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Chick Webb & His Orchestra

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William Henry Webb, usually known as Chick Webb (February 10, 1905 –June 16, 1939) was a jazz and swing music drummer as well as a band leader.

Chick Webb represented the triumph of the human spirit in jazz and life. Hunchbacked, small in stature, almost a dwarf with a large face and broad shoulders, Webb fought off congenital tuberculosis of the spine in order to become one of the most competitive drummers and band leaders of the big band era. Perched high upon a platform, he used custom-made pedals, goose-neck cymbal holders, a 28-inch bass drum and a wide variety of other percussion instruments to create thundering solos of a complexity and energy that paved the way for Buddy Rich (who studied Webb intensely) and Louie Bellson.

William Henry Webb bought his first set of drums with his earnings as a newsboy, and he began playing in bands on pleasure boats. After moving to New York in 1925, he led bands in various clubs before settling in for long regular runs at the Savoy beginning in 1931. In the 1930s Chick Webb and his band were the mainstay at the Savoy, a popular and prominent Harlem night club at the time. He was involved in numerous “Battle of the Bands” contests, which he won handily by means of the dancers’ votes. As a result he came to be known as the “King of Swing.”

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