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Wed, 02.10.1909

“Chick” Webb, the drummer who led the band

Chick Webb

*On this date in 1909 “Chick” Webb was born. He was an African American drummer and bandleader.

From Baltimore, William Henry “Chick” Webb first played in a local children’s orchestra, and in his teens played in bands working on local riverboats. Webb moved to New York in 1925 and performed with Edgar Dowell prior to forming his own group, which was the featured attraction at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem by 1927.

His dynamic drumming and easily recognized compositions arranged by Edgar Sampson earned him and his band an enthusiastic following. Stompin’ at the Savoy and Don’t Be That Way 1934 were signature selection of the times. Their popularity was unmatched throughout the country; they toured and played regularly for national radio broadcast. Webb’s leading soloist were Johnny Hodges, Benny Carter, Louis Jordan, Taft Jordan and others.

Ella Fitzgerald, who would become the bands leading attraction, sang Webb’s hit recordings A-Tisket A-Tasket, 1938 and Undecided, 1939. Despite a life-long battle with tuberculosis of the spine, a painful condition that left him hunchbacked, Webb was a prodigy on the most physically demanding instrument in jazz, while directing his orchestra from his drum set.

Chick Webb died on June 16, 1939, at the age of 30 from complications following an operation.

All That Jazz The Illustrated Story of Jazz Music
General Editor: Ronald Atkins
Copyright 1996, Carlton Books Limited
ISBN 0-76519-953-X

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