Home Page
“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

IJS and Dana Digital Media Lab 2004

 
 

 
 

A show uniting Sinatra, Fitzgerald and the Basie band at the Uris Theater in September 1975 brought in around $1 million (a Broadway record) for the two-week run. In 1981, Basie was honored alongside fellow luminaries as Cary Grant and Helen Hayes with Kennedy Center honors, and the Black Music Association paid tribute with a gala at Radio City Music Hall the following year.

Basie’s health had begun to fail after he suffered a heart attack in 1976. In the ensuing years, when he had difficulty walking, Basie would arrive on stage piloting a motorized wheelchair, which, in the words of one obituary, “he sometimes drove with joyful abandon.” Even the death (in April 1983) of Catherine, his wife of forty-one years, did not long delay Basie from heading back to the only real home he had ever known: the road.
 
A sad milestone passed when Basie and the band entered the recording studio for the last time, in December 1983, some five months before the great bandleader died of cancer on April 26, 1984 in a Hollywood, Florida hospital, aged 79. Basie’s overflow service was held at the landmark Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, the site of many a jazz great’s funeral over the years. The Count Basie Orchestra, still on the road and still recording in the twenty years after his death, carries the torch for the Basie sound, still playing the band’s original charts. Basie once told an interviewer he would be satisfied to be remembered with two words: “Nice guy.” Nothing in Count Basie’s long history contradicts that sentiment—except that Bill Basie was so much more.
 
   
   

 
Basie and his orchestra make an appearance on CBS Television in this undated photograph from the 1960s. Jazz suffered greatly during this period what with the domination of rock music, but the Kid from Red Bank showed himself resilient and ever popular.
Norman Granz, founder of touring concerts known as Jazz at the Philharmonic and a prolific record producer, brought Basie into the fold of his new label, Pablo Records, in 1973. Basie made many small-group and big band recordings for the labels and received four Grammys. Photograph by Tad Hershorn.
An April 1973 tribute to Fred Astaire at Lincoln Center loosened up with he teamed up with Count Basie to sing a few of the standards the dancer had immortalized in his movies from the 1930s and 1940s. Frank Driggs Collection.
Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Frank Sinatra starred in a two-week Dream Team concert spectacular at Broadway’s Uris Theater in September 1975. The shows grossed $1 million for its brief run, a Broadway record for its time. Frank Driggs Collection.
Count Basie relaxes backstage at the Village Gate in New York in January 1980. The band’s appearance at the nightclub was the first time Basie had played there since 1958. Photograph by Nancy Miller Elliott.
 
Basie joined other surviving mainstays of the Kansas City jazz scene, including Joe Turner, Eddie Durham, Jo Jones and Jay McShann, in the 1980 film, Last of the Blue Devils. Bruce Rickert, the film’s director, said of Basie: “He was a natural leader of the Kansas City jazz musicians, and I guess he was the one who brought it out into the world.”
 
A fan embraces Count Basie in the late 1970s during ceremonies celebrating placement of his star on 52nd Street’s Walk of Fame near where the legendary strip of jazz clubs were formerly located. Photograph by Nancy Miller Elliott.
 
Count Basie and his wife Catherine bask in the spotlight with the four other John F. Kennedy for the Performing Arts honorees during ceremonies in December 1981. Those receiving one of the nation’s most prestigious awards for contributions to the arts included, l-r, choreographer Jerome Robbins, classical pianist Rudolph Serkin, actress Helen Hayes, Basie, and actor Cary Grant. Jack Buxbaum, The Kennedy Center.
Count Basie relaxes with his dog “Graf” at his home in the Bahamas in this photograph from around 1979 by Chuck Fishman.
 
© Copyright 2004, Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University Libraries