Friday, August 12, 2011

The King Of Harlem

In the era of the big bands, William Henry "Chick" Webb may just have been the greatest band leader that ever lived as well as the greatest drummer that ever lived.

Chick suffered from spinal tuberculosis as a young boy, which left him permanently crippled. He made his way from his home in Baltimore to New York Chick took up the drums and rapidly rose in the New York music scene. Unable to read music he nevertheless mastered the intricate business of arrangement and presentation and built a powerhouse of a band with which he ruled Harlem from his stronghold of the Savoy Ballroom when he wasn't making forays across the country.

His playing was so powerful that his drum set had to be screwed down to the floor of the Savoy's stage.

It is said that his greatest moment came when he faced off Benny Goodman's band at the Savoy and send them packing. Chick was reputed to have told his sidemen "If you miss a note you're gone, because this is my night."

Which was only right because the Savoy was Chick Webb's house.

Chick Webb died in 1939 at an early age because of health problems. His career was like a shooting star in a way.

And with him his band was always about the drums.

Give a listen.


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