Clayton, Buck (actually, Wilbur Dorsey)

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Clayton, Buck (actually, Wilbur Dorsey)

Clayton, Buck (actually, Wilbur Dorsey),famed swing-era trumpeter, arranger; b. Parsons, Kans., Nov. 12, 1911; d. N.Y., Dec. 8, 1991. His father played tuba and trpt. in local church orchestras. Buck began playing piano at the age of six, switched to trpt. in his early teens, and took lessons from his father. At 19 he went to Calif, for four months. After a succession of non-musical jobs he returned to Kans., completed high school studies, then returned to the West Coast. After working with various bandleaders in Los Angeles, Buck was appointed leader of Earl Dancer’s Band in 1934; this 14-piece unit was heard by Teddy Weatherford, who booked the full band for a residency at the Canidrome Ballroom, in Shanghai, China, during 1935. Weatherford occasionally played concerts with the band in Shanghai but was not a regular member of the group. Later Buck led a smaller band at the Casanova Club, Shanghai. He returned to Los Angeles in 1936 and again led his own big band, the 14 Gentlemen from Harlem; also gigged with various bandleaders including Charlie Echols. In autumn 1936, while on his way to N.Y. to join Willie Bryant’s Band, Buck stopped off in Kansas City, where Count Basie persuaded him to take the trpt. place recently vacated by Hot Lips Page. He remained with Count Basie until his Army call-up in November 1943 (except for temporary absence in mid–1942 for a tonsil-lectomy), was stationed for most of the time at Camp Kilmer, N.J., and played regularly with all-star service bands. He had an honorable discharge early in 1946. During this period, he did arrangements for Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Harry James, etc. In October 1946 he took part in the first national Jazz at the Philharmonic tour and subsequently played on several of Norman Grant’s tours. From 1947 he led his own sextet at Café Society (Downtown), N.Y. From September 1949-June 1950 he made his first European tour, leading his band in France. During the early 1950s, he had long spells with Joe Bushkin Quartet, worked with Tony Parenti, and led a band on tours with Jimmy Rushing. He returned to Europe in 1953, working mainly with Mezz Mezzrow. Throughout the 1950s he achieved considerable success with his own specially formed recording groups. He appeared with Benny Goodman in The Benny Goodman Story, and played with Goodman in N.Y in 1957; went to Brussels in summer 1958 to work with Sidney Bechet at the World’s Fair Concerts. He toured Europe early in 1959; joined Eddie Condon’s Band; during the 1960s he played for Condon on several occasions, including a tour of the Far East in the spring of 1964. He toured with Jimmy Rushing in summer of 1962, and worked with Peanuts Hucko early in 1964. During the 1960s Buck made annual tours of Europe and was featured at major jazz festivals throughout the U.S. After appearing at the New Orleans Jazz Fest in June 1969, Buck was temporarily absent from music while he underwent lip surgery. He played dates in N.Y., Washington, and Cleveland (spring 1970), then had hernia operations that put him out of commission until late 1971. He made a State Department tour of the Middle East (1977) and toured France (spring 1978). He retired from trumpet playing during thel970s but continued to work as an arranger and lecturer in jazz up to his death.


Buck Clayton Jam Session (1953); How Hi the Fi (1953); Hucklebuck and Robbin’s Nest (1953); Meet Buck Clayton (1953); Jumpin’ at the Woodside (1954); Buck Meets Ruby (1954); Buck Clayton Jams Benny Goodman (1954); All the Cats Join In (1956); Big Band at the Savoy Ballroom (1957); Copenhagen Concert (1959); Kansas City Nights (1960); Olympia Concert (1961); Meets Joe Turner (1965); Le Vrai Buck Clayton, Vol. 2 (1966); Baden, Switzerland 1966 (1966); Jam Session (1974); Buck Clayton Jam Session(1975); Jazz Spectacular (1977); Heart and Soul (1987); Swingin’ Dream (1988).


With F. Hoffman and N. M. Elliott, Buck Clayton’s Jazz World (N.Y., 1987).


B. Weir, Buck Clayton: Discography (Chigwell, England, 1989).

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

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Clayton, Buck (actually, Wilbur Dorsey)

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