Jazz Musician. He was an acclaimed jazz drummer and bandleader who was known as "King of the Drums." Composer of Stompin at the Savoy, A-Tisket A-Tasket, and Undecided. William Henry "Chick" Webb represented the triumph of the human spirit in Jazz and Life. Afflicted at birth with spinal tuberculosis which left him in poor health from his entire life, Webb was a small, hunchback of a man who possessed an "unconquerable spirit" and an astounding musical talent. He supported himself as a newspaper boy and saved up money to buy his first set of drums, and first played professionally in a local childrens orchestra at age 11. In his teens Webb played in bands working on local riverboats before moving to New York in 1925. There he performed with Edgar Dowell prior to forming his own group in 1926 and alternated between band tours at residencies at New York City Club's such as the Black Bottom,the Paddock Club ,the Roseland, the Cotton Club, and the Strand Roof through the late 1920's. These early jobs were secured for him through the efforts of Duke Ellington who instantly recognized Webb's talent. In 1931, Webb's band earned its fame and became the house band at the lengendary Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. He soon became one of the best-regarded bandleaders and drummers of the new "Swing" style. His theme song was Let's get Together. The Savoy often featured "Battle of the Bands" where Webb's band would compete with other top bands such as the Benny Goodman Orchestra or the Count Basie Orchestra from oppossing bands stands. The bands would fall before the awesome power of Chick Webbs's spectacular playing. His dynamic drumming and easily recognized compositions arranged by Edgar Sampson earned him and his band an enthusiastic following. Stompin' at the Savoy and Don't Be That Way were signature selections of the times. The bands popularity was unmatched throughout the country; they toured and played regularly for national radio broadcast. Webb's leading soloist were Johnny Hodges, Benny Carter, Louis Jordan, Taft Jordan and others. Webb soon married and in 1935 began featuring a teenage Ella Fitzgerald as vocalist. Webb later legally adopted her and Fitzgerald would become the bands leading attraction, sang Webb's hit recordings A-Tisket A-Tasket, 1938 and Undecided, 1939. In November of 1935, his health began to decline and from then until his death he alternated time on the bandstand with time in hospitals. After his death, Ella Fitzgerald led the Chick Webb Orchestra until it finally broke up in 1942.
Bio by: Curtis Jackson