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Vibe-man Lionel Hampton Dies

Jazz great Hampton gone:

    There was more than musical magic on stage that day in 1936 when Lionel Hampton joined Benny Goodman in a Manhattan ballroom — it was a breakthrough in American race relations.

    Hampton, a vibraphone virtuoso who died Saturday, broke a barrier that had kept black and white musicians from performing together in public. Through a six-decade career, he continued to build a name for himself as one of the greats in jazz history.

    “He was really a towering jazz figure,” said saxophonist Sonny Rollins, who played with Hampton in the 1950s. “He really personified the spirit of jazz because he had so much joy about his playing.”

    The 94-year-old showman and bandleader died of heart failure at Mount Sinai Medical Center, said his manager, Phil Leshin. Hampton suffered two strokes in 1995 and had been in failing health in recent years.

    Hampton played with a who’s who of jazz, from Goodman to Louis Armstrong to Charlie Parker to Quincy Jones. His own band helped foster or showcase other jazz greats including Charlie Mingus, Dexter Gordon, Fats Navarro, Joe Williams and Dinah Washington.

    “With Hampton’s death, we’ve drawn closer to losing part of the origins of the early jazz era,” said Phil Schaap, a jazz historian.

    Jones, the Grammy-winning producer and composer, said in a statement that Hampton was a mentor for more than 50 years. Jones was 15 when he first played trumpet with Hampton.

    “He taught me how to groove and how to laugh and how to hang and how to live like a man,” Jones said. “Heaven will definitely be feeling some backbeat now.”

    During his career, Hampton performed at the White House for presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan and Bush. When he played for Truman, his was the first black band to ever entertain in the White House, Hampton once said.

    Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., remembered Hampton’s 90th birthday party at the White House, when the man known as the “vibe president” invited President Clinton ( news – web sites) to grab his saxophone and jam.

    “Lionel was a spectacular guy,” said Rangel, who recalled seeing Hampton play at the Apollo Theater, the legendary concert venue in Harlem.

    In 1997, Hampton received the National Medal of Arts — while wearing a borrowed suit, socks and shoes, because all his clothes and much of his bands’ arrangements and other memorabilia had been destroyed in a fire two days earlier.

Here’s a fine bio from the University of Idaho Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival site:

    Lionel Hampton is one of the most extraordinary musicians of the 20th century and his artistic achievements symbolize the impact that jazz music has had on our culture in the 21st century.

    He was born April 20, 1908 in Louisville, Kentucky. His father, Charles Hampton, a promising pianist and singer, was reported missing and later declared killed in World War I. Lionel and his mother, Gertrude, first moved to Birmingham, Alabama, to be with her family, then settled in Chicago.

    He attended the Holy Rosary Academy, near Kenosha, Wisconsin, where a Dominican sister give him his first drum lessons.

    Later, while attending St. Monica’s School in Chicago, Lionel got a job selling papers in order to join the Chicago Defender’s Newsboys Band. At first, he helped carry the bass drum, and later played the snare drum.

    While in high school, Les Hite gave Lionel a job in a teenage band. Later, the 15-year-old Lionel, who had just graduated from high school, promised his grandmother he would continue to say his daily prayers and left for Los Angeles to join Reb Spikes’s Sharps and Flats. He also played with Paul Howard’s Quality Serenaders and a new band organized by Hite, which backed Louis Armstrong at the Cotton Club.

    In 1930, Hampton was called in to a recording session with Armstrong, and during a break Hampton walked over to a vibraphone and started to play. He ended up playing the vibes on one song. The song became a hit; Hampton had introduced a new voice to jazz and he became “King of the Vibes.”

    When Benny Goodman heard him play, Goodman immediately asked Hampton to record with him, Gene Krupa on drums and Teddy Wilson on piano. The Benny Goodman Quartet recorded the jazz classics “Dinah,” “Moonglow,” “My Last Affair,” and “Exactly Like You.” Hampton’s addition to the groups also marked the breaking of the color barrier; the Benny Goodman Quartet was the first racially integrated group of jazz musicians.

    Hampton and his wife, Gladys, were married Nov. 11, 1936. Gladys served as his personal manager, and developed a reputation as a brilliant businesswoman. She was responsible for raising the money for Lionel to start his own band.

    As a bandleader, he established the Lionel Hampton Orchestra that became known around the world for its tremendous energy, dazzling showmanship and first-class jazz musicianship. “Sunny Side of the Street,” “Central Avenue Breakdown,” his signature tune, “Flying Home,” and “Hamp’s Boogie-Woogie” all became top-of-the-chart best-sellers upon release and the name Lionel Hampton became world famous overnight, and the Lionel Hampton Orchestra had a phenomenal array of sidemen….

See the site for more and some extraordinary pictures.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted, Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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