Luis Russell

Picture of Luis Russell

Luis Russell was a pianist from Panama that led a couple of great bands in the 1930's and 40's.  He began playing professionally in 1917 at a casino in Colon, Panama, where he would provide the live music for silent films.

He later won $3,000 in a local lottery and used it to move to the U.S. along with his mother and sister. They settled in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he worked as a pianist for a few years.

Russell relocated to Chicago in 1925 to play with bandleader King Oliver, then left to form his own band in 1929.  His first band became one of the leading groups in the New York City scene and included some big names including Red Allen and J.C. Higginbotham. They soon became the backup band for Louis Armstrong, who eventually took over the band in 1935. Russell remained with the orchestra for over eight more years serving as the musical director.

In 1943, Russell formed a new band under his own name, which played at the Savoy and Apollo in Manhattan and Atlantic City, New Jersey. He retired from the music business in 1948.

Listen to "Ease On Down" by Luis Russell and His Orchestra

You can hear the music of Luis Russell right here on Swing City Radio.

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