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Teddy Hill

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Teddy Hill (December 7, 1909 in Birmingham, Alabama – May 19, 1978 in Cleveland, Ohio) was a big band leader and the manager of Minton’s Playhouse, a seminal jazz club in Harlem. He played a variety of instruments, including drums, clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophone.

After moving to New York City, Hill had early gigs with the Whitman Sisters, George Howe and Luis Russell’s orchestra in the 1920s, later forming his own band in 1934, which found steady work over the NBC radio network. Over several years it featured such major young musicians as Roy Eldridge, Bill Coleman, Frankie Newton and Dizzy Gillespie. Hill’s band played at the Savoy Ballroom regularly, and toured England and France in the summer of 1937. After leaving the band business, Hill began to manage Minton’s Playhouse in 1940, which became a hub for the bebop style, featuring such major musicians as Thelonious Monk and Kenny Clarke. Hill left Minton’s in 1969, long after its musical significance had declined; he then became the manager of Baron’s Lounge.

In 1935, he recorded a four-tunes session for ARC (Banner, Conqueror, Melotone, Oriole, Perfect, Romeo). In 1936, he recorded two sessions (four tunes) for Vocalion. He signed with Bluebird in 1937 and recorded 18 tunes over three sessions.

Teddy Hill married Louise Welton in the 1920s. Their daughter Gwendolyn Louise Hill was born in 1930. Over time, Teddy and Louise separated and eventually divorced. Then, in the late 1930s, a singer named Bonnie Davis started working as a singer in New York, initially in Teddy Hill’s band. She and Hill had a daughter together, Beatrice Hill (born October 29, 1945 in New York City), who later became the singer Melba Moore.

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