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!

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