Leroy Kirkland

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Leroy Kirkland, (February 10, 1906 – April 6, 1988) was an arranger, bandleader, guitarist and songwriter whose career spanned the eras of big band jazz, R&B, rock and roll and soul. Kirkland played guitar in southern jazz bands in the 1920s, and during the 1930s he worked as arranger and songwriter for Erskine Hawkins. He joined Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey in the 1940s and later in that decade began arranging music at Savoy Records in New York. He continued to arrange R&B artists for OKeh Records, Mercury Records and other companies. His work on 1963's #1 hit "Our Day Will Come" by Ruby and the Romantics is among his most successful arrangements.

He also directed "My Favorite Song" for Ella Fitzgerald on Decca Records (Decca #9-28433).

Two of his compositions became popular with jazz musicians: "Charleston Alley" (recorded by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Charlie Barnet, and others) and "Cloudburst" (recorded by Count Basie, The Pointer Sisters, and others).[1]

Some of Kirkland's more successful collaborations were with Screamin' Jay Hawkins ("I Put a Spell on You, "Little Demon","Yellow Coat", etc.) and Big Maybelle (Kirkland co-wrote her biggest hit, "Gabbin' Blues"). In 1956, Kirkland and his session band teamed up with 14-year-old singer Barbie Gaye to record an R&B song, "My Boy Lollypop". Kirkland's arrangement of the song resulted in a sound that was new and original. Years later, the style would become known as ska and would influence other genres such as blue beat, rocksteady, and, most popularly, reggae. When the song was covered eight years later by Jamaican artist Millie Small, the cover version with little change went on to become one of the biggest selling records worldwide. Later at Savoy Records, Kirkland worked with Nappy Brown and Wilbert Harrison. Although behind the scenes for most of his career, Kirkland contributed to the recordings of music legends such as Etta James, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, The Righteous Brothers, The Supremes, Brook Benton and the Five Satins.[2]


  1. ^ Franklin V, Benjamin (2016). An Encyclopedia of South Carolina Jazz and Blues Musicians. Columbia: University of South Carolina. p. 150. ISBN 978-1-61117-621-6. 
  2. ^ Artist Biography by Eugene Chadbourne at AllMusic