Thursday, 19 May 2022

Johnny Hicks born 19 May 1918

Johnny Hicks (May 19, 1918 - April 9, 1997) was a radio announcer, singer and songwriter, better known as co-producer of KRLD's Big "D" Jamboree. 

Johnny Hicks was born on a farm near Kansas City, Missouri, USA. While attending the University of Texas, in 1938, Hicks was offered an announcing job on a local Austin station. It turned out to be with the country music programme of Wilbert Lee O’Daniel, then Governor of Texas. 

In 1941, he worked as a disc jockey and sang on KABC San Antonio and WBAP Fort Worth, where working with Ernest Tubb converted him completely to country music. He relocated to Dallas, in 1942 and worked with the Callahan Brothers and Jim Boyd on different stations. He later appeared with Jimmy Heap and Adolph Hofner at other venues. 

In 1946, he returned to KRLD Dallas, a powerful station whose transmissions could even be received in Canada and Mexico. Here he first presented the Cornbread Matinee, a daily live show before taking over the new Big “D” Jamboree which he helped to re-name with Al Turner. "It was kind of euphonious," Hicks once said of the new name, "and it stuck." 

Not long after that, the Jamboree took off, booking the likes of Ray Price and Lefty Frizzell.  In 1949, even Hank Williams showed up on the Sportatorium stage: He had been kicked off the Opry for his excessive drinking, and he needed a place to play. It was at the Jamboree, say old-timers, that Williams heard Price and convinced him to go to Nashville, where, soon enough, he'd become a star with "Crazy Arms." 


In 1951, Hicks swung a deal with CBS' radio network that brought the Jamboree to the nation's airwaves every third Saturday night, as part of its Saturday Night Country Style program. He compeered and sang on this show for 10 years, first on radio and later when it moved to television. 

Hicks behind Elvis at the Big D

From 1954 , the Big D Jamboree mainly contributed to the spread of rockabilly , as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Warren Smith and many other rockabilly artists performed here and escaped the strict regimen of the WSM Grand Ole Opry . Hicks had a copy of Presley's contract framed on his wall. "We paid him $225 a night, and he had to furnish his own drummer."  The show was considered one of the most important radio shows in Texas and the rest of the southern states. 

Hicks also did four Hillbilly Hit Parade record shows weekly. He recorded extensively for Columbia from 1950 to 1954 and wrote many songs including the patriotic story of the recalled soldier ‘I Thought I Was Home To Stay’, a sort of tribute to Bob Wills ‘I Can’t Get Enough Of That Ah-Ha’ and the semi-weepy story of a blind man ‘The Man On The Corner’. 

Hicks retired to California in the 60s but even then he presented his Johnny Hick’s Country Gold on KTOM Salinas before his death in Carmel, CA on April 9, 1997, aged only 59. 

(Edited from AllMusic & Wikipedia)

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Doris Duke born 18 May 1941

Doris Willingham (May 18, 1941* – March 21, 2019), known for much of her singing career as Doris Duke, was an American gospel and soul singer, best known for her 1969 album I'm a Loser which is considered by many to be the greatest Deep Soul album of all time. 

Doris Duke was born Doris Curry in Sandersville, Georgia. She received her early childhood education from Miller Street Elementary School and Southside High School. She developed a love for gospel music early on at the age of 3 years old and later reportedly started singing with gospel groups including the Queen of Gospel Albertina Walker and The Caravans, though this has been questioned. By 1963 she was working in New York City on sessions and as a backing singer at the Apollo Theatre. She also recorded some demos for Motown Records, but none were ever released. 

In 1965 Doris got a job at Motown’s New York office in the company of Herb & Brenda Rooney (The Exciters), George Kerr and Norma Jenkins. Hoping to make it over to the music side of Motown, sadly all Doris ever managed to achieve was the making of a few demos. She married Johnathan Augustus "Gus" Willingham, an original member of The Cadillacs, and under her married name of Doris Willingham recorded her first single, "Running Away from Loneliness" in 1966. This release on Jay Boy Records was not a success, so she continued working as a session singer, mainly in Philadelphia. 

In 1968, she recorded four songs under the direction of Richard Tee. Two tracks, “You Can’t Do That” and “Lost Again” saw release on the newly-launched sister label to President, namely Jay-Boy, while two others, “Too Much To Bear” and “Make It On Out”, remained ‘in the can’ at the time. Also in 1968, she toured Europe (including the UK) backing up Nina Simone, whilst, on return to the USA, she migrated chiefly to Philadelphia where she did some back-up work for Gamble & Huff, who were still in their independent-production days. Then in early 1969, she again toured Europe with Simone and sang back-ups on Nina’s live album cut in Germany in April of that year entitled “A Very Rare Evening”. As a backing singer Doris also worked for artists such as Jackie Wilson, Sinatra, Dean Martin, Aretha and Sammy Davis. 


In 1969, former Atlantic Records producer Jerry 'Swamp Dogg' Williams Jr. signed her as a solo artist, renaming her Doris Duke and recording the album I'm a Loser at the Capricorn studio in Macon, Georgia. The album was eventually issued on Canyon Records, and over the years became regarded, by Dave Godin and others, as one of the finest deep soul records of all time. The first single, "To the Other Woman (I'm the Other Woman)", reached no. 7 in the Billboard R&B chart and no. 50 on the pop chart in early 1970, and the follow-up "Feet Start Walking" also made the R&B chart, but success was cut short when the record company collapsed. 

Duke recorded a second album, A Legend in Her Own Time, with Swamp Dogg, issued on the Mankind label in 1971. However, it was not commercially successful, and her career at one point became confused with that of "the real" Doris Duke, a white heiress, who began performing with a gospel choir in New Jersey. Having remarried, and using the name Doris Logan, she temporarily retired to bring up her young children, before undergoing another divorce. In 1973, Duke recorded unsuccessfully for Bob Shad's Mainstream label, before being signed to the British Contempo label in 1974. Her subsequent album Woman, recorded in London and arranged by Gerry Shury, received good reviews but few sales, and thereafter she retired from the music business for family life and to help comfort her aging mother. 

However, Duke did make one further single, "I'll Make a Sweet Man (Out of You)", on the Beantown label in Boston, in 1981 then returned to f the privacy of her family.. Later efforts by music fans to rediscover Duke were fruitless until her obituary was published in the press. She died March 21, 2019, aged 77. 

A CD coupling I'm a Loser and A Legend in Her Own Time, with several non-album tracks, was released by Ace Records in 2005. She was also sister to Jeraldine and Joyce Curry, who recorded as The Heartstoppers for the All Platinum label in the early 1970s. 

(Edited from Wikipedia & Sir Shambling)(* other sources state 1945 as birth year) 

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Jackie McLean born 17 May 1931

John Lenwood "Jackie" McLean (May 17, 1931 – March 31, 2006) was an American jazz alto saxophonist, composer, bandleader, and educator, and is one of the few musicians to be elected to the DownBeat Hall of Fame in the year of their death. 

McLean was born in New York City. His father, John Sr., played guitar in Tiny Bradshaw's orchestra. After his father's death in 1939, Jackie's musical education was continued by his godfather, his record-store-owning stepfather, and several noted teachers. He also received informal tutoring from neighbors Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, and Charlie Parker. During high school McLean played in a band with Kenny Drew, Sonny Rollins, and Andy Kirk, Jr. 

Along with Rollins, McLean played on Miles Davis' Dig album, when he was 20 years old. As a young man he also recorded with Gene Ammons, Charles Mingus, George Wallington, and as a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. McLean joined Blakey after reportedly being punched by Mingus. Fearing for his life, McLean pulled out a knife and contemplated using it against Mingus in self-defense, but later stated that he was grateful that he had not stabbed the bassist. 

McLean's early recordings as leader were in the hard bop school. He later became an exponent of modal jazz without abandoning his foundation in hard bop. Throughout his career he was known for a distinctive tone, akin to the tenor saxophone and often described with such adjectives as "bitter-sweet", "piercing", or "searing", a slightly sharp pitch, and a strong foundation in the blues. 

McLean nd Miles Davis

McLean was a heroin addict throughout his early career, and the resulting loss of his New York City cabaret card forced him to undertake a large number of recording dates to earn income in the absence of nightclub performance opportunities. Consequently, he produced an extensive body of recorded work in the 1950s and 1960s. He was under contract with Blue Note Records from 1959 to 1967, having previously recorded for Prestige. Blue Note offered better pay and more artistic control than other labels, and his work for this organization is highly regarded and includes leadership and sideman dates with a wide range of musicians, including Donald Byrd, Sonny Clark, Lee Morgan, Ornette Coleman, Dexter Gordon, Freddie Redd, Billy Higgins, Freddie Hubbard, Grachan Moncur III, Bobby Hutcherson, Mal Waldron, Tina Brooks and many others. 


In 1962, he recorded Let Freedom Ring for Blue Note. This album was the culmination of attempts he had made over the years to deal with harmonic problems in jazz, incorporating ideas from the free jazz developments of Ornette Coleman and the "new breed" which inspired his blending of hard bop with the "new thing": "the search is on, Let Freedom Ring". Let Freedom Ring began a period in which he performed with avant-garde jazz musicians rather than the veteran hard bop performers he had been playing with previously. His adaptation of modal jazz and free jazz innovations to his vision of hard bop made his recordings from 1962 on very distinctive. 

In 1967, his recording contract, like those of many other progressive musicians, was terminated by Blue Note's new management. His opportunities to record promised so little pay that he abandoned recording as a way to earn a living, concentrating instead on touring. In 1968, he began teaching at The Hartt School of the University of Hartford. He later set up the university's African American Music Department (now the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz) and its Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies program. His Steeplechase recording New York Calling, made with his son René McLean, showed that by 1980 the assimilation of all influences was complete. 

In 1970, he and his wife, Dollie McLean, along with jazz bassist Paul (PB) Brown, founded the Artists Collective, Inc. of Hartford, an organization dedicated to preserving the art and culture of the African Diaspora. It provides educational programs and instruction in dance, theatre, music and visual arts. The memberships of McLean’s later bands were drawn from his students in Hartford. In 1979 he reached No. 53 in the UK Singles Chart with "Doctor Jackyll and Mister Funk". This track, released on RCA as a 12" single, was an unusual sidestep for McLean to contribute towards the funk/disco revolution of the late 1970s. 

He received an American Jazz Masters fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2001 and numerous other national and international awards. McLean was the only American jazz musician to found a department of studies at a university and a community-based organization almost simultaneously. Each has existed for over three decades. 

McLean died on March 31, 2006, in Hartford, Connecticut after a long illness. In 2006, Jackie McLean was elected to the DownBeat Hall of Fame via the International Critics Poll. He is interred in Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx, New York City.

(Edited from Wikipedia)

Monday, 16 May 2022

Woody Herman born 16 May 1903

Woodrow Charles Herman (May 16, 1913 – October 29, 1987), better known as Woody Herman, was an American jazz clarinetist, alto and soprano saxophonist, singer, and Big band leader. During his lifetime, he led some of the most exciting big bands of the twentieth century. His bands changed styles and approaches to jazz but still managed to keep their musical integrity. 

Herman was born Woodrow Charles Thomas Herman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His parents were Otto and Myrtle  Herman. His mother was Polish. His father had a deep love for show business and this influenced Woody Herman at an early age. As a child he worked as a singer and tap-dancer in Vaudeville, then started to play the clarinet and saxophone by age 12. In 1931, he met Charlotte Neste, an aspiring actress; they married on September 27, 1936. 

Woody Herman joined the Tom Gerun band and his first recorded vocals were "Lonesome Me" and "My Heart's at Ease". Herman also performed with the Harry Sosnick orchestra, Gus Arnheim and Isham Jones. Isham Jones wrote many popular songs, including "It Had to Be You" and at some point was tiring of the demands of leading a band. Jones wanted to live off the residuals of his songs; Woody Herman saw the chance to lead his former band, and eventually acquired the remains of the orchestra after Jones' retirement.  This band became known for its orchestrations of the blues and was sometimes billed as "The Band That Plays The Blues".


On April 12, 1939 Woody Herman recorded his greatest commercial and mega popular hit record "Woodchoppers' Ball", featuring Woody on clarinet, Neal Ried on trombone, Saxie Mansfield on Sax, Steady Nelson on trumpet and Hy White on guitar. Other big early hits were "Blue Flame," "Dupree Blues", "Blues Upstairs and Downstairs" and "Blues in the Night" with Joe Bishop on flugelhorn, Tommy Linehans on piano, Cappy Lewis on trumpet, and the strong rhythm team of Walt Yoder and Frankie Carlson. This popular swing band took off and was listed number three in the country in a popularity poll by Down Beat Magazine in 1940. This band recorded for the Decca label. The band was first pinned "Herman's Herd" in a Martin band instrument advertisement in the same magazine on April 1, 1941. 

This band's music was heavily influenced by Duke Ellington and Count Basie. Its lively, swinging arrangements, combining bop themes with swing rhythm parts, were greatly admired; Igor Stravinsky wrote "Ebony Concerto" for this band. Other pieces for which the band was known include "Caldonia" and "Northwest Passage." During this time, Woody Herman recorded for the Columbia label. Featured musicians were trumpeter Sonny Berman, trumpeter/arranger Neil Hefti, trumpeter/vocalist Steady Nelson, tenor saxophonist Flip Phillips, trombonist Bill Harris, vibraphonist Red Norvo, pianist/arranger Ralph Burns, drummers Davey Tough and Don Lamond and bassist Chubby Jackson, who was the driving force/talent scout behind the bands progressive development. 

Herman was forced to disband the orchestra in 1946 at the height of its success, his only financially successful band, to spend more time with his wife and family. During this time, he and his family had just moved into the former Hollywood home of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Another reason Herman may have disbanded was his wife Charlotte's growing problems with alcoholism and pill addiction. In 1947 Herman organized the Second Herd and in 1948 moved to the Capitol label. This band featured a cooler sound, provided by such musicians as Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Serge Chaloff, Al Cohn, Gene Ammons, Lou Levy, Oscar Pettiford, Terry Gibbs, Shelly Manne, and Herbie Steward. Among this band's hits were "Early Autumn," "The Goof and I," and "Four Brothers". This band was also known as the Four Brothers band. 

Herman's many later bands included the Third Herd and the New Thundering Herd. He was known for hiring the best young musicians and using their arrangements. His band's book consequently came to be heavily influenced by rock and roll. By the 1970s, Herman had returned to straight forward jazz, dropping some of the newer, even rock-oriented approaches. A highlight of the nineteen seventies was the appearance of the Woody Herman orchestra with Frank Sinatra at Madison Square Garden for his "Main Event" television special and "Main Event" recording for Reprise records. 

Herman continued to perform into the 1980s, after the death of his wife and with his health in decline, chiefly to pay back taxes that were owed because of his business manager's bookkeeping in the 1960s. Herman owed the IRS millions of dollars and was in danger of eviction from his home. With this added stress, Herman was forced to continue working long after he should have been enjoying a retirement. He delegated most of his duties to leader of the reed section, Frank Tiberi, before his death in 1987. Tiberi leads the band in performances to this day. 

( Edited from Jazz Music Archives & Some Jazz and Swing blog)

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Andy Anderson born 15 May 1935

Andy Anderson (born 15 May 1935) is one of the mainstays of Mississippi rockabilly and the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of the original Rolling Stones that predate the British rock band by years. 

Andy was born Edgar L. Anderson III near Clarksdale, Mississippi to a Plantation owning family. From the age of 10, Andy was listening to Saturday afternoon Live shows on the Plantation, given by artists like Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker. During a Christmas holiday in 1951 Andy's mother Elizabeth suggested that Andy could do well playing & singing as a sideline and they promptly went to Memphis to buy a guitar. Andy listened to the Grand Ole Opry every Saturday night, learning some of the songs, with his mother's encouragement, who, in turn played piano, sang and composed. 

The untimely death of Andy's mother in 1953 signalled the end of any family support. Andy's first band 'The Rolling Stones' was formed in 1954 at Mississippi State University and included Joe Tubb, 'Cuz' Covington, Bobby Lyon, James Aldridge and Roy Estes. The band played all around the Campus and neighbouring towns, but by 1956 their popularity was so great that management was needed. At this point, Jimmy Ammons of Delta Records and Mabel McQueen of Pine-Sol fame contracted the Rolling Stones. This arrangement worked well for a year at which point the Stones decided to made the trip North to Memphis to record at the Sun Recording Studios with Jack Clement engineering. 

The band paid for the session themselves, but offered the original recordings of "Johnny Valentine" and "Tough, Tough, Tough" to Sam Phillips for release on Sun, an offer that was refused. 1957 found the band signing with Murray Nash Associates in Nashville who signed the band to Felsted records, a subsidiary of London Records. "Johnny Valentine" was re-recorded with studio musicians and became a local hit. The next release turned up on Apollo Records from New York. Shopped by Murray Nash, "You Shake Me Up" was extremely popular in the New York State area. 


The band played on Dick Clark's Bandstand and had an appearance on the Alan Freed show in Philadelphia. In 1959, after a spell in the military, Andy and the Rolling Stones broke up and Anderson formed a new band called the Dawnbreakers. This outfit's first release was "Tough, Tough, Tough"/"Gimme A Lock 'O Your Hair" on Andy's own Century label, followed by "Tall Oak Tree"/"All By Myself" on Hermitage. 

In 1965, Andy left the music scene and headed out for California to pursue an acting career, but a failed marriage and an unsuccessful business ended up with tax problems with the IRS. Anderson was forced to seek psychiatric help. He became secluded from the world, and according to Rockabilly Hall of Fame, no one could contact him. Finally, by the fall of 1975, Andy had negotiated final settlements with his wife and the IRS.  By that time he was living in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. 

There he met J.J. Hettinger from Louisville, Kentucky, who was teaching in the Catholic High School in Biloxi. Andy once again turned to music as Hettinger was a talented and creative songwriter.  Together they wrote songs they classified as progressive, folk-rock, blues.  They wrote several commercial songs and cutting tracks at Malaco Studios in Jackson, Mississipp,i under the name of “The Eagle and the Hawk”. On December 23, 1975, while visiting his cousin in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Andy met his future wife, Kay Norcom. 

In April of 1976, Andy, Kay, and J.J. moved to Taos, New Mexico. Aerie Records, his new record label, was a new outlet for Andy and the Eagle and the Hawk. Andy got a real estate license and started developing and selling real estate to earn a living, while continuing to promote his music.  However, on May 13th, 1976, Andy got his middle finger of his left hand cut off by a hydraulic lift just two days before his forty-first birthday.  He became depressed and put up his guitar.  Hettinger moved back to Louisville. In 1983, Andy once again began to play around a little bit on his guitar, and he started rehearsing with some other musicians in Taos.  In August of 1987, Andy and his wife Kay moved back to Mississippi. 

Joe Tubb & Andy Anderson

My latest news regarding Andy was that the original band members were invited to regroup for a Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame event in the late 90’s which also opened up a spate of playing 50th high school reunions. As recent as 2015 "Go Cap' Go: An Evening with Andy Anderson and the Original Rolling Stones" was performed at the Old Capitol Museum, Jackson. 

(Edited from,, & Clarion Ledger)

Saturday, 14 May 2022

Vic Flick born 14 May 1937

Vic Flick (born 14 May 1937) is an English studio guitarist, best known for playing the guitar riff in the "James Bond Theme". 

Victor Harold Flick was born at Worcester Park, Surrey, England. His musical career originated at the tender age of age of fourteen, when he traded his piano lessons for acoustic guitar. Flick's first major gig in the late 50's was with an acoustic band that toured with Paul Anka, named the Bob Cort Skiffle Group. On the same tour with Paul Anka of the United Kingdom was the John Barry Seven, led by Oscar winning composer, John Barry. Months later, after a call from Barry, Flick joined the Seven, becoming the lead guitarist by 1958.His first composition for the group was the track "Zapata". With them, he played the guitar riff for the theme of the popular TV show Juke Box Jury and appeared on every episode of BBC television's Drumbeat. 

Flick became a highly regarded session player, lending his masterful guitar skills to a variety of recordings and instrumental themes. Flick's first memorable foray into film scoring was his work with composer Barry on the 1960's cult film, Beat Girl. Some critics regard the score of this film, as the genesis for the Bond's theme; as the slick title track of Beat Girl is reminiscent of pre-Bond emanations. From this moment, Flick's contribution to the 60's music scene was soon to become immense. 

On the Dr. No soundtrack, he was lead guitarist on the track, the "James Bond Theme". Flick continued to contribute to the James Bond soundtracks from the 1960s through the late 1980s. He also played a pastiche of the "James Bond" guitar part for The Beatles' film Help! (1965). One of Flick's guitars, a Clifford Essex Paragon De Luxe, on which he played the original "James Bond Theme", was displayed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Apart from his early 1960s work as the lead guitarist in the John Barry Seven, Flick was a session player, featured on many early 1960s UK pop records. Flick was a member of the George Martin Orchestra, and contributed to the soundtrack of the film A Hard Day's Night playing his Olympic white 1961 Fender Stratocaster on "Ringo's Theme (This Boy)" instrumental. 

He has worked with many popular recording artists, including Nancy Sinatra, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones,Cliff Richard, Paul McCartney, Engelbert Humperdinck, Lulu, Shirley Bassey, Burt Bacharach, Petula Clark, Sandie Shaw, Crispian St. Peters, Hank Marvin, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, John Williams, Mark Wirtz, John Schroeder, Don Partridge, Typically Tropical and Don Lusher. He played the 12 string guitar part on Peter and Gordon's 1964 # 1 record "A World Without Love". He also recorded with Herman's Hermits, playing the distinctive guitar riff in the intro and bridge of "Silhouettes", a 1965 UK Top 5 hit although this has been disputed by band member Karl Green. 


Since the Bond films, Flick has also added his talent to films such as The Pink Panther, The Ipcress File, Midnight Cowboy, and many more. Flick also collaborated with Merchant Ivory Productions as composer/music arranger for Autobiography of a Princess (1975), The Europeans (1979), Quartet (1981), and Heat and Dust (1983). In 1999, he worked with composer Nic Raine, backed by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, on the James Bond tribute album titled Bond Back in Action. In 2003, he recorded the album James Bond Now, featuring tracks from James Bond soundtracks and new compositions. In 2005, he played on the soundtrack of the From Russia With Love video game by Electronic Arts. 

In 2008, his autobiography, Vic Flick Guitarman: From James Bond to The Beatles and Beyond, was published by Bearmanor Media. On 5 October 2012 Vic Flick was honoured at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for "The Music of Bond: The First 50 Years." He played the "James Bond Theme" on his 1939 Clifford Essex Paragon De Luxe “James Bond” Guitar to a live audience. The newest Bond composer David Arnold, who has given Flick numerous accolades to the inspiration of his orchestration, has ensconced his trademark style. Flick and his style has been honored by several remakes and tribute music, by musicians and DJ's alike, including the likes of Propellerheads, Moby, and Proteus 7. 

He was also presented with the "Lifetime Achievement Award" in 2013 by The National Guitar Museum for "contribution to the history of the guitar." He was the fourth recipient of the annual award. Flick appeared on a 2013 episode of the History Channel show Pawn Stars titled "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service". Here he brought in his 1961 Fender Stratocaster guitar to shop owner Rick Harrison, who, after consulting Jesse Amoroso, settled on a price of $55,000 for the guitar. The guitar sold at auction in 2014 for $25,000. Vic Flick continues his legacy to this day, by still creating and composing music for a new generation of fans of all ages across the globe. 

(Edited from & Wikipedia)

Friday, 13 May 2022

Gil Evans born 13 May 1912

Ian Ernest Gilmore Evans (May 13, 1912 – March 20, 1988) was a Canadian–American jazz pianist, arranger, composer and bandleader. He is widely recognized as one of the greatest orchestrators in jazz, playing an important role in the development of cool jazz, modal jazz, free jazz, and jazz fusion. 

Gil Evans was born in Toronto, Canada. Originally named Gilmore Ian Ernest Green, Evans took the last name of his step-father, John Evans, who was a miner. The family moved frequently, living in Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon, migrating to wherever Evans' father could find work.Eventually, the family ended up in California, first in Berkeley, where Evans attended the ninth and tenth grades, then in Stockton, where he attended Stockton High School, graduating in 1930. 

Evans became interested in music at an early age, listening to Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Fletcher Henderson on the radio and on records. He studied the piano and began learning how to arrange music, and started picking up jobs with local musicians. While in college, he founded his first band, which performed his arrangements, and which became the house band at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa Beach, California in 1935. The band toured the Pacific Northwest in 1937 and eventually settled in Hollywood, where they regularly performed on Bob Hope's radio show. 

Evans' arrangements from this time showed the influence of classical music, and included instruments such as French horns, flutes, and tubas. From 1941 to 1948, he worked as an arranger with Claude Thornhill’s band, devising the unique instrumentation that was to become a trademark of his early years: a standard big-band lineup, plus French horns and tuba. Evans used similar instrumentation for his two arrangements on Miles Davis’s seminal album Birth of the Cool (recorded 1949–50), their first noted collaboration. 

Miles Davis with Gil Evans

Throughout most of the 1950s, Evans worked in radio and television, often composing and arranging for singers such as Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee, Johnny Mathis, and Helen Merrill. Evans’s importance as a jazz arranger was not widely recognized until he resumed his partnership with Davis in 1957, when Davis was in one of his most fertile and creative periods. In direct contrast to his usual spare approach, Davis released the densely textured Miles Ahead (1957), Porgy and Bess (1958), and Sketches of Spain (1960), all arranged by Evans. The albums “rank with the finest orchestral music of the 20th century. After years of obscurity, in his late forties Evans finally emerged as a major force in jazz. 


One of Evans’s great skills was his ability to convey the sense of spontaneous improvisation within his carefully notated charts. He created luminous, impressionistic arrangements whose appeal lies in the richness of their textures and harmony and in their musical subtleties. His arrangements were also a challenge to musicians: bassist Bill Crow recalled that bandleader Thornhill would bring out Evans’s arrangements “when he wanted to punish the band.” 

The recordings Evans did with his own orchestras during the late 1950s and early ’60s—on such albums as Gil Evans and Ten (1957), New Bottle, Old Wine (1958), and Out of the Cool (1960)—were very well received. He conducted occasional concerts and did some arrangements for other artists during the early 1960s and spent the latter half of the decade focusing on composition. Evans increasingly embraced the rhythms and electronic instrumentation of rock music during this period and planned to record an album in collaboration with the legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix. . Hendrix’s death in 1970 brought such plans to a halt, but arrangements Evans intended for the project were later heard on Gil Evans’ Orchestra Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix (1974). 

Evans was honored at the White House by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, who held a Tribute to Jazz Musicians, naming them “National Treasures.”  That same year Evans’s orchestra went on three successful trips to Europe.

In April 1983, the Gil Evans Orchestra was booked into the Sweet Basil Jazz Club (Greenwich Village, New York) by jazz producer and Sweet Basil owner Horst Liepolt. This turned out to be a regular Monday night engagement for Evans for nearly five years and also resulted in the release of a number of successful albums by Gil Evans and the Monday Night Orchestra. 

Gil Evans continued his relationships with rock musicians, notably David Bowie (for the 1986 movie Absolute Beginners), Robbie Robertson (for the 1986 Martin Scorsese movie The Color of Money), and Sting (in live and studio performances in 1987). Evans died of peritonitis in Cuernavaca, Mexico, contracting it shortly after a surgery for his prostate and subsequent travel to Mexico to recover. Evans died at the age of 75 on March 20, 1988. 

(Edited from Britannica, Wikipedia &