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Walter Page's Blue Devils

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Biography

Walter Sylvester “Big ‘Un” Page (February 9, 1900 – December 20, 1957) was an American jazz multi-instrumentalist and bandleader, best known for his groundbreaking work as a double-bass player with Walter Page’s Blue Devils and the Count Basie Orchestra.

Walter Page was born in Gallatin, Missouri on February 9, 1900 to parents Edward and Blanche Page. Page showed a love for music even as a child, perhaps due in part to the influence of his aunt Lillie, a music teacher. Page’s mother, with whom he moved to Kansas City in 1910, exposed young Walter to folksongs and spirituals, a critical foundation for developing his love of music. He gained his first musical experience as a bass drum and bass horn player in the brass bands of his neighborhood. Under the direction of Major N. Clark Smith, a retired military bandleader who provided Page his first formal training in music, Page took up the string bass in his time at Lincoln High School. In an interview in The Jazz Review, Page remembers Major Smith:
“Major N. Clark Smith was my teacher in high school. He taught almost everybody in Kansas City. He was a chubby little cat, bald, one of the old military men. He wore glasses on his nose and came from Cuba around 1912 or 1914. He knew all the instruments and couldn’t play anything himself, but he could teach. …One day he was looking for a bass player and no one was around, so he looked at me, and said, “Pagey, get the bass.” I said, “But,” and he repeated, “Get the bass.” That’s when I got started.”

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