Chittison, Herman (“Ivory”)

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Chittison, Herman (“Ivory”)

Chittison, Herman (“Ivory”), jazz pianist, b. Flemingsburg, Ky., Oct. 15, 1908; d. Cleveland, Ohio, March 8, 1967. Chittison began playing piano at the age of eight, and later studied at the Waldron Boys’ School in Nashville, Term., with a brief spell at the Ky. State Coll. (1927). He left to play with the Kentucky Derbies at the Lexington State Fair. He worked with Zack Whyte from 1928–31, then toured as accompanist for comedian Stepin Fetchit. Later, he toured with Adelaide Hall and Ethel Waters, and also did freelance recordings with Clarence Williams in 1930 and 1933. Chittison joined Willie Lewis in N.Y. (spring 1934) and then sailed to Europe with him. Working on and off with Lewis in Europe from 1934–38, he also toured with Louis Armstrong (1934), and led his own band and worked in Egypt early in 1935. He left Lewis late in 1938 and worked with several ex-Lewis sidemen (Bill Coleman, Joe Hayman, etc.) in Egypt as The Harlem Rhythmak-ers. Returning to N.Y. in spring 1940, he formed own trio, and toured again with Fetchit in the autumn of 1940. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Chittison led his own trio in N.Y. He also did regular weekly broadcasts for seven years under the name “Ernie the Blue Note Pianist” from 1942–51 in the CBS radio series CaseyCrime Photographer (of which tapes survive). He continued playing regularly in the early 1960s, with residencies in Boston, N.Y. etc., and recorded LPs in 1962 and 1964. He worked mainly in Cleveland (also Akron and Columbus) during the last two years of his life. He died of lung cancer.


Master of the Stride Piano (1933); The Melody Lingers On (1944); Piano Genius (1944); Herman Chittison with Thelma Carpenter (1950); PS. with Love (1964).

—John Chilton, Who’s Who of Jazz/Lewis Porter