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Andy Kirk was born on this date in 1898. He was a Black musician, composer, and bandleader.
He was born in Newport, Ky., but raised in Denver, CO. One of his music teachers was Wilberforce Whiteman, Paul Whiteman's father.
Kirk worked as a postman and part-time musician for a decade before taking over leadership of the Dark Clouds of Joy, a band led by Terrence Holder. The band scored a hit with the recording of "Until the Real Thing Comes Along" in 1936. Among major players who went through the Kirk band in the 1930s were tenor saxophonists Buddy Tate and Dick Wilson.
Kirk continued to find success with his band through the 1940s with sidemen such as Don Byas and Howard McGhee. A tuba player and baritone and bass saxophonist, Andy Kirk was more widely known for the bands he led near the middle of the 20th century. The band's pianist was Mary Lou Williams, who became its chief arranger. Although the Kirk band was relatively successful, it was not well represented in recordings.
Kirk's group disbanded in 1948. He led another band in California in the early 1950s and then went into hotel management and real estate. In the 1970s, he led pickup bands on occasion. He was a Musicians' Union official in the 1980s and spent the remainder of his life working for his Jehovah’s Witness church. Andy Kirk died on Dec. 11, 1992.
To Become a Musician or Singer
A Century of Jazz by Roy Carr
Da Capo Press, New York