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“Simplicity and Celebration: An Appreciation of Count Basie” by Albert Murray
A Tale of Three Cities: Red Bank, Kansas City, New York
First Testament Band Roars Out of Kansas City
1938 Famous Door Photo Essay, Frank Driggs Collection
Basie in the 40's: Time of Transition
1944 Columbia Records Photo Essay, Frank Driggs Collection
Basie in the 50's: Sixteen Men Swinging-Again
Milt Hinton Photo Essay, Sound of Jazz, CBS Television, December 8,1957
Chuck Stewart Photo Essay: The Basie Band and Joe Williams, Roulette recording sessions, 1957
Chance meeting: The Count and Coltrane
Tad Hershorn Photo Essay: Ella Fitzgerald and Basie in San Antonio, 1979
Count Basie Virtual Jukebox
They Speak of Basie: Joe Williams, Freddie Green, Jay McShann, Oscar Peterson, Albert Murray, Helen Humes, Louie Bellson . . .
Suggested Recordings and Readings
Finale: Video of Count Basie at Montreux, 1977

The 1940s were a period of transition for Basie as it was for all big bands facing the challenges that would end their heyday after the war. The bands were hurt by the first of two recording bans imposed by the American Federation of Musicians of the decade, from August 1942 and lasting up to July 1944. Thus much of the band’s best work from this period can be found on transcriptions, air checks, or the V-Discs and Jubilee broadcasts recorded for the armed forces during and after World War II.

Many of the band’s great soloists left the band. Lester Young was gone by the end of 1940, though he returned in 1943 and 1944, the year the draft finally caught up with Young and drummer Jo Jones. For a while, young firebrand Illinois Jacquet filled Young’s chair. Jones, replaced by the able Shadow Wilson, returned for two more years in 1946 when Walter Page also returned after a three-year absence; Rodney Richardson manned the interim bass position. Tenor man Buddy Tate, briefly with Basie in 1935, stayed for a decade after replacing Hershel Evans in 1939. At the end of the decade the band was without many of the storied soloists of yore, but Dicky Wells and Sweets Edison remained while Paul


Gonsalves and Clark Terry were bright new faces.

One lesson Basie may have learned was that he had better not depend on star soloists to carry so much of the load if his band was to have a long life. Both Benny Goodman and John Hammond urged Basie to move more in the direction of arrangements and away from the Kansas City-style heads that had been used to such stunning effect.

During the war years, Basie and company regularly played USO shows. The budding jazz impresario Norman Granz, who would play a major role in Basie’s musical life in the 1950s and again in the 1970s and 1980s, once booked the Basie band and Nat Cole for a show at a Southern California military base in hopes, in vain as it turned out, that Granz would be selected for Special Services for his enterprise and connections. In addition, the band had long resident jobs in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago during the war.

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An audience gathers at the apron of the stage within inches of a Basie trombonist during a one-nighter in the mid 1940s in Cincinnati. The crowd stood riveted for hours as the Basie band unleashed the swing drive that made it a fixture in jazz for nearly fifty years. Photograph by George Rosenthal.
A February 1947 magazine article from Bandleaders and Record Review recounts the Count’s rise nearly a decade earlier when the Count Basie Orchestra made its New York debut at the Famous Door.
The Count Basie Orchestra at the Strand Theater in New York in November 1942. Frank Driggs Collection.

Count Basie at the keyboard during the Metronome magazine All-Stars recording session at Columbia Studios in New York on December 31, 1941. Also pictured, l-r, are Benny Carter, alto saxophone; Roy Eldridge, trumpet; Lou McGarrity, trombone; Harry James, trumpet; Toots Mondello, alto saxophone; Cootie Williams, trumpet; J.C. Higginbotham, trombone; and Vido Musso, tenor saxophone.
A Count Basie small group led by Basie and a rhythm section of Freddy Green, Jo Jones and Walter Page with Lester Young and Buck Clayton join forces with Benny Goodman and his guitarist Charlie Christian on this October 28, 1940 recording session in New York. Frank Driggs Collection.
The anchors on the music stands are one telltale sign that the Count Basie Orchestra was entertaining sailors at the U.S. Naval Station in Shoemaker, California in 1944. Shows for the United Service Organization (USO) brought steady engagements for the band, as did its appearances on film during the war years. Frank Driggs Collection.
Count Basie looks on during a rehearsal in New York with, l-r, Jo Jones, Walter Page and Buck Clayton. Although Jones and Page returned to play with the band for short periods in the 1940s, they were not a part of the Basie sound that flowered in the following decade. Frank Driggs Collection.

Novelist Richard Wright joins singer/activist Paul Robeson and Count Basie for a singular pairing of Basie and Robeson for an October 1, 1941 recording session in New York. Known as the “King Joe session,” the song celebrates the king of the boxing ring, Joe Louis.


Singer Helen Humes performs a number during a 1941 Basie band appearance at Brooklyn’s Paramount Theater. Band members include Harry Edison, Al Killian, Ed Lewis and Buck Clayton, trumpets; Ed Cuffee, Dicky Wells and Dan Minor, trombones; Buddy Tate, Tab Smith, Earle Warren, Jack Washington and Don Byas, saxophones; and Freddy Green, guitar; Walter Page, bass; Jo Jones, drums; and Count Basie


Two giants of the big band era, Jimme Lunceford, left, and Count Basie meet up in the mid 1940s. Where the Lunceford band was known for its polished appearance and performances, the Basie band came into its own for its style of building blues and riff-based head arrangements.

Count Basie greets fans and signs autographs at a record store in the early 1940s.
Count Basie and Duke Ellington perform a rare duet as Rex Stewart plays behind them. Basie, one of Ellington’s greatest admirers, generally bowed from the waist when encountering him.
The Count Basie Orchestra accompanies Ethel Waters in the 1943 wartime film Stage Door Canteen. The film depicting homefront entertainment for the troops was a good example of a flimsy plot line bolstered by exciting musical performances by several popular bands and singers of the day.
Count Basie and Benny Goodman on the set of the 1943 film Stage Door Canteen. Although the action supposedly took place at the Canteen on 44th Street in New York, the interiors were filmed in Los Angeles.