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Lionel Hampton

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Lionel Hampton – Centennial Celebration

The Concord Music Group, home to one of the largest jazz catalogs in the world, celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lionel Hampton as part of the labels ongoing Centennial Celebration series with the release of “Lionel Hampton – Centennial Celebration.” Featured here are recordings with Art Tatum and Buddy Rich, Harry Sweets Edison, and the Golden Men of Jazz.  Lionel Hampton was the first jazz vibraphonist and was one of the jazz giants beginning in the mid-’30’s. He has achieved the difficult feat of being musically open-minded (even recording “Giant Steps”) without changing his basic swing style. Hamp started out as a drummer, playing with the Chicago Defender Newsboys’ Band as a youth. His original idol was Jimmy Bertrand, a ’20s drummer who occasionally played xylophone. Hampton played on the West Coast with such groups as Curtis Mosby’s Blue Blowers, Reb Spikes, and Paul Howard’s Quality Serenaders (with whom he made his recording debut in 1929) before joining Les Hite’s band, which for a period accompanied Louis Armstrong. At a recording session in 1930, a vibraphone happened to be in the studio, and Armstrong asked Hampton (who had practiced on one previously) if he could play a little bit behind him and on “Memories of You” and “Shine”; Hamp became the first jazz improviser to record on vibes.

Lionel Leo Hampton (April 20, 1908 – August 31, 2002) was an American jazz vibraphonistpianistpercussionistbandleader and actor. Like Red Norvo, he was one of the first jazz vibraphone players. Hampton ranks among the great names in jazz history, having worked with a who’s who of jazz musicians, from Benny Goodman and Buddy Rich to Charlie Parker andQuincy Jones. In 1992, he was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.

Early life

Lionel Hampton was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1908, and was raised by his grandmother. Shortly after he was born, he and his mother moved to her hometown Birmingham, Alabama.   He spent his early childhood inKenoshaWisconsin before he and his family moved to ChicagoIllinois in 1916. As a youth, Hampton was a member of the Bud Billiken Club, an alternative to the Boy Scouts of America, which was off limits because ofracial segregation.   During the 1920s—while still a teenager—Hampton took xylophone lessons from Jimmy Bertrand and started playing drums.   Hampton was raised Roman Catholic, and started out playing fife and drum at the Holy Rosary Academy near Chicago.

Early career

Lionel Hampton began his career playing drums for the Chicago Defender Newsboys’ Band (led by Major N. Clark Smith) while still a teenager in Chicago. He moved to California in 1927 or 1928, playing drums for the Dixieland Blues-Blowers. He made his recording debut with The Quality Serenaders led by Paul Howard, then left for Culver City and drummed for the Les Hite band at Sebastian’s Cotton Club. During this period he began practicing on the vibraphone. In 1930 Louis Armstrong came to California and hired the Les Hite band, asking Hampton if he would play vibes on two songs. So began his career as a vibraphonist, popularizing the use of the instrument ever since.

While working with the Les Hite band, Hampton also occasionally did some performing with Nat Shilkret and his orchestra. During the early 1930s he studied music at the University of Southern California. In 1934 he led his own orchestra, and then appeared in the 1936 Bing Crosby film Pennies From Heaven alongside Louis Armstrong (wearing a mask in a scene while playing drums).

With Benny Goodman

As far as I’m concerned, what he did in those days—and they were hard days in 1937—made it possible for Negroes to have their chance in baseball and other fields.

Lionel Hampton on Benny Goodman

Also in November 1936, the Benny Goodman Orchestra came to Los Angeles to play the Palomar Ballroom. When John Hammond brought Goodman to see Hampton perform, Goodman invited him to join his trio, which thus became the celebrated Benny Goodman Quartet with Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa completing the lineup. The Trio and Quartet were among the first racially integrated jazz groups to record and play before wide audiences, and were a leading small-group in an era when jazz was dominated by big bands.

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