Swing Music Forum | Big Bands | 1930s & 40s Small Groups | Jazz Vocalists | Mainstream Jazz | Modern Swing | Swing Era Photos | Jazz Joint Radio | Playlists
Also on Swing Music Net
•  1956 Fender Stratocaster
•  Scott 299A Tube Pre-amp
•  Bogen DB 130 Pre-amp
•  George Gott Tube EQ
•  SAE Record De-clicker
•  RCA 74 Jr Velocity Mic
Swing Music Net Biography
Count Basie
William Count Basie photo
Count Basie
The first leader of a Kansas City style swing band to rise to national fame
Basie's band became internationally famous in 1938 after a number of Decca recordings.
Count Basie
Basie, William (Count)
leader, piano, organ, composer
Born; Red Bank, NJ., 8-21-1904
Died; 4-26-1984
Jazz Radio Audio
The live feed of our Tuesday jazz radio show streaming online at 4:00 PM Pacific with a focus on the history of jazz music and jazz that swings from the 1930s to today.

Our Jazz Radio Show Info Page
The sordid history of our jazz 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.

Bill Basie studied music with his mother as a child and played piano in early childhood. He picked up the basics of early ragtime from some of the great Harlem pianists and studied organ informally with Fats Waller. He made his professional debut as an accompanist for vaudeville acts and replaced Waller in an act called Katie Crippen and her Kids. He also worked with June Clark and Sonny Greer who was later to become Duke Ellington's drummer.

It was while traveling with the Gonzel White vaudeville show that Basie became stranded in Kansas City when the outfit suddenly broke up.  He played at a silent movie house for a while and then became a member of the Walter Page Blue Devils in 1928 and '29. Included in the ranks of the Blue Devils was a blues shouter who was later to play a key role as early male vocalist with Basie's own big band, Jimmy Rushing. It was in fact the rotund Rushing who happened to hear Basie playing in Kansas City and invited him to attend a Blue Devil's performance. Basie soon joined the band after sitting in with them that night.

Story continues below ↓

After Page's Blue Devils broke up Count Basie and some of the other band members integrated into the Bennie Moten band. He remained with Moten until his death in 1935. After Moten's death the band continued under the leadership of Bennie's brother Buster, but Basie started a group of his own and soon found a steady gig at the Reno Club in Kansas City employing some of the best personnel from the Moten band himself. 

The band gradually built up in quantity and quality of personnel and was broadcast live regularly from the club by a small Kansas City radio station. It was during one of these broadcasts that the group was heard by John Hammond, a wealthy jazz aficionado, who had himself worked as an announcer, disc jockey and producer of a live jazz show on radio. Hammond decided that the band must go to New York. Through his efforts and support (at times even financially) the band enlarged its membership further and went to New York in 1936. Hammond installed Willard Alexander as the band's manager and in January of 1937 the Count Basie band made its first recording with the Decca record label.

By the following year the Basie big band had become internationally famous, anchored by the leader's simple and sparse piano style and the rhythm section of Freddie Greene guitar, Walter Page bass, and Jo Jones drums. The great soloists of this band included Jimmy Rushing as vocalist, Lester Young and Herschel Evans tenor saxes, Earl Warren on alto, Buck Clayton and Harry "Sweets" Edison on trumpets, and Benny Morton and Dickie Wells on trombones, among others. Also contributing to the bands success were the arrangements by Eddie Durham and others in the band and the "head" arrangements spontaneously developed by the group.

Despite the occasional losses of key soloists, throughout the 1940s Basie maintained a big band that possessed an infectious rhythmic beat, an enthusiastic team spirit, and a long list of inspired and talented jazz soloists.  Among the long line of budding stars to pass through the Basie aggregation's ranks during these years were tenor men, Lester Young, Herschel Evans, Don Byas, Buddy Tate, Lucky Thompson, Illinois Jacquet, and Paul Gonsalves. On trumpets the list includes Buck Clayton, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Joe Newman, and Emmett Berry. In the trombone section Dickie Wells, Benny Morton, Vic Dickenson, and J.J. Johnson all had stints with Basie in the 40s. 

Story continues below ↓

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.

Except for a period in 1950 and '51, when economic conditions forced him to tour with a septet, Basie maintained a highly swinging big band that, at one time or another, included Clark Terry, Wardell Gray, Al Grey, Frank Wess, Frank Foster, Thad Jones, Sonny Payne, Joe Wilder, Benny Powell, and Henry Coker. In 1954 Joe Williams became the band's full time male vocalist. By 1955 he had infused the Basie band with new life and further commercial success beginning with Every Day I Have The Blues. Also during this period arrangers Neal Hefti and Ernie Wilkins contributed many fine swinging arrangements to the band's book. These great men of music coupled with Basie's undying allegiance to the beat and the 12 bar blues allowed the band to consistently turn out records of extremely high caliber well into even the 1970s.

Count Basie's health began deteriorating in 1976 when he suffered a heart attack that put him out of commission for several months. Following another stay in the hospital in 1981 he began appearing on stage driving an electric wheel chair. Count Basie died of cancer at 79.

Along with a number of Grammy awards the Count and his big bands won the following Jazz polls: Esquire's Silver Award in 1945; Down Beat reader's poll in 1955, '57 -'59; Metronome Poll '58 -'60; Down Beat Critics Poll '54 -'57; Playboy All Stars' All Stars '59. As pianist, Basie won the Metronome Poll in '42 - '43. In 1958 Count Basie was elected to the Down Beat Hall Of Fame.

The Basie big band was originally scheduled to play the Palomar Ballroom in L.A. on his first West Coast tour. Unfortunately by the time he got to California, the famous Palomar had burned to the ground. (See the Charlie Barnet bio for another pic and more info on the fire.) Arrangements were hastily made for the Count's ork to appear at Sweet's Ballroom in Oakland.
The actual article as it appeared in Down Beat following the Chick Webb vs. Count Basie big band battle at the Savoy. The Basie band was unheralded prior to this event especially by George Simon of Metronome magazine. Following this night however Basie gained a reputation as leading one of the best big bands in the country.
Jazz radio host Jeff Parker with Nipper
About The Author

Big Band-leaders And Down Beat Articles | Jazz Music Web Forum | Swing Era Small Groups | Swing Era Photos | Mainstream Jazz Musicians | Jazz Vocalists
Jazz Radio Audio | Jazz History And Big Band Music Evolution | Jazz History Economics And Technology | Big Band Battle At The Savoy | Petrillo / AFM Recording Ban

About Our Jazz Radio Program | Contact Via E-mail | Direct Postal Mail: 1175 Shaw Ave. Suite 104 PMB #198 Clovis, CA 93612
© 2004 - 2013 Swingmusic.net

Big Bands | 1930s & 40s Combos | Jazz Vocalists | Mainstream Jazz | Modern Swing And Jazz | Swing Era Photos | Jazz Joint Jump Radio | Jazz Radio Playlists
© 2004 - 2013 CD Swing / Swingmusic.net All rights reserved