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Tue, 09.20.1921

Chico Hamilton, Bandleader born

Chico Hamilton

*Chico Hamilton was born on this date in 1921; he was an Afro Mexican jazz drummer and bandleader.  

He was from Los Angeles, CA, born Forestorn Hamilton; his father, Jesse, was Black and white (Scottish) and worked at the University Club of Southern California. His mother, Pearl Lee Gonzales Cooley Hamilton, was a school dietitian. She was Mexican, Native American, and Jewish.  He and his two brothers attended Lafayette Junior High School.  

Before he had finished high school, Chico Hamilton started his career in a band with Charles MingusIllinois Jacquet, Ernie Royal, Dexter GordonBuddy Collette, and Jack Kelso.   Engagements with Lionel Hampton, Slim & Slam, T-Bone Walker, Lester Young, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Charlie Barnet, Billy Eckstine, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jr., Billie Holiday, Gerry Mulligan, and Lena Horne established his career.  Hamilton appeared in the film You'll Never Get Rich (1941) as part of the backing group supporting Fred Astaire. Hamilton also performed on the soundtrack of the Bing Crosby and Bob Hope film Road to Bali (1952).   

He recorded his first album as a leader in 1955 with George Duvivier and Howard Roberts for Pacific Jazz. In the same year, he formed an unusual quintet in L.A. featuring cello, flute/saxes/clarinet/guitar/bass, and drums.  The quintet was one of the last important West Coast jazz bands.  In 1997, Hamilton received the New School University Jazz and Contemporary Music Programs' Beacons in Jazz Award for his "significant contribution to the evolution of Jazz." In 2002, he was awarded the WLIU-FM Radio Lifetime Achievement Award. At the IAJE in NYC in January 2004, he was awarded an NEA Jazz Master Fellowship.  

In December 2006, Congress confirmed the nomination of Hamilton to the President's Council on the Arts.  In 2007, he received a Living Legend Jazz Award as part of The Kennedy Center's Jazz in Our Time Festival and was awarded a Doctor of Fine Arts from The New School.  Chico Hamilton died aged 92 on November 25, 2013, in Manhattan.  On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Chico Hamilton among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.  

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