Skeets Tolbert

Skeets Tolbert

Skeets Tolbert (February 14, 1909  - November 30, 2000, Houston, Texas) was an American jazz clarinetist, alto saxophonist, vocalist, composer and bandleader. He acquired the nickname "Skeets", which was short for "Mosquito."  Tolbert grew up in Lincolntown, North Carolina, and studied at Johnson C. Smith University. Though Tolbert never had a standard to his credit, he composed and arranged a great number of tunes that would become hits for others, notably Nat King Cole.

He has 42 tracks over two albums to his credit as well and more that he has credit for in part. Red Richards who played piano and sang with Tolbert's Gentlemen of Swing said of Tolbert that he "could play" and was an original, that he didn't copy Louis Jordan. Of the band he said they were a strong, good sounding band. Of the music he said they were a "nice style band" that could play for dancing.

Freddie Green, Kenny Clarke, Red Richards, Otis Hicks, Carl "Tatti" Smith, Lem Johnson, Buddy Johnson, Theodore Carpenter, Leonard Hawkins Harry Prather, Clarence Easter, all played with Tolbert in the band, which recorded in 1939 under the name Tolbert's Gentlemen of Swing. Babe Hines appeared on the Vol. 1 collection, Yack Taylor on the second; both were featured female vocalists. Tolbert made a point to have women sing solo blues ballads on at least a few songs on each album. He rarely used a single male lead and favored a call and response style leader/chorus. He used elements of vaudeville in many of his tunes, primarily minor blues, but some with darker lyrics. None of his songs ever charted or became standards but were intended for dancing in nightclubs and living rooms.

Bold in his writing style, Tolbert was influenced by Fats Waller. In his tune, "Baby You're a Fine Piece of Meat," he used the line, "you got... the right size feet", a reference to Waller's "Your Feets Too Big." He also emulated Waller's style of writing odd tunes such as "The Stuff's Out," "Papa's in Bed with His Britches On," and others with silly lyrics. He recorded with this ensemble for three years for Decca Records, which at the time published Louis Jordan. His style evoked many eras of blues, vaudeville, and jazz fusion.

Read more on Wikipedia

Listen to Skeets Tolbert 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 Skeets Tolbert - Listen to our station and hear the songs:
Big Fat Butterfly
Fill Up
Git It
Hey Man, Hey Man
Hit That Jive, Jack
Sugar Boogie
Sammy's Choppin' Block
Jumpin' Like Mad

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