Sampson, Edgar (Melvin; aka The Lamb)

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Sampson, Edgar (Melvin; aka The Lamb)

Sampson, Edgar (Melvin ; aka The Lamb ), jazz saxophonist, violinist, composer, arranger; b. N.Y., Aug. 31, 1907; d. Englewood, N.J., Jan. 16, 1973. Sampson began on violin at the age of six and doubled alto sax from his early teens. He led his own high school band, then began working with pianist Joe Coleman in N.Y. in 1924. Sampson played a season with Duke Ellington at the Kentucky Club, then played with Bingie Madison and Billy Fowler (1926) before playing at the Savoy Ballroom with Arthur Gibbs. Sampson was with the Charlie Johnson Band from 1928–30, and briefly with Alex Jackson (c. 1930), then joined Fletcher Henderson (1931–32). His most important gig was with Chick Webb (1934–July 1936); while with Chick he composed many tunes that were to become jazz standards. He left the band to become a freelance arranger, scoring for Artie Shaw, Red Norvo, Teddy Hill, Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, and many other groups. Sampson made a few brief returns to full-time playing. He recorded with Lionel Hampton in 1938, worked as musical director of the Ella Fitzgerald Band from July–November 1939, and playing alto/baritone with Al Sears (1943). Sampson resumed regular playing in the late 1940s, and led his own band in N.Y. (1949–51), playing mostly tenor sax. He spent most of the 1950s arranging for, and playing with, several Latin- American jazz-flavored bands, including Marcellino Guerra, Tito Puente, and Tito Rodriguez. He returned to leading his own small band through the late 1950s and early 1960s, and also gigged regularly with Harry Dial’s Bluesicians. In the late 1960s, Sampson retired from making music due to complications from diabetes. The disease eventually led to the amputation of one of his legs and to his death in the early 1970s.

Sampson is best remembered for the songs “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” “Don’t Be That Way,” “Blue Minor,” “If Dreams Come True,” “Blue Lou,” and “Lullaby in Rhythm.” They were written originally for Chick Webb but later became big hits for Benny Goodman. Many have become standards for swing-styled jazz bands. His daughter, Gladys, is a successful composer.


Sampson Swings Again (1956); Swing Softly Sweet Sampson (1957).

—John Chilton, Who’s Who of Jazz/Music Master Jazz and Blues Catalogue/Lewis Porter

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Sampson, Edgar (Melvin; aka The Lamb)

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