Jay McShann

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Jay McShann
Jay McShann Billboard.jpg
Jay McShann in a 1944 advertisement
Background information
Birth name James Columbus McShann
Born (1916-01-12)January 12, 1916
Muskogee, Oklahoma, United States
Died December 7, 2006(2006-12-07) (aged 90)
Kansas City, Missouri
Genres Blues, swing, jazz, jump blues
Occupation(s) Musician, bandleader, composer
Instruments Vocals, piano
Years active 1931–2006
Labels Vee-Jay
Associated acts Charlie Parker, Bernard Anderson, Ben Webster, Walter Brown, Jimmy Witherspoon, Claude Williams
Jay McShann at The Edinburgh Jazz Festival, c. 1995

James Columbus "Jay" McShann (January 12, 1916 – December 7, 2006) was a jazz pianist and bandleader. He led bands in Kansas City, Missouri, that included Charlie Parker, Bernard Anderson, Ben Webster, and Walter Brown.

Music career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Nicknamed Hootie,[1] McShann was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Musically, his education came from Earl Hines' late-night broadcasts from Chicago's Grand Terrace Cafe: "When 'Fatha' [Hines] went off the air, I went to bed".[2] He began working as a professional musician in 1931, performing around Tulsa, Oklahoma and neighboring Arkansas.


McShann moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1936, and set up his own big band, which featured variously Charlie Parker (1937–42), Al Hibbler, Ben Webster, Paul Quinichette, Bernard Anderson, Gene Ramey, Jimmy Coe, Gus Johnson (1938–43),[3] Harold "Doc" West, Earl Coleman,[4] Walter Brown, and Jimmy Witherspoon among others. His first recordings were all with Charlie Parker, the first as "The Jay McShann Orchestra" on August 9, 1940.

Although they included both swing and blues numbers, the band played blues on most of its records; its most popular recording was "Confessin' the Blues". The group disbanded when McShann was drafted into the Army in 1944 and, the big-band era being over, he was unable to successfully restart it after the war ended.[citation needed]


After World War II McShann began to lead small groups featuring blues shouter Jimmy Witherspoon. Witherspoon started recording with McShann in 1945, and fronting McShann's band, and had a hit in 1949 with "Ain't Nobody's Business". As well as writing much material, Witherspoon continued recording with McShann's band, which also featured Ben Webster. McShann had a modern rhythm and blues hit with "Hands Off", featuring a vocal by Priscilla Bowman, in 1955.[citation needed]

In the late 1960s, McShann became popular as a singer as well as a pianist, often performing with violinist Claude Williams. He continued recording and touring through the 1990s. Well into his 80s, McShann still performed occasionally, particularly in the Kansas City area and Toronto, Ontario where he made his last recording "Hootie Blues" in February 2001 after a recording career of 61 years. In 1979, he appeared prominently in the documentary on Kansas City jazz, The Last of the Blue Devils.[citation needed]

McShann died on December 7, 2006 in Kansas City, Missouri, at the age of 90.[5] He was survived by his companion of more than 30 years, Thelma Adams (known as Marianne McShann), and three daughters.


The Rolling Stones recorded a cover version of "Confessin' the Blues" on the album Five by Five (1964). The song was written by McShann and Walter Brown in the 1940s. Crime-fiction writer Elmore Leonard featured McShann as a character in his 2005 novel, The Hot Kid.[citation needed]

Awards and honors[edit]



  1. ^ Scott Yanow. "Jay McShann | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-06-14. 
  2. ^ "Jay McShann Blog". Jaymcshann.com. September 23, 2012. Retrieved 2014-06-14. 
  3. ^ "Gus Johnson: 1913–2000". Jazzhouse.org. Retrieved 2014-06-14. 
  4. ^ The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. Books.google.es. November 18, 1999. Retrieved 2014-06-14. 
  5. ^ "Jay McShann: Kansas City Blues Pianist". The Independent. Independent Print Limited. December 9, 2006. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Images for Jay McShann And His Orchestra With Charlie Parker, Walter Brown, Al Hibbler, Paul Quinichette". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2014-06-14. 
  7. ^ "Jay McShann | Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-06-14. 

External links[edit]