Clay, Shirley, jazz trumpeter; b. Charleston, Mo., 1902; d. N.Y., Feb. 7, 1951. Clay worked with bands in and around St. Louis from 1920, toured with John “Bearcat” Williams’ Synco Jazzers (c. 1923–24), then settled in Chicago. He played regularly with Detroit Shannon’s Band (c. 1925–26), Carroll Dickerson (1927), briefly with Louis Armstrong’s Stompers (1927), then with Clifford “Klarinet” King Big Band (1928), and also took part in many freelance recording sessions. He was with Earl Hines (1929–31), Marion Hardy (1931), then with Don Redman from late 1931–36. During this period, Clay also recorded with other leaders: Benny Goodman (1933), Putney Dandridge (October 1935), and with Ben Pollack (1933). He was with Claude Hopkins (1937–39), Earl Hines again in 1940, then played in Leon Abbey’s Band. He was with Horace Henderson (autumn 1941), Cootie Williams’ Big Band (1942); and from June 1943, did a six-month U.S.O. tour in a band led by Herbie Cowens. Clay led his own band at the Cinderella Club, N.Y. (1944), with George James’ Band (June 1944), then rejoined Claude Hopkins (October 1944). Again he led his own band, played in Harry Dial’s Quartet until spring of 1946. He led another band before working at Camp Unity, Wingdale, N.Y He played in Manzie Johnson’s Band (from September 1949). During the last years of his life often co-led bands with Edgar Battle.
—John Chilton, Who’s Who of Jazz/Lewis Porter