Much of what we know of the personality of James Melvin Lunceford comes from the reminiscences of his musicians rather than from the man himself. And to quote Count Basie, “I think he had one of the greatest swing bands that ever was. They’d start to rock and they’d just rock all night long!”
“A great CD featuring the Jimmie Lunceford band, mostly in the 1930s. The sound was excellent and it came with full personnel listings. Wonderful value, too. It also arrived promptly before the predicted date.” Philip K, Cheshire
Much of what we know of the personality of James Melvin Lunceford (1902-47) comes from the reminiscences of his musicians rather than from the man himself. Lunceford, it seems, was rarely interviewed and from all accounts appears to have been a reserved, sometimes remote man, noted for his strict codes of behaviour and for a pleasant if unremarkable personality.
Even so, his impact on those who worked with him was long-lasting and profound. There can be absolutely no doubt that his unusual strength of character and high-minded resolve were vital in helping him to create (and maintain) one of the greatest of black swing bands in the USA during the Thirties and Forties.
Born in Fulton, Missouri, in June 1902, Lunceford was the son of a choirmaster and grew up in Denver, Colorado, learning guitar, trombone, flute, clarinet and all the saxophones while in high school. By the age of 20, he was playing alto saxophone at the Empress Theatre with Denver’s leading black orchestra, led by violinist George Morrison. Lunceford had studied music while in school under Wilberforce J. Whiteman, father of bandleader Paul Whiteman. His early musical prowess was encouraged when he attended Fisk University, in Nashville, Tennessee, then (as now) a leading educational establishment for blacks seeking professional status. Lunceford graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music in 1926 before setting off to New York to test himself further, working there with bands led by Wilbur Sweatman and Elmer Snowden, while continuing his studies at City College.