Williams circa 1945-1955
|Birth name||Charles Melvin Williams|
July 10, 1911|
Mobile, Alabama, U.S.
|Died||September 15, 1985
New York, U.S.
|Genres||Jazz, jump blues, R&B|
|Associated acts||Duke Ellington, Rex Stewart|
Born in Mobile, Alabama, United States, Williams began his professional career with the Young Family band, which included saxophonist Lester Young, when he was 14 years old. According to Williams he acquired his nickname as a boy when his father took him to a band concert. When it was over his father asked him what he'd heard and the lad replied "Cootie, cootie, cootie".
In 1928, he made his first recordings with pianist James P. Johnson in New York, where he also worked briefly in the bands of Chick Webb and Fletcher Henderson. He rose to prominence as a member of Duke Ellington's orchestra, with which he first performed from 1929 to 1940. He also recorded his own sessions during this time, both freelance and with other Ellington sidemen. Williams was renowned for his "jungle" style trumpet playing (in the manner of Ellington's earlier trumpeter Bubber Miley and trombonist Joe "Tricky Sam" Nanton) and for his use of the plunger mute. He also sang occasionally, a notable example being in the Ellington piece, "Echoes of the Jungle".
In 1940 he joined Benny Goodman's orchestra, a highly publicized move that caused quite a stir at the time (commemorated by Raymond Scott with the song "When Cootie Left the Duke"), then in 1941 formed his own orchestra, in which over the years he employed Charlie Parker, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Bud Powell, Eddie Vinson, and other young players.
By the late 1940s Williams had fallen somewhat into obscurity, having had to reduce his band numbers and finally to disband. In the 1950s, he began to play more rhythm and blues, and toured with small groups. In the late 1950s he formed a small jazz group and recorded a number of albums with Rex Stewart, as well as his own album, Cootie in Hi-Fi (1958). In 1962, he rejoined Ellington and stayed with the orchestra until 1974, after Ellington's death. In 1975, he performed during the Super Bowl IX halftime show. He was a 1991 inductee of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.
Williams died in New York on September 15, 1985, at age 74. He is interred in The Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York City.
- Cootie Williams and His Orchestra 1941–1944 (Classics, 1995)
- Cootie Williams and His Orchestra 1945–1946 (Classics, 1999)
- Cootie Williams and His Orchestra 1946–1949 (Classics, 2000)
- Cootie and Rex (Jazztone, 1957) (with Rex Stewart)
- The Big Challenge (Jazztone, 1957) (with Rex Stewart)
- Porgy and Bess Revisited (Warner Bros., 1958) (with Rex Stewart)
- Cootie in Hi-Fi (Jazztone, 1958)
- Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London, UK: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5.
- Robinson, J. Bradford (1994). "Williams, Cootie". In Kernfeld, Barry. The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. New York, New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 1290.
- Curtis, Constance; Herndon, Cholie (April 30, 1949). "Know your Boroughs Orchestra Men Talk About Show Business". The New York Amsterdam News. p. 15.
- Visser, Joop (2001). "Disc Four - Take the A-Train". Duke Ellington - Masterpieces 1926-1949 (CD booklet). Duke Ellington. England: Proper. pp. 39–52. PROPERBOX 25.
- Schenker, Anatol (1995). Cootie Williams and His Orchestra 1941–1944 (CD booklet). Cootie Williams. France: Classics. pp. 3–8. CLASSICS 827.
- "The Laugh is on Maestro Cootie". The Afro American. May 3, 1947. Retrieved November 28, 2010.
- Allmusic biography
- Cootie Williams at the Internet Movie Database
- Official website of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame