Fletcher Henderson

James Fletcher "Smack " Henderson, Jr. ( born December 18, 1897 in Cuthbert, Georgia, † December 28, 1952 in New York City ) was an American ( jazz ) pianist, bandleader and composer.


Henderson was born in Randolph County, Georgia. He came from the middle class, his father was headmaster, his mother taught piano. He attended the University in Atlanta and graduated in 1920. Henderson moved to New York to lay at Columbia University, a master's degree in chemistry.

He tried, because of racial discrimination in vain to find work in a chemical company. He played piano on one of the many River Boats on the Hudson River and decided to become a musician. Work, he finally found in the Harry Pace / WC Handy's Music Publishing Company. Also Henderson was employed by the Black Swan Recording Company, in charge as music director and pianist. He organized performances by blues singer Ethel Waters and played with the band Black Swan Troubadours on these concerts. His success in terms of music let Henderson forget the study of chemistry.

In 1922 he founded with Don Redman, Elmer Chambers and other musicians formed his own band, which had the end of 1923 with the "Gulf Coast Blues " a first hit and played until 1924 at the Club Alabam in New York and later at the Roseland Ballroom. She quickly got a reputation as the best " colored " band in New York.

Henderson campaigned in 1924 the emerging trumpeter Louis Armstrong from King Oliver 's Creole Jazz Band and came thanks to Armstrong on new ideas for the instrumentation and arrangement. Success numbers mid-20s were " Sugerfoot Stomp " (King Oliver's " Dippermouth Blues" in a new version), " Carolina Stomp " and " Dinah ". Gradually, Henry " Red" Allen, Joe " Fox " Smith, Rex Stewart, Tommy Ladnier, Jimmy Harrison and Roy Eldridge presented next to Armstrong in Henderson's band. The jazz greats Coleman Hawkins, Buster Bailey, Benny Carter and Chu Berry also guesting in his big band. At the beginning of the thirties of the 20th century helped Fletcher's younger brother Horace Henderson ( 1904-1988 ) in the arrangements. Although the band was very popular, Henderson himself had little commercial success. After a traffic accident in 1928, he lost entirely the business interest and never tried to be a director. For this he was an accomplished arranger, his work had a lasting effect the music world.

In addition to his own band Henderson worked for the bands of Teddy Hill, Isham Jones and Benny Goodman. 1934, the orchestra of Benny Goodman for the radio program Let's Dance was engaged. Since the show had to establish new titles a week, she bought some of Henderson's arrangements. Many successes Goodmans came from the pen of Fletcher Henderson. One last title success in the charts he had in May 1937 with "Great Caesar 's Ghost ". In 1939, Henderson broke his own band on final and worked exclusively for Benny Goodman as a pianist and arranger; first time played a "white" band together with a "black" musicians on stage. 1948-1949 Henderson was with Ethel Waters some concerts. Henderson suffered a stroke in 1950, was partially paralyzed and could no longer play since then. He died in 1952 in New York City.

Henderson was the first jazz artist who founded a big band. His arrangements for both "black" and "white" orchestra formed the beginning of the Swing Era. Henderson is sometimes referred to as the true " King of Swing ".

Known titles (selection)

  • Charleston Crazy
  • I'm Gonna See You ( When Your Troubles Are Just Like Mine)
  • Chattanooga ( Down In Tennessee)
  • Old Black Joe 's Blues
  • Potomac River Blues
  • Shake Your Feet
  • Swanee River Blues
  • War Horse Mom
  • Oh! Sister, Is not That Hot
  • Mamma's Gonna Slow You Down
  • Darktown Has A Gay White Way
  • Cotton Picker 's Ball
  • Why Put The Blame On You?
  • Wish I Had You (And I'm Gonna Get You Blues )
  • I Wish I Could Make You Cry
  • Say Say Sadie
  • Feelin 'The Way I Do
  • Ghost Of The Blues
  • Tea Pot Dome Blues
  • My Papa Does not Two -Time No Time
  • Driftwood
  • Red Hot Mama
  • I Wanna Count Sheep ( with Harlan Lattimore )

Disco Graphical Notes

The LP recordings by Fletcher Henderson appeared, starting in 1921 and ending in 1938, the reissue label Classics. Especially noteworthy are the editions of The Complete Louis Armstrong with Fletcher Henderson in Forte with recordings from 1924/25; . The Harmony and Vocalion Sessions, Vol 1 and 2 at Timeless Records with recordings from 1926 to 1928 on Columbia Records released A Study in Frustration: The Fletcher Henderson Story with photographs of the year 1923 until 1938.