Eckstine, Billy (1914-1993)

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Eckstine, Billy (1914-1993)

Although he was best known after 1948 as a singer of popular ballads, Pittsburgh-born Billy Eckstine was a standout jazz singer from 1939-43 with Earl Hines' Band and best known for his bluesy recording of "Jelly, Jelly." He also led a jazz orchestra in the mid-forties that was many years ahead of its time. During the transitional bebop era, Eckstine assembled such cutting-edge jazz stars as trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis, saxophonists Charlie Parker and Dexter Gordon, and Art Blakey on drums. He also gave a start to Sarah Vaughan, one of the most innovative of jazz singers. Unfortunately, the Eckstine Band was so poorly recorded that no evidence remains of its extraordinary music.

—Benjamin Griffith

Further Reading:

Balliett, Whitney. American Musicians. New York, Oxford Press, 1986.

Simon, George T. The Big Bands. New York, MacMillan, 1974.