18 Facts About Count Basie


William James "Count" Basie was an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer.

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William Count Basie was born to Lillian and Harvey Lee Count Basie in Red Bank, New Jersey.

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Best student in school, Count Basie dreamed of a traveling life, inspired by touring carnivals which came to town.

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Greer and Count Basie played together in venues until Greer set out on his professional career.

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Around 1920, Count Basie went to Harlem, a hotbed of jazz, where he lived down the block from the Alhambra Theater.

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Soon, Basie met many of the Harlem musicians who were "making the scene, " including Willie "the Lion" Smith and James P Johnson.

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Back in Harlem in 1925, Count Basie gained his first steady job at Leroy's, a place known for its piano players and its "cutting contests".

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In 1928, Count Basie was in Tulsa and heard Walter Page and his Famous Blue Devils, one of the first big bands, which featured Jimmy Rushing on vocals.

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When Young complained of Herschel Evans' vibrato, Count Basie placed them on either side of the alto players, and soon had the tenor players engaged in "duels".

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When he made the Vocalion recordings, Count Basie had already signed with Decca Records, but did not have his first recording session with them until January 1937.

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When Count Basie took his orchestra to New York in 1937, they made the Woodside Hotel in Harlem their base.

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The jukebox era had begun, and Count Basie shared the exposure along with early rock'n'roll and rhythm and blues artists.

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The Count Basie band made two tours in the British Isles and on the second, they put on a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II, along with Judy Garland, Vera Lynn, and Mario Lanza.

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Later that year, Basie appeared on a television special with Fred Astaire, featuring a dance solo to "Sweet Georgia Brown", followed in January 1961 by Basie performing at one of the five John F Kennedy Inaugural Balls.

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Some time in or before 1935, the now single Count Basie returned to New York City, renting a house at 111 West 138th Street, Manhattan, as evidenced by the 1940 census.

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In 1958, Count Basie became the first African-American to win a Grammy Award.

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On May 23, 1985, William "Count" Basie was presented, posthumously, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan.

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In May 2019, Count Basie was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Memphis, TN, presented by The Blues Foundation.

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