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Buster Bailey

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Buster Bailey was a brilliant clarinetist who, although known for his smooth and quiet playing with John Kirby's sextet, occasionally really cut loose with some wild solos (including on a recording called "Man With a Horn Goes Berserk"). Expertly trained by the classical teacher Franz Schoepp (who also taught Benny Goodman), Bailey worked with W.C. Handy's band in 1917. He moved to Chicago in 1919 and was soon working with Erskine Tate and King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. He gained some fame in 1924 when he joined Fletcher Henderson's orchestra in New York. Bailey was with Henderson off and on during 1924-1934 and 1936-1937, also playing with Noble Sissle and the Mills Blue Rhythm Band (1934-1935). Next up was the cool-toned swing of John Kirby's sextet (1937-1946), a role he fit perfectly. With the end of the Kirby band, Bailey was mostly employed in Dixieland settings with Wilbur DeParis (1947-1949), Big Chief Russell Moore (1952-1953), Henry "Red" Allen (1950-1951 and 1954-1960), Wild Bill Davison (1961-63), and the Saints and Sinners (1963-1965), finishing up with the Louis Armstrong All-Stars (1965-1967). One of the most technically skilled of the clarinetists to emerge during the 1920s, Buster Bailey never modernized his style or became a leader, but he contributed his talents and occasional wit to a countless number of rewarding and important recordings. ~ Scott Yanow

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Birth Name:

William C. Bailey


July 19, 1902 in Memphis, TN

Years Active:

'20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s

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