Francis, Panama (actually, David Albert)

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Francis, Panama (actually, David Albert)

Francis, Panama (actually, David Albert),

jazz drummer; b. Miami, Dec. 21, 1918. He learned his craft playing in his church in Miami at revivals. He got his nickname from wearing a Panama hat. He worked in Fla. with George Kelly’s Cavaliers from 1934, and later joined the Florida Collegians, He moved to N.Y. in the summer of 1938, joined Tab Smith, had a brief spell with Billy Hicks’s Sizzling Six, then joined Roy Eldridge in mid-1939. He played with Lucky Millinder (1940–46), often at the Savoy, then Cab Calloway (early 1947 until late 1952). He freelanced in N.Y, played regularly at Central Plaza sessions, and also led his own band in Montevideo (1954). For some years he had a lucrative studio career as an R&B session player. He had regular studio work in Calif. (1971), played with the Teddy Wilson Trio (spring 1971), and toured Japan with Sam ’The Man” Taylor (1970–71). He moved back to N.Y. (1973), toured Europe with Warren Covington (1974), and was featured at many international jazz festivals during the 1970s. He periodically re-forms various editions of his Savoy Sultans.


All-Stars 1949 (1949); Explosive Drums (1959); Battle of Jericho (1962); Gettin’ in the Groove (1979); Francis & The Savoy Sultans (1979).

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