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Arthur G. Hickman (June 13, 1886 – January 16, 1930) was a drummer, pianist, and band leader whose orchestra is sometimes seen as an ancestor to Big band music. It fits into what are termed "sweet bands", something like that of Paul Whiteman. His orchestra is also credited, perhaps dubiously, with being among the first jazz bands. Jelly Roll Morton disputed this notion, as did Hickman himself. At first he even disputed that "jazz" was music at all, alternatively calling it a kind of bubbling water or just noise. Although born in Oakland, he lived in San Francisco, California for most of his life.
His father had various jobs, but his mother had been in vaudeville. He had little to no musical training, but by 1913 he played piano and or drums for a San Francisco hotel. By 1914 he was leading a band which would sometimes be deemed a "jazz band", but he rejected the term as late as 1928. He strongly associated jazz with African Americans, sometimes disparagingly and other times in a flattering way, and he was not one.
In 1917 he had one of his biggest successes with the song "Rose Room", which was named after the hotel room. In 1919 Columbia Records paid to have the band come from San Francisco to New York City to make a series of phonograph records. These records sold well. Despite high paying offers, Hickman refused to relocate his band to New York City, preferring San Francisco, though he repeatedly brought the band back to the east coast for additional recording dates and limited engagements.
He had intended to do a history of jazz, and also had other projects, but by 1929 he was suffering from Banti's syndrome. In 1930 he died.
English musician Ben Black was among those who worked in his orchestra.
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- Article by Bruce Vermazen
- Art Hickman's Orchestra: The San Francisco Sound, Volume 1 (Archeophone Records 6003)
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