Lucky Millinder

Lucky Millinder

Lucky Millinder (1910–1966) was a very unique bandleader. He could not read or write music, did not play an instrument and rarely sang. (Pretty strange, huh.) It was his showmanship and musical taste that made his bands successful. His group was said to have been the greatest big band to play rhythm and blues, and history shows that his band gave work to a number of musicians who later became influential at the dawn of the rock and roll era.

In the 1920's he worked in clubs, ballrooms, and theaters in Chicago as a master of ceremonies and dancer. Lucky first fronted a band in 1931 for an RKO theater tour, and in 1932 took over the leadership of Doc Crawford's orchestra which was based in Harlem.

The mid 30's proved to be successful for Millinder, in which many opportunities came his way.  In 1933, he took a band to Europe and played residencies in Monte Carlo and Paris. After gain a lot of experience in Europe, he returned to New York City to take over the leadership of the Mills Blue Rhythm Band, which included Henry "Red" Allen and Charlie Shavers among other big names at that time. The band had a regular slot at The Cotton Club.

In 1940, with Bill Doggett a part of the mix Millinder established a residency at New York's Savoy Ballroom and won a contract with Decca Records. Dizzy Gillespie was the band's trumpeter for a while and was featured on Millinder's first charting hit, "When the Lights Go On Again (All Over the World)."  The follow-up recordings of "Apollo Jump" and "Sweet Slumber" were also big hits, with vocals by Trevor Bacon.

By the mid-1940's the band was drifted towards what came to be known as rhythm and blues and ended up having many hits on the R/B Charts.

You can hear the swing music of Lucky Millinder right here on Swing City Radio.

Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA.

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