|Birth name||Albert C. Ammons|
September 23, 1907|
Chicago, Illinois, United States
|Died||December 2, 1949
Chicago, Illinois, United States
|Genres||Jazz, blues, boogie-woogie|
|Labels||Blue Note, Delmark, Mercury, Vocalion|
Life and career
Born in Chicago, Illinois, his parents were pianists, and he had learned to play by the age of ten. His interest in boogie-woogie is attributed to his close friendship with Meade Lux Lewis and also his father's interest in the style. Both Albert and Meade would practice together on the piano in the Ammons household. From the age of ten, Ammons learned about chords by marking the depressed keys on the family pianola (player piano) with a pencil and repeated the process until he had mastered it. He also played percussion in the drum and bugle corps as a teenager and was soon performing with bands on the Chicago club scene. After World War I he became interested in the blues, learning by listening to Chicago pianists Hersal Thomas and the brothers Alonzo and Jimmy Yancey.
In the early to mid-1920s Ammons worked as a cab driver for the Silver Taxicab Company. In 1924 he met back up with boyhood friend and fellow taxi driver Meade Lux Lewis. Soon the two players began working as a team, performing at club parties. Ammons started his own band at the Club DeLisa in 1934 and remained at the club for the next two years. During that time he played with a five piece unit that included Guy Kelly, Dalbert Bright, Jimmy Hoskins, and Israel Crosby. Ammons also recorded as Albert Ammons's Rhythm Kings for Decca Records in 1936. The Rhythm Kings' version of "Swanee River Boogie" sold a million copies.
Ammons moved from Chicago to New York City, where he teamed up with another pianist, Pete Johnson. The two performed regularly at the Café Society, occasionally joined by Lewis, and performed with other jazz musicians such as Benny Goodman and Harry James.
In 1938 Ammons appeared at Carnegie Hall with Johnson and Lewis at From Spirituals to Swing, an event that helped launch the boogie-woogie craze. Two weeks later, record producer Alfred Lion, who had attended John H. Hammond's From Spirituals to Swing concert on December 23, 1938, which had introduced Ammons and Lewis, started Blue Note Records, recording nine Ammons solos including "The Blues" and "Boogie Woogie Stomp", eight by Lewis and a pair of duets in a one-day session in a rented recording studio.
In 1941, Ammons' boogie music was accompanied by drawn-on-film animation in the short film Boogie-Doodle by Norman McLaren. Ammons played himself in the movie Boogie-Woogie Dream (1944), with Lena Horne and Johnson. As a sideman with Sippie Wallace in the 1940s Ammons recorded a session with his son, the tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons. Although the boogie-woogie fad began to die down in 1945, Ammons had no difficulty securing work. He continued to tour as a solo artist, and between 1946 and 1949 recorded his last sides for Mercury Records, with bassist Israel Crosby, and took on the position of staff pianist with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra. In 1949 he played at President Harry S. Truman's inauguration.
During the final years of his life, Ammons played mainly in Chicago's 'Beehive Club' and the 'Tailspin Club', and four days before he died he had been at the Yancey apartment listening to Don Ewell and Jimmy Yancey play. Albert himself could only play one song, having just regained the use of his hands after a temporary paralysis.
Albert Ammons died of natural causes on December 2, 1949, in Chicago, three months before his 43rd birthday. He was interred at the Lincoln Cemetery, at Kedzie Avenue in Blue Island, Worth Township, Cook County, Illinois.
Ammons has had wide influence on countless pianists, such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Dave Alexander, Dr. John, Hadda Brooks, Johnnie Johnson, Ray Bryant, Erroll Garner, Katie Webster, Axel Zwingenberger, Henri Herbert, and the German pianist, Jörg Hegemann. The latter honoured Ammons, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Ammons' birth, with his album, A Tribute to Albert Ammons.
- "Boogie Woogie Prayer"
- "Shout for Joy"
- "Woo-Woo" (1939) (Columbia 35958, C44-2)
|Year of release||Album title||Record label|
|1941||Boogie Woogie (compilation)||Columbia Records C44|
|1941||8 to the Bar (with Pete Johnson)||RCA Victor|
|1948||King of Boogie Woogie (1939-1949)||Blues Classics|
|1951||Boogie Woogie Classics||Blue Note Records|
|1975||King of Blues and Boogie Woogie 1907-1949||Oldie Blues|
|1982||King of Blues and Boogie Woogie 1907-1949 Vol. 2||Oldie Blues|
|1992||The First Day||Blue Note|
|2004||The Boogie Woogie Trio, Vols. 1-2||Storyville|
- Boogie Woogie Stomp - Albert Ammons & His Music by Christopher I. Page, 1997; ISBN 978-1-885066-32-9
- List of blues musicians
- List of boogie woogie musicians
- List of jazz pianists
- List of Mercury Records artists
- Doc Rock. "The 50s and earlier". The Dead Rock Stars Club. Retrieved 2016-07-20.
- Cook, Richard (2005). Richard Cook's Jazz Encyclopedia. London: Penguin Books. p. 12. ISBN 0-141-00646-3.
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- Feather, Leonard G. Encyclopedia of Jazz, Horizon Press, page 101, (1960) - ISBN 0-8180-1203-X
- Silvester, p. 186
- Olderen, Martin van, Albert Ammons - King of Blues and Boogie Woogie 1907-1949, liner notes, Oldie Blues OL 2807, 1975
- "Various – Boogie Woogie". Discogs. Retrieved 2015-12-13.
- "King of Blues and Boogie Woogie 1907-1949 Vol. 2". Discogs. Retrieved May 13, 2013.