Avery Parrish

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Avery Parrish
Birth nameJames Avery Parrish[1]
BornJanuary 24, 1917
Birmingham, Alabama, US
DiedDecember 10, 1959(1959-12-10) (aged 42)
New York City, New York, US
GenresJazz, blues
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, arranger
Years active1930s–1943

James Avery Parrish (January 24, 1917 – December 10, 1959) was an American jazz pianist, composer and arranger. He wrote and recorded "After Hours". Injuries from a bar fight in 1943 ended his career as a pianist.

Early life[edit]

Parrish was born in Birmingham, Alabama.[2] His parents were Curley and Fannie G Parrish.[1] Avery had at least one brother, who became an educator.[3]

Parrish graduated from Parker High School in Birmingham.[4] According to a gossip columnist in 1935, Parrish was at that time married to singer Velma Middleton.[5][6]

Later life[edit]

Parrish studied at the Alabama State Teachers College, where he played in the Bama State Collegians, an ensemble led by Erskine Hawkins.[2] He remained in Hawkins's employ until 1942,[7] and recorded with him extensively. Parrish wrote the music to "After Hours", and a 1940 recording of the tune with Hawkins's orchestra resulted in its becoming a jazz standard. He also wrote arrangements for Hawkins.[8]

In August 1942 Parrish was injured in a car crash that killed Marcellus Green, one of Hawkins's trumpeters.[9] They were in a group of five in the vehicle, driving between Pittsburgh and Chattanooga to gigs when it overturned.[10] Parrish left Hawkins later that year[7][11] and moved to California.[2] He was a commercially successful solo pianist there.[12] He was involved in a bar fight in 1943[13] – he was hit in the head by a bar stool[12] – which put him in hospital for a few months.[14] This left him partly paralyzed; he was unable to play music for the rest of his life.[2]

Parrish died of unknown causes[2] on December 10, 1959.[1][15] A contemporary report stated that he "had been found lying in Harlem streets five days before he died at the Harlem Hospital. There were no marks of violence on his body."[4] Author and music executive Arnold Shaw stated that Parrish suffered "a fall down a flight of stairs".[12] At the time, Parrish was living with his mother on Saint Nicholas Avenue and "working as a porter for a local bottling company."[16] He was buried in Ferncliff Cemetery, New York.[16] He was survived by his mother and a brother, Julian.[16]

In 1979, Parrish was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.


  1. ^ a b c Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S (2013) Blues: A Regional Experience. Praeger. p. 45.
  2. ^ a b c d e Yanow, Scott. "Avery Parrish – Artist Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  3. ^ Lambert, Katherine Kent (November 18, 1939) "Birmingham News". The Chicago Defender. p. 10.
  4. ^ a b "Musician Avery Parrish Dies". The Pittsburgh Courier. January 2, 1960. p. 23. Retrieved August 10, 2014 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  5. ^ McMillan, Allan (November 16, 1935) "Hi Hattin' in Harlem". The Chicago Defender. p. 9.
  6. ^ McMillan, Allan (July 4, 1964) "On Broadway: Private Papers of a Dawn Patroller". New Pittsburgh Courier p. 15.
  7. ^ a b "'Record Man' Returns to WOR Program" (May 9, 1942) The Pittsburgh Courier. p. 20.
  8. ^ McCarthy, Albert J (1974) Big Band Jazz. Putnam. p. 233.
  9. ^ "Erskine Hawkins Bandsman Is Killed: Hawkins Bandsman Killed in Accident Avery Parrish, Pianist. Among Others Hurt in Auto Capsizing". (August 15, 1942) New York Amsterdam Star-News. p. 1.
  10. ^ "Hawkins Band Member Dies in Car Crash". (August 15, 1942) The Pittsburgh Courier. p. 1.
  11. ^ "Rowe's Notebook". (October 17, 1942) The Pittsburgh Courier. p. 20.
  12. ^ a b c Shaw, Arnold (1978) Honkers and Shouters: The Golden Years of Rhythm and Blues. Collier. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-02-061760-0.
  13. ^ "Avery Parrish, Erskine Hawkins' Swing Pianist, Is Still Alive!". (August 14, 1943) The Pittsburgh Courier. p. 20.
  14. ^ "Avery Parrish Leaves Hospital". (November 6, 1943) The Pittsburgh Courier. p. 19.
  15. ^ Bruyninckx, Walter (1981) 60 Years of Recorded Jazz 1917–1977, Volume 9. W. Bruyninckx. p. 97.
  16. ^ a b c "Avery Parrish Pianist Dies; Was Composer". (December 19, 1959) New York Amsterdam News. p. 38.