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Panama Francis

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Panama Francis has had a long and versatile career, equally at home in swing and R&B sessions. Playing for church revival meetings were among his earliest gigs and he also gigged with George Kelly's group, the Cavaliers, in Florida (1934-1938) before moving to New York. The following year he worked with Roy Eldridge (making his recording debut) and this was followed by a long period at the Savoy with the Lucky Millinder big band (1940-1946) and an association with Cab Calloway (1947-1952). Francis then became a busy studio drummer, performing anonymously on many pop and rock & roll records. In 1979, when he was in danger of being forgotten, Francis formed the Savoy Sultans, a group based on the small unit that used to play opposite Millinder at the Savoy. The Sultans recorded a steady stream of exciting hot swing records for Black & Blue and Stash during 1979-1983. During the '90s, Panama Francis continued freelancing, including recording and touring with the Statesmen of Jazz (1994-1995). In November 2001, David Albert "Panama" Francis died at the age of 82. ~ Scott Yanow

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21 December 1918 in Miami, FL

Years Active:

'40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s