Monday, October 22, 2007

10-21-07~Radio Jamboree Salutes Famed Band Leader

Photo by Mike Maple

Ron Herd II warms up on his trumpet Saturday to play a tribute to band leader and arranger Jimmie Lunceford, who taught in Memphis in the 1920s and went on to perform throughout the world.

Swing Great Started In Memphis

By Pamela Perkins
The Memphis Commercial Appeal
Sunday, October 21, 2007

Over the grave at Historic Elmwood Cemetery, a trumpet on Saturday beckoned Memphis to remember a local music master.

Trumpeter Ron Herd II and nine other people gathered around the grave of band- leader and arranger Jimmie Lunceford, a former teacher at Manassas High School who became an internationally noted and respected musician of the swing era.

On the marker, Herd laid a yellow wreath with blue flowers and a ribbon that read: "Thanks, Mr. Lunceford."

The "thank you" is part of the Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Festival, which continues with a tribute special from 4 to 6 this evening on Blog Talk Radio (, an online social radio network.

Some jazz experts rate Lunceford's musicianship up there with Duke Ellington and Count Basie. Some also consider his memory to be among the most neglected.

At the grave, former Manassas music teacher and saxophonist Emerson Able said Lunceford should be as honored as W.C. Handy for his contributions to Memphis music history.

"Lunceford did as much, if not more, for Memphis music as Mr. Handy," Able said.

Born in 1902 in Fulton, Miss., Lunceford came to Memphis in 1926 and got a job at Manassas High as a football coach. A formally trained musician, he eventually began tutoring students there who wanted to form a band, which later became the Chickasaw Syncopators. Lunceford was on the alto saxophone.

He moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1930, when he made his first recordings for the Victor label.

In 1933, his orchestra opened at the Cotton Club in Harlem. For the next several years, his prolific orchestra garnered international attention and respect.

He died in July 1947 in Oregon.

Herd organized the tribute weekend to bring awareness to Lunceford's significance.

"It's been on my mind for a long time," Herd said.

He had begun a quest to learn about Lunceford after picking up a copy of the soundtrack to the 1984 movie "The Cotton Club," with tracks featuring Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne, Ellington, Cab Calloway. Two tracks were from Jimmie Lunceford & His Orchestra.

"I said, 'Who is this cat?' He was an important part of Memphis music history and American Jazz history in general."

- Pamela Perkins: 901-529-6514

There will be a tribute special to Jimmie Lunceford from 4 to 6 p.m. today on Blog Talk Radio at

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