62 Facts About Count Basie


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


Count Basie led the group for almost 50 years, creating innovations like the use of two "split" tenor saxophones, emphasizing the rhythm section, riffing with a big band, using arrangers to broaden their sound, and others.


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


Count Basie's father worked as a coachman and caretaker for a wealthy judge.


Count Basie's father played the mellophone, and his mother played the piano; in fact, she gave Basie his first piano lessons.


Count Basie took in laundry and baked cakes for sale for a living.


Count Basie paid 25 cents a lesson for Count Basie's piano instruction.


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


Count Basie finished junior high school but spent much of his time at the Palace Theater in Red Bank, where doing occasional chores gained him free admission to performances.


Count Basie quickly learned to improvise music appropriate to the acts and the silent movies.


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


Count Basie got some jobs in Asbury Park at the Jersey Shore, and played at the Hong Kong Inn until a better player took his place.


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


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


Count Basie's touring took him to Kansas City, St Louis, New Orleans, and Chicago.


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".


Count Basie met Fats Waller, who was playing organ at the Lincoln Theater accompanying silent movies, and Waller taught him how to play that instrument.


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.


Count Basie occasionally played four-hand piano and dual pianos with Moten, who conducted.


Count Basie then formed his own nine-piece band, Barons of Rhythm, with many former Moten members including Walter Page, Freddie Green, Jo Jones, Lester Young and Jimmy Rushing.


Count Basie liked the results and named the piece "One O'Clock Jump".


Right from the start, Count Basie's band was known for its rhythm section.


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".


Count Basie invited them to record, in performances which were Lester Young's earliest recordings.


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.


Count Basie favored blues, and he would showcase some of the most notable blues singers of the era after he went to New York: Billie Holiday, Jimmy Rushing, Big Joe Turner, Helen Humes, and Joe Williams.


Count Basie hired arrangers who knew how to maximize the band's abilities, such as Eddie Durham and Jimmy Mundy.


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


Durham returned to help with arranging and composing, but for the most part, the orchestra worked out its numbers in rehearsal, with Count Basie guiding the proceedings.


Count Basie constantly parried Chick's thundering haymakers with tantalizing runs and arpeggios which teased more and more force from his adversary.


Hammond introduced Helen Humes, whom Count Basie hired; she stayed with Count Basie for four years.


Count Basie was the featured artist at the first Cavalcade of Jazz concert held at Wrigley Field on September 23,1945, which was produced by Leon Hefflin Sr.


Count Basie played along with The Flairs, Christine Kittrell, Lamp Lighters, Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five, Ruth Brown, and Perez Prado and his Orchestra.


The big band era appeared to have ended after the war, and Count Basie disbanded the group.


Count Basie reformed his group as a 16-piece orchestra in 1952.


Count Basie credited Billy Eckstine, a top male vocalist of the time, for prompting his return to Big Band.


Count Basie said that Norman Granz got them into the Birdland club and promoted the new band through recordings on the Mercury, Clef, and Verve labels.


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


Count Basie added touches of bebop "so long as it made sense", and he required that "it all had to have feeling".


Count Basie's band was sharing Birdland with such bebop musicians as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis.


Count Basie added flute to some numbers, a novelty at the time that became widely copied.


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.


Count Basie was a guest on ABC's The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, a venue opened to several other black entertainers.


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.


Some time around 1964, Count Basie adopted his trademark yachting cap.


On July 21,1930, Count Basie married Vivian Lee Winn, in Kansas City, Missouri.


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.


Count Basie married Catherine Morgan on July 13,1940, in the King County courthouse in Seattle, Washington.


Count Basie was born with cerebral palsy and the doctors claimed she would never walk.


Count Basie died of pancreatic cancer in Hollywood, Florida, on April 26,1984, at the age of 79.


Count Basie hitched his star to some of the most famous vocalists of the 1950s and 1960s, which helped keep the Big Band sound alive and added greatly to his recording catalog.


Count Basie even toured with the Basie Orchestra in the mid-1970s, and Fitzgerald and Basie met on the 1979 albums A Classy Pair, Digital III at Montreux, and A Perfect Match, the last two recorded live at Montreux.


Count Basie toured with Bennett, including a date at Carnegie Hall.


Count Basie introduced several generations of listeners to the Big Band sound and left an influential catalog.


Count Basie is remembered by many who worked for him as being considerate of musicians and their opinions, modest, relaxed, fun-loving, dryly witty, and always enthusiastic about his music.


Count Basie made most of his albums with his big band.


From 1929 to 1932, Count Basie was part of Bennie Moten's Kansas City Orchestra:.


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


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


Count Basie is a part of the Big Band Leaders issue, which, is in turn, part of the Legends of American Music series.


In 2009, Count Basie was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.


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