Count Basie


William "Count" Basie was an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer. Basie led his jazz orchestra almost continuously for nearly 50 years. Many notable musicians came to prominence under his direction, including tenor saxophonists Lester Young and Herschel Evans, guitarist Freddie Green, trumpeters Buck Clayton and Harry "Sweets" Edison and singers Jimmy Rushing and Joe Williams.… Read More

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Learn about the memorable moments in the evolution of Count Basie.


1904 Birth Born on August 21, 1904.


1919 14 Years Old Though a natural at the piano, Basie preferred drums. Discouraged by the obvious talents of Sonny Greer, who also lived in Red Bank and became Duke Ellington's drummer in 1919, Basie at age 15 switched to piano exclusively. … Read More
1920 15 Years Old Around 1920, Basie went to Harlem, a hotbed of jazz, where he lived down the block from the Alhambra Theater. … Read More


1925 20 Years Old 1 More Event
Basie toured in several acts between 1925 and 1927, including Katie Krippen and Her Kiddies as part of the Hippity Hop show; on the Keith, the Columbia Burlesque, and the Theater Owners Bookers Association (T.O.B.A.) vaudeville circuits; and as a soloist and accompanist to blues singers Katie Krippen and Gonzelle White. … Read More
1928 - 1929 2 More Events
1930 25 Years Old Basie was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. On 21 July 1930, Basie married Vivian Lee Winn, in Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri. They were divorced sometime before 1935. … Read More
1932 27 Years Old Their "Moten Swing", which Basie claimed credit for, was widely acclaimed and was an invaluable contribution to the development of swing music, and at one performance at the Pearl Theatre in Philadelphia in December 1932, the theatre opened its door to allow anybody in to hear the band perform. … Read More


1935 30 Years Old In 1935, Basie formed his own jazz orchestra, the Count Basie Orchestra, and in 1936 took them to Chicago for a long engagement and their first recording. … Read More
1936 31 Years Old At the end of 1936, Basie and his band, now billed as "Count Basie and His Barons of Rhythm," moved from Kansas City to Chicago, where they honed their repertoire at a long engagement at the Grand Terrace Ballroom. … Read More
When he made the Vocalion recordings, Basie had already signed with Decca Records, but did not have his first recording session with them until January 1937.
1938 33 Years Old …  Basie's 14-man band began playing at the Famous Door, a mid-town nightspot with a CBS network feed and air conditioning, which Hammond was said to have bought the club in return for their booking Basie steadily throughout the summer of 1938. … Read More
1939 34 Years Old In 1939, Basie and his band made a major cross-country tour, including their first West Coast dates. … Read More
1940 35 Years Old 1 More Event
On 19 February 1940, Count Basie and his Orchestra opened a four-week engagement at Southland in Boston, and they broadcast over the radio on 20 February. … Read More


1950 45 Years Old The big band era appeared to have ended after the war, and Basie disbanded the group. For a while, he performed in combos, sometimes stretched to an orchestra. In 1950, he headlined the Universal-International short film "Sugar Chile" Robinson, Billie Holiday, Count Basie and His Sextet.
1952 47 Years Old He reformed his group as a 16-piece orchestra in 1952. … Read More


In 1957, Basie sued the jazz venue Ball and Chain in Miami over outstanding fees, causing the closure of the venue. … Read More
1959 54 Years Old With Billy Eckstine on the album Basie/Eckstine Incorporated, in 1959. … Read More
1962 57 Years Old Frank Sinatra recorded for the first time with Basie on 1962's Sinatra-Basie and for a second studio album on 1964's It Might as Well Be Swing, which was arranged by Quincy Jones.


1966 - 1973 3 More Events
1979 74 Years Old She even toured with the Basie Orchestra in the mid-1970s, and Fitzgerald and Basie also met on the 1979 albums A Classy Pair, Digital III at Montreux, and A Perfect Match, the last two also recorded live at Montreux. … Read More
1983 78 Years Old On April 11, 1983, Catherine Basie died of a heart attack at the couple's home in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island. … Read More
1984 80 Years Old Basie died of pancreatic cancer in Hollywood, Florida on April 26, 1984 at the age of 79.
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