunceford big band during the Swing era was widely known and other bands often imitated its showmanship and appearance. Lunceford  rehearsed his outfit endlessly. The polish of the band is evident on record by its flawless ensemble work. Further adding to the appeal of the band were the vocals by several of Lunceford's men. Jimmie's boys whispered, wheedled, cozened, rather than sang. Oliver and Smith, Joe Thomas and later Trummy Young all sang with the band often in trio unison. Unseen, is the choreography of the group's musicians in performance. Of particular delight to fans who saw the band in person was the spectacle of members of the trumpet section tossing their horns high into the air and catching them on the beat (see Miller photo below). In 1935 a long list of superb Decca two-beat recordings associated with Lunceford's name but written by Sy Oliver began; For Dancers Only, Margie, ‘Posin, Slumming On Park Avenue, My Blue Heaven, Organ Grinders Swing etc. are still great listens today. Unfortunately, based on the merits of his band's recordings, Lunceford may never receive his just due as a leader simply because his group's superb showmanship is lost on record.

Although his orchestra-leading career nowhere near paralleled in longevity that of Basie or Ellington, for a time from 1935 until Sy Oliver left his band to work for Tommy Dorsey in 1939, the Lunceford band was one of the most popular in the land. The distinctive Lunceford style, generally identified with Sy Oliver although many other arrangers contributed to the bands vast book, influenced many bandleaders and arrangers right up to the 1950’s. Glenn Miller was influenced by the Lunceford unit's showmanship (see photo below) and Tommy Dorsey, after Sy Oliver joined his band, borrowed much from the Lunceford tradition. Many albums described as tributes to Lunceford have been recorded including those by Sy Oliver, George Williams, Billy May and others.

When Sy Oliver left the band in 1939, Bill Moore Jr. showed up and left a vital impression on the band's books with his Belgium Stomp, Monotony In Four Flats, and I Got It. In 1941 the addition of trumpet man Snooky Young and some fine arrangements by Gerald Wilson further heightened the band's recorded output.

In 1942 Tadd Dameron arranged for the orchestra but the band began to have internal problems. The issues of the band were mainly monetary, precipitated by Lunceford's refusal to pay his players a wage on par with that of other successful bands. Lunceford himself wanted for nothing and was reputed to have a lavish lifestyle which was readily apparent to all of his sidemen. In May of 1942 Lunceford fired many of his key musicians (see article below) and alto man Willie Smith soon left as well, leaving a huge void in the band.

By the time the recording ban ended a mass exodus from the group had occurred. Nevertheless, Jimmie Lunceford was still a popular bandleader in 1947 when he suddenly collapsed and died while signing autographs after an engagement in Oregon. Rumors soon surfaced (including those printed in DownBeat magazine) that a racist restaurant owner, who had a strong aversion about feeding the Lunceford band, actually poisoned the bandleader.

After Lunceford's death, pianist/arranger Ed Wilcox and Joe Thomas tried to keep the orchestra together but in 1949 the band permanently broke up.

Ray Charles Biography
Known as "The Genius" Ray Charles recorded a wide variety of music but got his start playing big band music and jazz. He passed away 6-10-04.

Barney Kessel Biography
The jazz guitar great died May 6th, 2004 and left behind a vast body of recorded jazz work.

Benny Carter Biography
Benny Carter was one of the greatest arrangers and jazz musicians the genre has ever known. This extensive biography spans the entire lengthy carreer of the jazz legend.

Billy May Biography
The trumpeter, bandleader, composer and arranger died Jan. 22, 2004. May wrote many Swing Era classics for Glenn Miller and Charlie Barnet and later for Sinatra and Nat Cole.

Count Basie Biography
Our biography of Count Basie traces the career of "the kid from Red Bank" through Kansas City and into the later stages of his life as a bandleader.

5-05 Jazz Joint Jump Radio Play
A full months worth of jazz radio air play from the Jazz Joint in May of 2005. Includes recording months, years, titles and record labels.

4-05 Jazz Joint Jump Radio Play
April's jazz radio playlists include artists, song and release titles, labels and dates. A miniature discography of jazz that swings as recorded in April.

3-05 Jazz Joint Jump Radio Play
March jazz radio playlists that include artists, song and release titles, and labels. Some dates are also included.

November 2003 Jazz Radio Play
Three weeks worth of swing radio playlists including topical music of, and recordings done in, the month of November throughout jazz history.

Swing Radio Air Play 10-04-03
An early autumn radio show with jazz music by Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Laverne Butler and more.

Big Band Radio Air Play 5-31-03
A Benny Goodman 5-30 birthday tribute; features on the Andy Kirk and Bobby Sherwood big bands; a Peggy Lee May birthday set.

Big Band Radio Air Play 5-24-03
Commemorates the occasion of Artie Shaw's 93rd Birthday.

Current Jazz Joint Jump Playlists
Click the link above to enter our Web Forum for playlists from December of 2005 to the present.

Jimmie Lunceford Downbeat Magazine Article
       According to Harold F. Oxley, Jimmie's manager and mentor since the organization started its march to fame in Buffalo in the early 30s, a few prima donnas had developed in the ranks of the band in recent years and a general realignment has been under consideration for some time,
        Moses Allen, bass; Snookie Young and Joe Wilson trumpets; Ted Buckner, sax; Elmer Crumbley, trombone; and Dan Grissom, sax and vocalist are the six men given notice.
Four Original Men Left
        The bass player, Allen, is one of the five remaining members of the original Lunceford band organized in 1927 at Fisk University. The others are Edwin Wilcox, piano; James Crawford, drums; Willie Smith and Earl Carruthers, saxophones.
        Replacements for all of the departing musicians have been made, according to Lunceford, but names of only two of the new men were available at press time. These were Freddie Webster, trumpet man from Cleveland, recently with Lucky Millinder, and Peewee Jackson, trumpet player from the Earl Hines band. 

Trummie Young Stays
Trummie Young, trombonist who took a leave of absence recently and who, it was rumored, planned to organize his own band, has returned to the Lunceford fold and has indicated his intention of remaining.
        Others unaffected by the changes include Paul F. Webster, trumpet; Russel Bowles, trombone; Joe Thomas, sax; and Albert Norris, guitar.  
Glenn Miller copies the Jimmie Lunceford showmanship
The Glenn Miller orchestra borrows the showmanship of the Jimmie Lunceford band for the film Orchestra Wives
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