Lawson, Yank(actually, John Rhea)

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Lawson, Yank(actually, John Rhea)

Lawson, Yank(actually, John Rhea), jazz trumpeter; b. Trenton, Mo., May 3, 1911; d. Feb. 18, 1995. He had a powerful and thrilling sound in the tradition of Louis Armstrong. His mother was a pianist. Yank originally played saxophone and piano, but during his teens switched to trumpet. After playing with bands at the Univ. of Mo., he gigged around Shreveport with Wingy Manone and then Ben Pollack (1933 to autumn 1934). He left Pollack’s band after Pollack refused to spotlight Lawson’s girlfriend. He worked with Will Osborne (early 1935), did freelance studio work in N.Y, then became a founding member of the Bob Crosby Band (1935). He worked with Crosby until August 1938, then joined Tommy Dorsey until November 1939. He worked briefly with Abe Lyman, and then spent a few months with Richard Himber (early 1940); from summer 1940 until May 1941, he played in the theatre orch. for the show Louisiana Purchase. In May 1941 he rejoined Bob Crosby, then worked briefly with Benny Goodman (December 1942). From the mid-1940s, he worked for many years in N.Y. studio bands, and did prolific freelance recording. In the 1950s Lawson and Bob Haggart led a recording band that made several LPs. He toured with his own band (spring 1962), worked with Peanuts Hucko at Eddie Condon’s Club (1964–66), and took part in several Bob Crosby Band reunions, including a tour of the Orient (late 1964) and residencies in N.Y. in 1965 and 1966. He led at Condon’s in late 1966. Lawson co-led the World’s Greatest Jazz Band, an outgrowth of the Lawson-Haggart band, from 1968 through the late 1970s. When the band folded, Lawson and Haggart continued to play together into the early 1990s, until his death at age 83, in 1995. His real name is Lawson, and not, as is often printed, Lausen.


Y. L.’s Dixieland Jazz (1943); Best of Broadway, Dixieland Style (1959); Big Y. Is Here (1965); Ole Dixie (1966); World’s Greatest Jazz Band (1968); Live (1970); Century Plaza (1972); Y. L. and Bob Haggart (1987); Jazz at Its Best (1989). The L.-Haggart Jazz Band: Blues on the River (1952); L.-Haggart Band (1952); L.-Haggart Band Play King Oliver (1952); Plays Jelly Roll’s Jazz (1952); Ragtime Jamboree (1953); South of the Mason-Dixon Line (1954); Louis’ Hot 5s and 7s (1956).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire