Shoffner, Bob (actually, Robert Lee)

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Shoffner, Bob (actually, Robert Lee)

Shoffner, Bob (actually, Robert Lee ), early jazz trumpeter; b. Bessie, Term., April 30, 1900; d; Chicago, Ill, March 5, 1983. His family moved to St. Louis in 1902, and at age nine, he began playing the drums, then bugle, in the local Knights of Phythias Band. He did summer tours in this boys’ band, then switched to trumpet in 1911, taught by “Professor” Blue; Shoffner also began playing piano. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and spent two years with the 10th Cavalry in Ariz., eventually playing trumpet in the division band. After his release in 1919, he worked in St. Louis and on the riverboats with Charlie Creath, then toured with Tommy Parker’s Band. In 1921, Shoffner visited Chicago and decided to stay there, working with various bands, before returning to St. Louis to play a season with Charlie Creath in 1922. He then settled in Chicago; from June 1924-February 1927, he worked with King Oliver, except for a brief period in early 1925. Lip problems led him to return to St. Louis in early 1927 for an operation; but he was soon back in Chicago, working with various groups through the end of the decade. In early 1931, he toured with McKinney’s Cotton Pickers but, due to union restrictions, was unable to work with them in Detroit, so he returned to Chicago. He worked with various leaders there through late 1934, then relocated to N.Y., where he continued to freelance. He was back in Chicago by early 1938, and in late 1940, left full-time music to work in the administrative offices of the State of 111. He kept this job for many years, although he continued gigging until the mid-1940s. Shoffner recommenced full-time playing in 1957. He did regular local gigs, then joined Franz Jackson’s Original Jazz All-Stars; he also organized his own concert brass band. Shoffner was forced by illness to quit regular playing in 1963, although he played occasionally in the mid-1960s.

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