Lucky Millinder

Picture of Lucky Millinder

Lucky Millinder was a very unique bandleader to say the least. Millinder could not read or write music, he did not play an instrument and Lucky rarely sang. (Pretty strange, huh.) It was his showmanship and musical taste that made his bands so successful. What Lucky lacked in natural musical talent, he made up for with a good ear for a hot song, and a knack of making chart topping records.  His group was said to have been the greatest Big Band to play Rhythm and Blues. 

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, and the following year took over the leadership of Doc Crawford's Orchestra which was based in Harlem, New York.

The 1930's proved to be a successful decade for Millinder, in which many opportunities came his way.  In 1933, he took a band to Europe and played residencies in both Monte Carlo and Paris. After gaining 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 famed Cotton Club.

In 1940, with Bill Doggett now 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 charted 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.  

Listen to "Who Threw the Whisky in the Well" by Lucky Millinder and His Orchestra

By the mid-1940's the band was drifting 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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