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Retro Redux: In Search Of The Real ‘Hot Lips’

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Just a quick question. If I asked you who comes to mind when you hear the nickname 'Hot Lips,' wouldn't you think of Margaret 'Hot Lips' Houlihan, the character in M*A*S*H? To be honest, I'd probably think of her too, but there was a real 'Hot Lips' who not only wasn't a sexy, kooky blond, but wasn't even a woman.

Texas-born Oran Thaddeus Page was an outstanding early jazz trumpeter who became a fan favorite known as 'Hot Lips' hlPage. He was also well-loved by his fellow musicians (who usually just called him 'Lips') and was greatly missed when he died in 1954, still just in his forties.

Page came up as part of the rich musical heritage of middle America, and his first professional gigs in the 1920s included backing up singers such as Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. He later moved on to Kansas City, where he gained experience in the Blue Devils, led by Walter Page (no relation).

Lips eventually joined Bennie Moten's swing band, and after Moten's death in 1935 he enlisted with Count Basie, his bandmate from the Blue Devils' days. Basie's Reno Club band was beginning to gain some real traction in Kansas City in those days and Lips was one of those in the spotlight, not only with his dazzling trumpet but also as a vocalist.

In the late 1930s Page moved to New York and other jobs, including one with Artie Shaw's band, but for most of the rest of his career he led his own groups, and some of his recordings from those days are among his best. A good example is one from 1940, when he teamed up with a very young Thelonious Monk and guitarist Tiny Grimes on "I've Found A New Baby."

Hot Lips Page — one of the best.

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