Today we celebrate the birthday of vibraphonist and drummer Lionel Hampton with one of his earliest records. From his time with Paul Howard’s Quality Serenaders in Hollywood, these are the first two sides are from Hamp’s second session, and his first issued.
Lionel Hampton was born on April 20, 1908 in Louisville, Kentucky, and spent his childhood first in Kenosha, Wisconsin, then in Chicago. As a teenager in Chicago, Hampton took xylophone lessons from Jimmy Bertrand, and played drum at the Holy Rosary Academy. He began his musical career with the Chicago Defender Newsboys’ Band, and moved to California in the late 1920s. Around 1929, Hamp joined Paul Howard’s territory band playing drums, with whom he stayed until the band broke up in 1930. From Howard’s band, he was picked up by Les Hite, who led a band fronted at one point by Louis Armstrong during his tenure at Sebastian’s New Cotton Club in L.A. With Armstrong, Hampton is credited with playing the first vibraphone in a popular song on record, in “Memories of You”. After studying music at the University of South California, Hampton formed his own band in the mid-1930s, and played with Benny Goodman on the side. Hampton continued to play and lead bands for many years, slowing down in his old age, and died of congestive heart failure in 2001, at the age of 94.
Victor V-38068 was recorded April 28, 1929 in Culver City, California, the first issued record by Paul Howard’s Quality Serenaders. The Quality Serenaders consist of George Orendorff on trumpet, Lawrence Brown on trombone, Charlie Lawrence on alto sax and clarinet, Paul Howard on tenor sax, Harvey Brooks on piano, “Kid” Thomas Valentine on banjo, James Jackson on tuba, and the young Lionel Hampton on drums.
First up is “Moonlight Blues”. Lionel Hampton sings the scat vocal on this side, called “novelty effects” on the label.
The flip, a stomp called “The Ramble”, is a masterpiece if there ever was one.
Updated with improved audio on June 21, 2017.