|Birth: ||Sep. 12, 1916|
South Carolina, USA
|Death: ||Apr. 29, 1981|
Los Angeles County
William Alonzo Anderson, known as Cat Anderson, was an American jazz trumpeter best known for his long period playing with Duke Ellington's orchestra, and for his extremely wide range (more than five octaves), especially his playing in the higher registers.
Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA) - Friday, May 1, 1981
WILLIAM "CAT" ANDERSON, 64, ELLINGTON'S KEYNOTE TRUMPETER
By Burr Van Atta
Inquirer Staff Writer
William Alonzo " Cat" Anderson, 64, a trumpet player who rode the " A Train"
to fame, died Thursday of cancer at Kaiser Medical Center in Norwalk, Calif.
Mr. Anderson lived in Philadelphia for 30 years and in recent years played
with studio and show bands. He scored his greatest hit on recordings with Duke
Ellington's orchestra of " Take the A Train."
Mr. Anderson, who was a warm and friendly man, learned the trumpet as a boy
growing up in an orphans' home in Charleston, S.C. He had been orphaned at age
" It was a good place for a kid to learn music," he said. " There wasn't
much else to do."
He patterned himself after Louis Armstrong, but bit by bit he switched from
the easy, rollicking tones of New Orleans to the high notes and skittering
around in the stratosphere of jazz, borrowed from the sounds of Chicago and
His freedom in the upper range became his trademark and earned him a place
beside Bix Beiderbecke and Roy Eldridge among jazz buffs. He was at his best
in the complexities of Billy Strayhorn's arrangements.
Mr. Anderson went on the road with his trumpet when he was 16, touring first
with the Carolina Cottonpickers and then with the Sunset Royal Orchestra.
He dropped from the touring circuit in 1941, ostensibly to settle down in
Philadelphia and play in the clubs that then dominated the city's nightlife.
He kept a home in the city for 30 years, living here when he was not on the
After being lured back to the road by Lionel Hampton in 1942, he joined Duke
Ellington in 1944.
His sound was one of the keys to the smooth Ellington style. He left the
Duke a few times (1947-1950 and 1959-1960) to form his own band but returned.
During his absences, the Ellington brass was said to seem muted. When Mr.
Anderson was on the bandstand, listeners could count on hearing the piercing
sound of the high-register lead trumpet in Ellington's signature song,
Strayhorn's " A Train."
Mr. Anderson left the Duke for the last time in 1970 to play with his own
quartet, record in studio sessions in Los Angeles and supply the music for TV
shows ranging from " Laugh-In" and " McMillan & Wife" to " Ironside." He also
toured with the Ice Capades.
He and his wife of 33 years, Dorothy, had picked out a house in the the
Wynnefield-Overbrook section and they planned to retire there. But then he was
Funeral arrangements were incomplete last night.
Copyright (c) 1981 The Philadelphia Inquirer
Created by: Steven Laird
Record added: Nov 04, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 100130674
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