Posted by Hip Hop 50's Shop on 6/13/2012
Dizzy Gillespie was born John Birks Gillespie on October 21 of 1917. Growing up in Cheraw, South Carolina, Gillespie was the youngest of nine children. His father died when he was just ten. His mother provided opportunities for him the best she could. Gillespie taught himself to play the trumpet and the trombone by the time he was twelve, and earned a music scholarship to the Laurinburg Institute.
Gillespie went on to join the Frank Fairfax Orchestra in 1935, later switching to the orchestras of Edgar Hayes and Teddy Hill. His idol growing up was Roy Eldridge
. As Dizzy had followed his lead in both instrument choice and career, he ended up replacing Eldridge as the first trumpet in 1937. In Teddy Hill’s band, Gillespie recorded his first piece, “King Porter Stomp.” In 1940 he married Lorraine, with whom he was married until he died in 1993.
Gillespie played in a complicated way that most could not reproduce until John Faddis managed to reproduce his style in the 70s. Gillespie improvised and harmonized with ease and flair. Famous for his beret, his horn-rimmed glasses, and his cheeks filled out while he played, Gillespie became a symbol for jazz. He was also famed for his scat singing, making bebop the hottest style of the day.
One major incident that shocked his fans was when Gillespie and a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cab_Calloway">Cab Calloway got into a fight in 1941. Calloway had always been critical of Gillespie’s style of improvisation and his rascally sense of humor. During a performance in 1941, a spitball landed on the stage and Calloway insisted that Gillespie had thrown it. They began to argue. Then Gillespie pulled a knife and went after Calloway, who was cut on the hand in the ensuing fight, while the other band members tried to pull the two apart.
Gillespie wrote music for orchestras and recorded many of his own songs such as “Salt Peanuts,” “Woody n’ You,” and “Groovin’ High.” His style was very different from the popular swing music that came before the bebop era. In Earl Hines’ band, which he joined after the incident with Calloway, he performed for years in front of many packed crowds. Eventually, he formed his own band and revolutionized the way music was done. After dozens of recordings, Gillespie had made a name for himself that lives on. Many say that he was the greatest jazz musician of all time.