Sid Catlett

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Sid Catlett
Catlett in New York, March 1947.
Catlett in New York, March 1947.
Background information
Birth nameSidney Catlett
Also known as"Big Sid" Catlett
BornJanuary 17, 1910
Evansville, Indiana
United States
DiedMarch 25, 1951(1951-03-25) (aged 41)
Chicago, Illinois
United States

Sidney "Big Sid" Catlett (January 17, 1910 – March 25, 1951) was an American jazz drummer. Catlett was one of the most versatile drummers of his era, adapting with the changing music scene as it progressed toward bebop.

Early life[edit]

Catlett was born in Evansville, Indiana and at an early age he was instructed in the rudiments of piano and drums under the tutelage of a music teacher hired by his mother. When he and his family relocated to Chicago, Catlett received his first drum kit, and immersed himself in the diverse styles and techniques of Zutty Singleton, Warren "Baby" Dodds, and Jimmy Bertrand, among others.[1]

Later life and career[edit]

In 1928, Catlett began playing with violinist and clarinet player Darnell Howard, before joining pianist Sammy Stewart's Orchestra in New York City and making appearances at the Savoy Ballroom.[2]

After performing for several lesser established musical acts, Catlett began recording and performing with multiple musicians including Benny Carter, McKinney's Cotton Pickers, Fletcher Henderson, and Don Redman throughout the 1930s. Between 1938 and 1942, Catlett was Louis Armstrong's drummer of choice as he was regularly featured in Armstrong's big band, while also periodically joining Benny Goodman's group.[3] Following a brief stint in collaboration with Duke Ellington in 1945, Catlett led some of his own bands through the remainder of the 1940s,[4] and was involved in Armstrong's All-Stars between 1947 and 1949.[5]

Catlett was one of the few drummers to successively transition into bebop, appearing on Dizzy Gillespie's progressive recordings in 1945.[2] Catlett is heard on two tracks of the Gillespie-Charlie Parker segment of a New Jazz Foundation concert at New York's Town Hall, recorded in June 1945.[6] In 1950 he performed with Hoagy Carmichael at the Copley Plaza Hotel.[3] In early 1951, he began to suffer from pneumonia. In that same year, he died of a heart attack while visiting friends backstage at a Hot Lips Page benefit concert in Chicago, Illinois.[2]

In 1996, he was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame.

Partial discography[edit]

  • Jam Sessions at Commodore (1951 LP)[7]

With Ruth Brown



  1. ^ "Big Sid (Sidney)". Archived from the original on September 5, 2015. Retrieved August 25, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b c "Sidney "Big Sid" Catlett: Busting Open Doors To The Modern Drumming Age". Modern Drummer. May 2010.
  3. ^ a b Wein, George; Chinen, Nate (2003). Myself Among Others: A Life In Music. Da Capo Press. pp. 77-79. ISBN 0-306-81352-1.
  4. ^ Kelsey, Chris. "Big Sid Catlett - Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved April 29, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Balliett, Whitney (2002). Collected Works: A Journal of Jazz 1954-2001 (1st ed.). St. Martin's Press. p. 57. ISBN 0-312-20288-1.
  6. ^ Nastos, Michael G. "Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Town Hall, New York City, June 22, 1945". AllMusic. RhythmOne Group. Retrieved 12 January 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ Commodore LP DL 30,006, 1951

External links[edit]