Saturday, July 23, 2011

Campaign for Cootie

My last post was about the centennial of Cootie Williams' birth. Duke Ellington wrote "Concerto for Cootie" and "Tutti for Cootie" for Williams. In that spirit, I would like to start "Campaign for Cootie."

The results were just announced for this year's Critics Poll. Abbey Lincoln and Paul Chambers were voted into the Hall of Fame. Surprisingly, Cootie Williams is not in the Down Beat Magazine Hall of Fame! I'd like to solicit your help - Vote for Cootie today, using the instructions from DB's website:

Since this poll is for DownBeat readers only, you do need to be a subscriber — either to our magazine or our e-Newsletter (click here for sample) — to vote.

If you do subscribe, simply fill out all of the categories, or just the ones that interest you. Please vote only once. Any multiple votes will be disqualified.

If you are not a subscriber, sign up today. Just go to and hit the “subscribe” button to get the magazine.

Or you can subscribe to DownBeat's eHeadlines newsletter for free. Sign up for our free e-Newsletter here. It's quick and easy to subscribe. Without having your e-mail on file, your vote won't count!

That's all it takes. To get started on the poll, just enter your name and e-mail address, then follow the prompts. You can select one choice from the list for each category, or write in your choice, if it doesn't appear on the list.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cootie Williams Centennial

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of trumpet great Charles Melvin Williams, better known as "Cootie." He was most famous for his skill with the plunger, but as can seen below, he was a master of the open horn, too.

Actually, he may have been born 103 years ago, 102 or 101 years ago. There are several dates of birth given for him and the truth may have been that he didn't know when he was born. The only things the various birthdates have in common is the month of July, even the day could have been the 10th, 14th or 24th!

That said, did you know no one has written a biography of Williams? He had a very interesting career - two stints with Duke Ellington, and a year with Benny Goodman before embarking on a period as a big band leader. His band boasted people like Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Pearl Bailey, Bud Powell and Charlie Parker. He was the first to record Thelonious Monk's 'Round Midnight and Epistrophy. For a time, 'Round Midnight was the band's theme song!

I've spent the past few months collecting reference materials and conducting interviews, all towards writing a biography of the great and underrated Cootie Williams.

Finally, check out Cootie's plunger work from a 1966 performance filmed in France..

Happy Birthday, Cootie!