77 Facts About Duke Ellington


Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was an American jazz pianist, composer, and leader of his eponymous jazz orchestra from 1923 through the rest of his life.


Duke Ellington recorded songs written by his bandsmen, such as Juan Tizol's "Caravan", which brought a Spanish tinge to big band jazz.


Duke Ellington recorded for most American record companies of his era, performed in and scored several films, and composed a handful of stage musicals.


Duke Ellington was known for his inventive use of the orchestra, or big band, as well as for his eloquence and charisma.


Duke Ellington was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize Special Award for music in 1999.


Duke Ellington's father was born in Lincolnton, North Carolina, on April 15,1879, and moved to DC in 1886 with his parents.


When Duke Ellington was a child, his family showed racial pride and support in their home, as did many other families.

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At age seven, Duke Ellington began taking piano lessons from Marietta Clinkscales.


Duke Ellington went to Armstrong Technical High School in Washington, DC His first job was selling peanuts at Washington Senators baseball games.


Duke Ellington started sneaking into Frank Holiday's Poolroom at age fourteen.


Duke Ellington created the piece by ear, as he had not yet learned to read and write music.


Duke Ellington continued listening to, watching, and imitating ragtime pianists, not only in Washington, DC but in Philadelphia and Atlantic City, where he vacationed with his mother during the summer.


Duke Ellington started to play gigs in cafes and clubs in and around Washington, DC His attachment to music was so strong that in 1916 he turned down an art scholarship to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.


Duke Ellington had a messenger job with the US Navy and State departments, where he made a wide range of contacts.


Duke Ellington moved out of his parent's home and bought his own as he became a successful pianist.


Duke Ellington played throughout the DC area and into Virginia for private society balls and embassy parties.


When his drummer Sonny Greer was invited to join the Wilber Sweatman Orchestra in New York City, Duke Ellington left his successful career in DC and moved to Harlem, ultimately becoming part of the Harlem Renaissance.


Duke Ellington was known to play the bugle at the end of each performance.


Snowden left the group in early 1924, and Duke Ellington took over as bandleader.


Duke Ellington then made eight records in 1924, receiving composing credit on three including "Choo Choo".


In 1925, Duke Ellington contributed four songs to Chocolate Kiddies starring Lottie Gee and Adelaide Hall, an all-African American revue which introduced European audiences to African American styles and performers.


Duke Ellington's presence resulted in friction with Miley and trombonist Charlie Irvis, whose styles differed from Bechet's New Orleans-influenced playing.


At the Cotton Club, Duke Ellington's group performed all the music for the revues, which mixed comedy, dance numbers, vaudeville, burlesque, music, and illicit alcohol.


Duke Ellington died in 1932 at the age of 29, but he was an important influence on Cootie Williams, who replaced him.


Duke Ellington appeared in the Amos 'n' Andy film Check and Double Check released in 1930, which features the orchestra playing "Old Man Blues" in an extended ballroom scene.

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Duke Ellington led the orchestra by conducting from the keyboard using piano cues and visual gestures; very rarely did he conduct using a baton.


Duke Ellington effectively used his public persona to deflect attention away from himself.


Duke Ellington signed exclusively to Brunswick in 1932 and stayed with them through to late 1936.


Ivie Anderson was hired as the Duke Ellington Orchestra's featured vocalist in 1931.


Duke Ellington is the vocalist on "It Don't Mean a Thing " among other recordings.


On June 12,1933, the Duke Ellington Orchestra gave its British debut at the London Palladium; Ellington received an ovation when he walked on stage.


Duke Ellington had composed and recorded "Creole Rhapsody" as early as 1931.


From 1936, Duke Ellington began to make recordings with smaller groups drawn from his then-15-man orchestra.


In 1937, Duke Ellington returned to the Cotton Club, which had relocated to the mid-town Theater District.


Duke Ellington showed great fondness for Strayhorn and never failed to speak glowingly of the man and their collaborative working relationship, "my right arm, my left arm, all the eyes in the back of my head, my brain waves in his head, and his in mine".


Blanton was effectively hired on the spot in late October 1939, before Duke Ellington was aware of his name, when he dropped in on a gig of Fate Marable in St Louis.


Ben Webster's principal tenure with Duke Ellington spanned 1939 to 1943.


An ambition of his, he told his previous employer, Teddy Wilson, then leading a big band, that Duke Ellington was the only rival he would leave Wilson for.


Duke Ellington was the orchestra's first regular tenor saxophonist and increased the size of the sax section to five for the first time.


Additionally, Nance added violin to the instrumental colors Duke Ellington had at his disposal.


Duke Ellington's long-term aim, though, was to extend the jazz form from that three-minute limit, of which he was an acknowledged master.


Duke Ellington objected in the interval and compared Jeffries to Al Jolson.


However, in 1943 Duke Ellington asked Webster to leave; the saxophonist's personality made his colleagues anxious and the saxophonist was regularly in conflict with the leader.


Duke Ellington continued on his own course through these tectonic shifts.


However, Duke Ellington's extended composition, Harlem, was in the process of being completed at this time.

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Duke Ellington later presented its score to music-loving President Harry Truman.


Also during his time in Europe, Duke Ellington would compose the music for a stage production by Orson Welles.


In 1951, Duke Ellington suffered a significant loss of personnel: Sonny Greer, Lawrence Brown, and, most importantly, Johnny Hodges left to pursue other ventures.


Duke Ellington, who had abruptly ended the band's scheduled set because of the late arrival of four key players, called the two tunes as the time was approaching midnight.


The first of these was Anatomy of a Murder, a courtroom drama directed by Otto Preminger and featuring James Stewart, in which Duke Ellington appeared fronting a roadhouse combo.


Duke Ellington signed to Frank Sinatra's new Reprise label, but the association with the label was short-lived.


Musicians who had previously worked with Duke Ellington returned to the Orchestra as members: Lawrence Brown in 1960 and Cootie Williams in 1962.


Duke Ellington was now performing worldwide and spent a significant part of each year on overseas tours.


Duke Ellington wrote an original score for director Michael Langham's production of Shakespeare's Timon of Athens at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada, which opened on July 29,1963.


Duke Ellington was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1965.


However, Duke Ellington simply said it was "the most important thing I've done".


Duke Ellington turned 65 in the spring of 1964 but showed no signs of slowing down as he continued to make recordings of significant works such as The Far East Suite, New Orleans Suite, The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse and the Latin American Suite, much of it inspired by his world tours.


Duke Ellington got an idea to wrote an opera about a black beautician in 1930s, but did not finish it.


Duke Ellington performed what is considered his final full concert in a ballroom at Northern Illinois University on March 20,1974.


Duke Ellington was joined in New York City by his wife and son in the late 1920s, but the couple soon permanently separated.


In 1929, Duke Ellington became the companion of Mildred Dixon, who traveled with him, managed Tempo Music, inspired songs, such as "Sophisticated Lady", at the peak of his career, and raised his son.


Duke Ellington supported both women for the rest of his life.


Duke Ellington was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha and was a Freemason associated with Prince Hall Freemasonry.


Duke Ellington died on May 24,1974, of complications from lung cancer and pneumonia, a few weeks after his 75th birthday.


Duke Ellington was interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery, the Bronx, New York City.

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In 1989, a bronze plaque was attached to the newly named Duke Ellington Building at 2121 Ward Place NW.


Duke Ellington appears on the reverse side of the District of Columbia quarter.


Duke Ellington is depicted on the quarter seated at a piano, sheet music in hand, along with the inscription "Justice for All", which is the District's motto.


Duke Ellington lived out his final years in Manhattan, in a townhouse at 333 Riverside Drive near West 106th Street.


Duke Ellington eventually arrived at the UCLA campus and, to apologize for his tardiness, played to the packed crowd for more than four hours.


The Essentially Duke Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival is a nationally renowned annual competition for prestigious high school bands.


Digital Duke, credited to The Duke Ellington Orchestra, won the 1988 Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.


Mercer Duke Ellington had been handling all administrative aspects of his father's business for several decades.


Duke Ellington composed incessantly to the very last days of his life.


Duke Ellington's compositions have been revisited by artists and musicians worldwide as sources of inspiration and a bedrock of their performing careers:.


Duke Ellington earned 14 Grammy awards from 1959 to 2000 and a total of 25 nominations.


Recordings of Duke Ellington were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings at least 25 years old that have qualitative or historical significance.