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Lucky Millinder

Lucky Millinder (August 8, 1910 – September 28, 1966) was an American rhythm-and-blues and swing bandleader. Although he could not read or write music, did not play an instrument and rarely sang, his showmanship and musical taste made his bands successful. His group was said to have been the greatest big band to play rhythm and blues, and gave work to a number of musicians who later became influential at the dawn of the rock and roll era.

In 1938 he teamed-up with pianist Bill Doggett to front Doggett's group. By 1940 had formed a completely new orchestra, which included Doggett and the drummer "Panama" Francis. Around this time he discovered the established gospel singer and guitarist Rosetta Tharpe, with whom his ensembles performed for many years and first recorded with on four cuts for Decca in 1938.

He 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)", which reached number 1 on the R&B chart and number 14 on the pop chart in 1942. The follow-up records "Apollo Jump" and "Sweet Slumber" were also big hits, with vocals by Trevor Bacon.

By the mid-1940s the band was drifting towards what came to be known as rhythm and blues. Other band members around this time included the saxophonists Bull Moose Jackson, Tab Smith and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and the pianist "Sir" Charles Thompson. In 1944 Millinder recruited the singer Wynonie Harris, and their recording of "Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well" became the group's biggest hit in 1945, staying at number 1 on the R&B chart for eight weeks and also reaching number 7 on the US pop chart. After Harris left for a solo career, Millinder followed up with another hit, "Shorty's Got to Go", on which he took lead vocals. Soon afterwards, Ruth Brown became the band's singer for a short period before her own solo career took off.

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Listen to Lucky Millinder on Swing City Radio.  We are a Big Band Radio Station playing a wide selection of Big Band and Swing music.

Swing City Radio plays Lucky Millinder - Listen to our station and hear the songs:
Apollo Jump
Savoy
Let Me Off Uptown
Big Fat Mama
Mason Flyer
Who Threw The Whiskey In The Well?
Little John Special
Are You Ready

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