Arthur Whetsel

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Arthur Whetsol)
Arthur Whetsel
Birth nameArthur Parker Whetsel
Also known asArt Whetsol
BornFebruary 22, 1905
Punta Gorda, Florida
DiedMay 1, 1940(1940-05-01) (aged 35)
Central Islip, New York
GenresJazz, Dixieland
Years active1922–1938

Arthur Parker Whetsel (February 22, 1905[1] – May 1, 1940) was an early "sweet" trumpeter for Duke Ellington's Washingtonians.[2]


Arthur Whetsel was born in Punta Gorda, Florida, one of two children of the Reverend Oscar N. Whetsel, an elder in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, originally of Piqua, Ohio, and Lucy W. Parker, a schoolteacher originally from Marion County, Alabama. After Oscar Whetsel's death in 1906, his widow married the Reverend Lewis Charles Sheafe (1859–1938), who was the leading African American minister in the Seventh-day Adventist Church during the early twentieth century.[3]

Arthur Whetsel grew up in Los Angeles, California, where he started playing the cornet at the age of eight.[4] In his teens, his family moved to Washington, D.C., where, after playing in a number of bands and stage shows, he became one of the members of Duke Ellington's first band, The Washingtonians; and was present, on July 26, 1923, in New York City when The Washingtonians, billed as Snowden's Novelty Orchestra with Elmer Snowden on banjo and saxophone, Ellington on piano, Whetsel on trumpet, Sonny Greer on drums and vocals and Otto Hardwick on clarinet made a "trial recording" at the Victor Talking Machine Company; it was Ellington's first visit to a recording studio.[5]

Leaving the band in 1923 to study medicine, he returned in 1928 to perform on a number of Ellington's most recognizable pieces during Ellington's stint at the Cotton Club, including "Black Beauty", "Black and Tan", and "Mood Indigo". His sound provided a contrast with Bubber Miley, Ellington's other trumpeter during the period. He had a unique broad open tone of ample depth and sonority despite the elegant, soft quality of his muted play.

Whetsel's behavior became erratic in 1938, and after an incident where he "went haywire" during a gig at Rutgers University, he was replaced by trumpeter Wallace Jones.[6] Diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, he was confined to the Central Islip State Hospital (later the Central Islip Psychiatric Center) in Suffolk County, New York, where he died in May 1940.[7]

He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York.


  1. ^ U.S. Passport Application for Arthur Parker Whetsel, December 6, 1924 at
  2. ^ The Rough Guide to Jazz Carr, Ian; Fairweather, Digby; Priestley, Brian; Alexander, Charles Google books
  3. ^ "Lewis C. Sheafe: Apostle to Black America," at
  4. ^ "Arthur Whetsol Buried," (Pittsburgh) Courier, May 11, 1940, 21.
  5. ^ "Swing » Jazz Blues Club". Archived from the original on 2014-03-08. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
  6. ^ "Talk o'Town," (Pittsburgh) Courier, March 5, 1938, 9
  7. ^ 1940 Federal census for Town of Islip, Suffolk County, New York [Suffolk County Enumeration District 52, Sheet 129-B]

External links[edit]