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Fri, 06.15.1923

Erroll Garner, Pianist born

Erroll Garner

This date marks the birthday of Erroll Garner in 1923. He was a Black keyboard artist who played and composed by ear in the tradition of the founders of jazz.

He was born in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, where both parents sang in church.  Garner was the baby of the family and at the age of three was playing piano with both hands. He would listen to Victrola recordings before bed and play the same song the next morning.  His piano teachers gave up on structurally teaching him because he played their assignments by ear rather than learn to read notes.  At seven years old, Garner began playing on the Pittsburgh radio station KDKA.

He attended George Westinghouse High School (as did fellow pianists Billy Strayhorn and Ahmad Jamal).   He went to New York in 1939 as an accompanist, playing at the Melody Bar, Jimmy's Chicken Shack, Tondalayo's, and other clubs.  He briefly worked with the bassist Slam Stewart, and though not a bebop musician per se, in 1947 played with Charlie Parker on the "Cool Blues" session.

Garner's fame started with the recording of "Laura" in 1946.  He gave recitals at the Cleveland Music Hall and at New York’s Town Hall. He won music awards in many countries and devoted much of his later years to composing scores for movies, Broadway shows, and ballets.

Erroll Garner died in 1977.

To Become a Musician or Singer



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