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On this date in 1897, Fletcher Henderson was born. He was a Black pianist, arranger, and bandleader.
He was born in Cuthbert, Georgia, and went to New York in 1920 to study chemistry. To earn extra money, he took a job as a house piano player for America's first Black-owned record company, Black Swan. Chemistry soon took a back seat in 1924 when Henderson and some of his recording colleagues auditioned as a band for a new club in the Big Apple. They got the job and soon graduated to the Roseland Ballroom on Broadway. Over the next eight years, they toured and recorded hundreds of records.
The Henderson band was the first to play jazz, as many know the music’s golden art form. It was an incubator for some of the greatest stars of the day, among them Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, and Benny Carter. It was not until 1933 that Fletcher himself began to write full-time for his band. Previously, his arranging served as his representation of the style known as swing.
His band fell on hard times and he turned to freelance arranging. In this venue, he showcased mightily, contributing much of the library of Benny Goodman. He formed another band that included artistic greats such as Ben Webster and Roy Eldridge.
Fletcher Henderson died on December 29, 1952.
All That Jazz: The Illustrated Story of Jazz Music
General Editor: Ronald Atkins
Copyright 1996, Carlton Books Limited