Andy Kirk (musician)

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Andy Kirk
Birth name Andrew Dewey Kirk
Born (1898-05-28)May 28, 1898
Origin Newport, Kentucky, US
Died December 11, 1992(1992-12-11) (aged 94)
New York City
Genres Jazz
Occupations Musician
Instruments Saxophone, tuba
Labels Brunswick
Decca

Andrew Dewey Kirk (May 28, 1898 – December 11, 1992) was a jazz saxophonist and tubist best known as a bandleader of the "Twelve Clouds of Joy," popular during the swing era.

Kirk grew up in Denver, CO, where he was tutored under the wing of Wilberforce Whiteman, Paul Whiteman's father.[1] He started his musical career playing with George Morrison's band, but then went on to join Terrence Holder's Dark Clouds of Joy. In 1929 he was elected leader after Holder departed. Renaming the band to Clouds of Joy, Andy Kirk also relocated the band from Dallas, Texas, to Kansas City, Kansas.[2] Although officially titled as the Clouds of Joy, the band has also been known to be called the Twelve Clouds of Joy due to the number of musicians in the band.[2] They set up in the Pla-Mor Ballroom on the junction of 32nd and Main in Kansas City and made their first recording for Brunswick Records that same year. Mary Lou Williams came in as pianist at the last moment, but she impressed Brunswick's Dave Kapp, so she became a regular member of the band.[3] The pianist she replaced, Marion Jackson, did not take well to this[citation needed] but otherwise Kirk's band would be fairly stable with the incorporation of Williams.

Kirk moved the band to Kansas City, and since their first recordings in 1929–1930, they grew highly popular as they epitomized the Kansas City jazz sound.[2] In mid-1936, he was signed to Decca and made scores of popular records until 1946. He presumably disbanded and reformed his band during that 6-year recording layoff.

In 1938, Kirk and band held the top spot of the Billboard chart for 12 weeks with "I Won't Tell a Soul (I Love You)", written by Hughie Charles and Ross Parker, featuring Pha Terrell on vocals.[4] In 1942, Kirk and His Clouds of Joy recorded "Take It and Git", which on October 24, 1942, became the first single to hit number one on the Harlem Hit Parade, the predecessor to the Billboard R&B chart. In 1943, with June Richmond on vocals, he had a number 4 hit with "Hey Lawdy Mama".

Clouds of Joy[edit]

The band at various times included Buddy Tate (tenor saxophone), Claude Williams (violin), Pha Terrell (vocals), Mary Lou's then husband, John Williams, Bill Coleman,[5] Ken Kersey, Dick Wilson, Don Byas, "Shorty" Baker, Howard McGhee, Jimmy Forrest, Ben Smith, Fats Navarro, Charlie Parker (briefly),[3] Reuben Phillips, Ben Thigpen, Henry Wells, Milt Robinson, Floyd Smith, Hank Jones, Johnny Lynch, Joe Williams, Big Jim Lawson, Gino Murray and Joe Evans.[6]

In 1948, Andy Kirk folded the band and continued to do music after that, but eventually switched to hotel management and real estate[7] and also served as an official in the Musicians' Union.[3]

Although the leader of the band, Kirk usually was not a soloist, utilizing the talent in his band for the spotlight instead. His genius lay in realizing how best to make use of his band members' skills[8]

Their pianist, and the band's arranger, was Mary Lou Williams, who went on to become a prominent figure in her own right[9]

Selected LP/CD discography[edit]

  • Andy Kirk And His Clouds of Joy: Souvenir Album, Vol. 1 (recorded 1936–1941) (Coral #56019 [10" LP], 1951)
  • A Mellow Bit of Rhythm (recorded 1956; re-recordings of 12 of his hits; album reissued as Clouds From The Southwest) (RCA Victor #1302 [LP], 1956; reissue: RCA France #42418 [LP], 1979)
  • Instrumentally Speaking (1936–1942) [Andy Kirk & His Clouds of Joy #1/MCA Jazz Heritage Series #9] (Decca #79232 [LP], 1968; reissue: MCA #1308 [LP], 1980)
  • The Best of Andy Kirk (recorded 1936–1954) (MCA #4105 [double LP set], 1976)
  • The Lady Who Swings The Band (1936–1938) [Andy Kirk & His Clouds of Joy #2/MCA Jazz Heritage Series #20] (MCA #1343 [LP], 1982)
  • The Chronological Andy Kirk And His 12 Clouds of Joy 1929–1931 (Classics #655, 1992)
  • The Chronological Andy Kirk And His 12 Clouds of Joy 1936–1937 (Classics #573, 1991)
  • The Chronological Andy Kirk And His 12 Clouds of Joy 1937–1938 (Classics #581, 1991)
  • The Chronological Andy Kirk And His 12 Clouds of Joy 1938 (Classics #598, 1991)
  • The Chronological Andy Kirk And His 12 Clouds of Joy 1939–1940 (Classics #640, 1992)
  • The Chronological Andy Kirk And His Clouds of Joy 1940–1942 (Classics #681, 1993)
  • The Chronological Andy Kirk And His Orchestra 1943–1949 (Classics #1075, 2000)
  • Andy Kirk & Mary Lou Williams: Mary's Idea (recorded 1936–1937, and 1939–1941) (GRP #622, 1993)
  • Andy Kirk: The 12 Clouds Of Joy With Mary Lou Williams (recorded 1929–1940) (ASV-Living Era #5108, 1993)
  • An Introduction To Andy Kirk: His Best Recordings 1929–1946 (Best Of Jazz #4053, 1996)
  • Jukebox Hits 1936–1949 (Acrobat #4077, 2005)

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  • Andy Kirk Twenty Years on Wheels. As Told to Amy Lee. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1989.
  • Frank Driggs & Chuck Haddix Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop – A History. Oxford: Oxford University, Oxford 2005; ISBN 978-0-19-530712-2