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Art Hickman

Bandleader, Pianist, Composer

(1886 - 1930)

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Art Hickman is often credited with having the first jazz big band, a group he first put together to entertain the San Francisco Seals baseball players at their training camp in 1913. The manager of the St. Francis Hotel heard the band and hired them to play for dancing in the hotel’s Rose Room from whence came the title of Hickman’s most famous composition (“Rose Room”), written with lyricist Harry Williams in 1917. 

As interest in jazz increased across the country, Hickman’s band was hired to play at the Biltmore Hotel in New York City in 1919 and was a resounding success. This led to the band’s playing in the Ziegfeld Follies the following year and recording several hit songs.

Because Hickman’s group was a dance orchestra rather than a jazz ensemble, his band had a more refined approach than the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, which first recorded in New York in 1917. To their basic instrumentation (trumpet, clarinet, trombone, piano, drums) he added two saxophones, banjo, violin and string bass (tuba or sousaphone on their recordings), creating a new sound. The ensemble feeling of the band was similar to that later popularized by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, then in its infancy in the Bay area.

While in New York in 1921 Hickman was asked to appear in London, but since he was working for the Ziegfield Follies he sent a group there using his name. Later in 1921 he returned to the West Coast, the orchestra opening at the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles and then at the new Biltmore Hotel in 1923. Plagued by ill health Hickman retired and the band continued under the direction of Earl Burtnett. 

Hickman recorded several piano rolls for QRS and also composed the 1918 hit song “Dry Your Tears” with banjo player Ben Black.

- Sandra Burlingame

The San Francisco Sound, vol. 2

Art Hickman

The San Francisco Sound

Art Hickman

Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, Vol. 3: 1943

Duke Ellington (Includes two takes of "Rose Room")
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