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Chick Webb

William Henry Webb

Drummer, Bandleader

(1909 - 1939)

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Savoy cutting contest at swingmu...


Films at imdb.com
Chick Webb was hugely admired by drummers such as Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, and Art Blakey for his power, clarity and impeccable rhythm. Unfortunately, the primitive recordings of the time make it impossible to hear his genius.

Webb was born with spinal tuberculosis which left him a hunchback and led to his early death. He took up drums on the advice of his doctor as a way of loosening up his limbs. He saved money from menial jobs and bought a drum set with custom pedals to accommodate his small stature. He left Baltimore for New York at 17 and, on the advice of Duke Ellington who was struck by his talent, formed a quintet that would become the famous Chick Webb Orchestra, the house band at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. In legendary cutting sessions there, Webb’s crowd-pleasing style and power overwhelmed such bands as Count Basie’s, Fletcher Henderson’s and Benny Goodman’s. Although Webb could not read music, he memorized everything and cued the band with his drums from a raised platform.

He introduced “Stompin’ at the Savoy” in 1934, co-written with Benny Goodman, Edgar Sampson and lyricist Andy Razaf, and had hits with “If Dreams Come True” and “Blue Lou.” In 1935 he hired a young, unknown vocalist, Ella Fitzgerald, with whom he recorded over 60 songs, most notably “A Tisket, A Tasket” (Fitzgerald’s own composition) which went to the top of the charts.

As Webb’s health began to deteriorate, he continued to perform with indomitable spirit, often passing out after a set. Upon his death Fitzgerald took over the orchestra for two years until it became too much for her, and the orchestra disbanded.

The much-loved Webb was eulogized by Fitzgerald singing “My Buddy” at the funeral which could not accommodate all of the mourners.

- Sandra Burlingame

Stomping at the Savoy: 1934/1939

Chick Webb

Spinnin the Webb

Chick Webb

A-Tisket A-Tasket

Ella Fitzgerald

Swing Sation Series

Ella Fitzgerald & Chick Webb

Early Years, Pts. 1-2

Ella Fitzgerald, Chick Webb & His Orchestra

Sing Me a Swing Song

Ella Fitzgerald with the Chick Webb Orchestra

Stompin' at the Savoy

Lewis Nash

Stompin at the Savoy

Ink Spots

Stompin' at the Savoy

Chick Webb

Stompin' at the Savoy

Benny Goodman
Reading and Viewing

At Amazon.com you can often buy used for a fraction of the new price

Ken Vail

Ella Fitzgerald: The Chick Webb Years and Beyond 1935-1948

Scarecrow Press

Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Ray Brown Jr., Harry Edison, Norma Miller

Ella Fitzgerald - Something to Live For


DVD Includes shots of Fitzgerald singing with the Chick Webb Orchestra

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