Cootie Williams

Picture of Cootie Williams

Cootie Williams was a highly gifted trumpeter and band leader.  His trumpet playing was very influential throughout The Big Band Era.

Cootie Williams began his professional career at the young age of fourteen with the Young Family band, which also happened to include Lester Young on sax. Williams once said he acquired his nickname as a boy when his father took him to a band concert. When it was over his father asked him what he'd heard and the young William replied, "Cootie, cootie, cootie."  Makes me wonder what band his father took him to see. :)

In 1928, he worked briefly in the bands of both Chick Webb and Fletcher Henderson.  His career took off when he became a member of Duke Ellington's orchestra when the band was playing at the Cotton Club. He also recorded his own sessions during this time, both as a freelancer and with other members of Ellington's band. Williams was renowned for his "jungle" style of trumpet playing and for his use of the plunger mute. He would also sing occasionally. He was the soloist in famous Ellington compositions like "Echoes of Harlem" and "Harlem Air Shaft."

Listen to "Airmail Special" by Cootie Williams

In 1940, he joined Benny Goodman's Orchestra. It was a highly publicized move within the Big Band community and it's fans. and it caused quite a stir at the time.  Then in 1941, Cootie Williams formed his own orchestra.  Some of the musicians he employed over the years were Charlie Parker, Eddie Davis, Bud Powell and Eddie Vinson.

In the late 1940's the band disbanded and Cootie began to focus more on rhythm and blues music.

You can listen to Cootie Williams and His Orchestra 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! - Big Band Radio Station Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA.
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