Hampton, Lionel

Hampton, Lionel,

1908?–2002, African-American vibraphonist and bandleader, b. Louisville, Ky. When his family moved to Chicago c.1916, the young Hampton began playing drums in a newsboys' band. He moved to Los Angeles as a teenager and became a drummer in saxophonist Les Hite's band. Encouraged by Louis ArmstrongArmstrong, Louis
(Daniel Louis Armstrong), known as "Satchmo" and "Pops," 1901–1971, American jazz trumpet virtuoso, singer, and bandleader, b. New Orleans. He learned to play the cornet in the band of the Waif's Home in New Orleans, and after playing with Kid Ory's
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, he soon learned the vibraphone and quickly became the instrument's leading jazz exponent, acclaimed early for his solos on Armstrong's 1930 recording of the now-classic "Memories of You." As a member of the Benny GoodmanGoodman, Benny
(Benjamin David Goodman), 1909–86, American clarinetist, composer, and band leader, b. Chicago. Goodman studied clarinet at Hull House. In Chicago he had the opportunity to hear (and eventually to play beside) some of the outstanding jazz musicians of the
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 Quartet, Hampton toured from 1936 to 1940, when he formed a big band of his own. His ensemble included such luminaries as Clifford Brown, Betty Carter, and Quincy Jones in its ranks. Known for his harmonic and rhythmic sophistication and his dynamic showmanship, Hampton often moved from vibes to drums to two-fingered piano, leading his group not only in the performance of swing, but in bop and rhythm and blues as well. He toured internationally into the 1990s, frequently leading small jazz groups.


See his autobiography (1989).

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Hampton, Lionel (Leo)

(1909–  ) jazz musician; born in Louisville, Ky. Originally a drummer, he later introduced the vibraphone into jazz on a recording with Louis Armstrong in 1930. He came to prominence as a member of Benny Goodman's small groups in the late 1930s. He formed his first big band in 1942, continuing as a leader until the 1990s, and presenting his entertaining blend of musicianship and showmanship on many tours.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.