37 Facts About Lester Young


In contrast to many of his hard-driving peers, Lester Young played with a relaxed, cool tone and used sophisticated harmonies, using what one critic called "a free-floating style, wheeling and diving like a gull, banking with low, funky riffs that pleased dancers and listeners alike".


Lester Young was born in Woodville, Mississippi, on August 27,1909.


Lester Young's family moved to Minneapolis in 1919 and Young stayed there for much of the 1920s, first picking up the tenor saxophone while living there.


Lester Young left the family band in 1927 at the age of 18 because he refused to tour in the Southern United States, where Jim Crow laws were in effect and racial segregation was required in public facilities.


Lester Young became a member of the Bostonians, led by Art Bronson, and chose tenor saxophone over alto as his primary instrument.


Lester Young made a habit of leaving, working, then going home.


Lester Young left home permanently in 1932 when he became a member of the Blue Devils led by Walter Page.


In 1933, Lester Young settled in Kansas City, where after playing briefly in several bands, he rose to prominence with Count Basie.


Lester Young's playing in the Basie band was characterized by a relaxed style which contrasted sharply with the more forceful approach of Coleman Hawkins, the dominant tenor sax player of the day.


Lester Young left the Basie band to replace Hawkins in Fletcher Henderson's orchestra.


Lester Young soon left Henderson to play in the Andy Kirk band before returning to Basie.


Lester Young played clarinet as well as tenor in these sessions.


Billie and Lester Young met at a Harlem jam session in the early 30s and worked together in the Count Basie band and in nightclubs on New York's 52nd St At one point Lester Young moved into the apartment Billie shared with her mother, Sadie Fagan.


Lester Young gave Lester the nickname "Prez" after President Franklin Roosevelt, the "greatest man around" in Billie's mind.


Lester Young subsequently led a number of small groups that often included his brother, drummer Lee Young, for the next couple of years; live and broadcast recordings from this period exist.


Small record labels not bound by union contracts continued to record, and Lester Young recorded some sessions for Harry Lim's Keynote label in 1943.


In December 1943, Lester Young returned to the Basie fold for a 10-month stint, cut short by his being drafted into the army during World War II.


Recordings made during this and subsequent periods suggest Lester Young was beginning to make much greater use of a plastic reed, which tended to give his playing a somewhat heavier, breathier tone.


Unlike many white musicians, who were placed in band outfits such as the ones led by Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw, Lester Young was assigned to the regular army where he was not allowed to play his saxophone.


McClellan, Alabama, Lester Young was found with marijuana and alcohol among his possessions.


Lester Young served one traumatic year in a detention barracks and was dishonorably discharged in late 1945.


Lester Young joined Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic troupe in 1946, touring regularly with JATP over the next 12 years.


Lester Young made many studio recordings under Granz's supervision as well, including more trio recordings with Nat King Cole.


Lester Young recorded extensively in the late 1940s for Aladdin Records and for Savoy, some sessions of which included Basie on piano.


Lester Young's playing showed reliance on a small number of cliched phrases and reduced creativity and originality, despite his claims that he did not want to be a "repeater pencil".


Lester Young's playing and health went into a crisis, culminating in a November 1955 hospital admission following a nervous breakdown.


Lester Young was in physical decline, near the end of her career, yet they both gave moving performances.


Lester Young made his final studio recordings and live performances in Paris in March 1959 with drummer Kenny Clarke at the tail end of an abbreviated European tour during which he ate next to nothing and drank heavily.


Lester Young's playing style influenced many other tenor saxophonists, including Stan Getz, as well as Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Warne Marsh, as well as baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and alto saxophonists Lee Konitz, and Paul Desmond.


Lester Young had a direct influence on the young Charlie Parker, and thus the entire be-bop movement.


Lester Young is said to have popularized use of the term "cool" to mean something fashionable.


In 1981 OyamO published the book The Resurrection of Lady Lester, subtitled "A Poetic Mood Song Based on the Legend of Lester Young", depicting Young's life.


Lester Young is a major character in English writer Geoff Dyer's 1991 fictional book about jazz, But Beautiful.


Don Byron recorded the album Ivey-Divey in gratitude for what he learned from studying Lester Young's work, modeled after a 1946 trio date with Buddy Rich and Nat King Cole.


Lester Young was the subject of an opera, Prez: A Jazz Opera, that was written by Bernard Cash and Alan Plater and broadcast by BBC television in 1985.


On 17 March 2003, Lester Young was added to the ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame, along with Sidney Bechet, Al Cohn, Nat "King" Cole, Peggy Lee and Teddy Wilson.


Lester Young was represented at the ceremony by his children Lester Young Jr and Yvette Young.