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On this date, in 1904, Eddie South was born. He was a Black jazz violinist.
A child prodigy, Eddie South was from Louisiana, Missouri, and graduated from the Chicago Music College. In the 1920s, classical positions were not open to Black violinists, so the South learned to play jazz (helped out by Darnell Howard). In the early to mid-1920s, he worked in Chicago with Jimmy Wade's Syncopators, Charles Elgar and Erskine Tate. In 1928, a visit to Europe (where he studied at the Paris Conservatoire) made a deep impression on him, particularly in Budapest; later on, he would often use gypsy melodies as a basis for jazz improvising.
In 1931, South returned to Chicago, where his regular band included bassist Milt Hinton. In 1937, while in Paris, he recorded with Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. South never had a breakthrough commercially in his American career. Classically trained and fluent in several styles, including swing, gypsy, and Latin, he favored a warm, lyrical sound that was popular in Europe, where racial discrimination did not hinder his style.
He did work on radio and television but spent most of his life in relative obscurity, playing in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. In later years he recorded for Chess and Mercury and made a final set released by Trip. South's other early recordings (covering 1927-41) have been reissued on a pair of Classics CDs. One of the top violinists of the pre-bop era South was a brilliant technician who, were it not for the universal racism of the time, would probably have been a top classical violinist.
Eddie South died on April 25, 1962, in Chicago.
All That Jazz The Illustrated Story of Jazz Music
General Editor: Ronald Atkins
Copyright 1996, Carlton Books Limited
ASCAP Biographical Dictionary
R. R. Bowker Co., Copyright 1980