Lionel Leo Hampton (April 20, 1908 – August 31, 2002) was an American jazz vibraphonist, pianist, percussionist, bandleader and actor. Along with Red Norvo, Hampton was one of the first jazz vibraphone players. Hampton ranks among the great names in jazz history, having worked with a who's who of jazz musicians, from Benny Goodman and Buddy Rich to Charlie Parker and Quincy Jones. In 1992, he was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.
Lionel Hampton was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1908, and was raised by his grandmother. Shortly after he was born, he and his mother moved to her hometown Birmingham, Alabama. He spent his early childhood in Kenosha, Wisconsin before he and his family moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1916. As a youth, Hampton was a member of the Bud Billiken Club, an alternative to the Boy Scouts of America, which was off limits because of racial segregation. During the 1920s—while still a teenager—Hampton took xylophonelessons from Jimmy Bertrand and started playing drums. Hampton was raised Roman Catholic, and started out playing fife and drum at the Holy Rosary Academy near Chicago.
Lionel Hampton began his career playing drums for the Chicago Defender Newsboys' Band (led by Major N. Clark Smith) while still a teenager in Chicago. He moved to California in 1927 or 1928, playing drums for the Dixieland Blues-Blowers. He made his recording debut with The Quality Serenaders led by Paul Howard, then left for Culver City and drummed for the Les Hite band at Sebastian's Cotton Club. One of his trademarks as a drummer was his ability to do stunts with multiple pairs of sticks such as twirling and juggling without missing a beat. During this period he began practicing on the vibraphone. In 1930 Louis Armstrong came to California and hired the Les Hite band, asking Hampton if he would play vibes on two songs. So began his career as a vibraphonist, popularizing the use of the instrument in the process. Invented ten years earlier, the vibraphone is essentially a xylophone with metal resonators equipped with electric-powered fans that that added vibrato.
While working with the Les Hite band, Hampton also occasionally did some performing with Nat Shilkret and his orchestra. During the early 1930s he studied music at the University of Southern California. In 1934 he led his own orchestra, and then appeared in the Bing Crosby film Pennies From Heaven (1936) alongside Louis Armstrong (wearing a mask in a scene while playing drums).
As far as I'm concerned, what he did in those days—and they were hard days in 1937—made it possible for Negroes to have their chance in baseball and other fields.Lionel Hampton on Benny Goodman
Also in November 1936, the Benny Goodman Orchestra came to Los Angeles to play the Palomar Ballroom. When John Hammond brought Goodman to see Hampton perform, Goodman invited him to join his trio, which thus became the celebrated Benny Goodman Quartet with Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa completing the lineup. The Trio and Quartet were among the first racially integrated jazz groups to perform before audiences, and were a leading small-group of the day.Lionel Hampton at the Aquarium, New York, c.June 1946 (photograph:William Gottlieb)
While Hampton worked for Goodman in New York, he recorded with several different small groups known as the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, as well as assorted small groups within the Goodman band. In 1940 Hampton left the Goodman organization under amicable circumstances to form his own big band.
Hampton's orchestra became popular during the 1940s and early 1950s. His third recording with them in 1942 produced a classic version of "Flying Home", featuring a solo by Illinois Jacquet that anticipated rhythm & blues. Although Hampton first recorded "Flying Home" under his own name with a small group in 1940 for Victor, the best and most famous version is the big band version recorded for Decca on May 26, 1942 in a new arrangement by Hampton's pianist Milt Buckner. The selection became very popular, and so in 1944 Hampton recorded "Flying Home, Number Two" featuring Arnett Cobb. The song went on to become the theme song for all three men. Guitarist Billy Mackel first joined Hampton in 1944, and would perform and record with him almost continuously through the late 1970s. In 1947 he performed "Stardust" at a "Just Jazz" concert for producer Gene Norman, also featuring Charlie Shavers and Slam Stewart; ther recording was issued by Norman's label GNP Crescendo.
From the mid-1940s until the early 1950s, Hampton led a lively rhythm & blues band whose Decca Records recordings included numerous young performers who later achieved fame. They included bassist Charles Mingus, saxophonist Johnny Griffin, guitarist Wes Montgomery, vocalist Dinah Washington and keyboardist Milt Buckner. Other noteworthy band members were trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie, Cat Anderson, Kenny Dorham, and Snooky Young; trombonist Jimmy Cleveland, and saxophonists Illinois Jacquet and Jerome Richardson.
The Hampton orchestra that toured Europe in 1953 included Clifford Brown, Gigi Gryce, Anthony Ortega, Monk Montgomery, George Wallington, Art Farmer, Quincy Jones, and singer Annie Ross. Hampton continued to record with small groups and jam sessions during the 1940s and 1950s, with Oscar Peterson, Buddy DeFranco, and others. In 1955, while in California working on The Benny Goodman Story he recorded with Stan Getz and made two albums with Art Tatum for Norman Granz as well as with his own big band.
Hampton performed with Louis Armstrong and Italian singer Lara Saint Paul at the 1968 Sanremo Music Festival in Italy. The performance created a sensation with Italian audiences, as it broke into a real jazz session. That same year, Hampton received a Papal Medal from Pope Paul VI.Lionel Hampton during a concert in Aachen (Germany) on May 19, 1977
During the 1960s, Hampton's groups were in decline; he was still performing what had succeeded for him earlier in his career. He did not fare much better in the 1970s, though he recorded actively for his Who's Who in Jazz record label, which he founded in 1977/1978.
Beginning in February 1984, Hampton and his band played at the University of Idaho's annual jazz festival, which was renamed the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival the following year. In 1987 the UI's school of music was renamed for Hampton, the first university music school named for a jazz musician.
Hampton remained active until a stroke in Paris in 1991 led to a collapse on stage. That incident, combined with years of chronic arthritis, forced him to cut back drastically on performances. However, he did play at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2001 shortly before his death.
On November 11, 1936, in Yuma, Arizona, Lionel Hampton married Gladys Riddle (c. 1910-1971). Gladys was Lionel's business manager throughout much of his career. Many musicians recall that Lionel ran the music and Gladys ran the business.
During the 1950s he had a strong interest in Judaism and raised money for Israel. In 1953 he composed a King David suite and performed it in Israel with the Boston Pops Orchestra. Later in life Hampton became a Christian Scientist. Hampton was a Thirty-third degree Prince Hall freemason in New York, also. In January 1997, his apartment caught fire and destroyed his awards and belongings; Hampton escaped uninjured.President George W. Bush honors Lionel Hampton during a ceremony recognizing Black Music Month in theEast Room of the White House on June 30, 2001.
Lionel Hampton died from congestive heart failure at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City, on 31 August 2002. He was later interred at the Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York. His funeral was held on September 7, 2002 and featured a performance by Wynton Marsalis and David Ostwald's Gully Low Jazz Band at Riverside Church in Manhattan; the procession began at The Cotton Club in Harlem.
Hampton was deeply involved in the construction of various public housing projects, and founded the Lionel Hampton Development Corporation. Construction began with the Lionel Hampton Houses in Harlem, New York in the 1960s, with the help of then Republican governor Nelson Rockefeller. Hampton's wife—Gladys Hampton—also was very involved in construction of a housing project in her name—the Gladys Hampton Houses. Gladys died in 1971. In the 1980s, Hampton built another housing project called Hampton Hills in Newark, New Jersey.
Hampton was a staunch Republican and served as a delegate to several Republican National Conventions. He served as Vice-Chairman of the New York Republican County Committee for some years and also was a member of the New York City Human Rights Commission. Hampton donated almost $300,000 to Republican campaigns and committees throughout his lifetime.
- 2001 - Harlem Jazz and Music Festival's Legend Award
- 1996 - National Medal of Arts presented by President Bill Clinton
- 1995 - Honorary Commissioner of Civil Rights by George Pataki
- 1995 - Honorary Doctorate from the New England Conservatory of Music
- 1993 - Honorary Doctorate from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore
- 1992 - Inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame
- 1992 - "Contributions To The Cultural Life of the Nation" award from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
- 1988 - The National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Fellowship
- 1988 - The National Association of Jazz Educators Hall of Fame Award
- 1987 - Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from the University of Idaho - UI's School of Music renamed "Lionel Hampton School of Music."
- 1987 - The Roy Wilkins Memorial Award from the NAACP
- 1986 - The "One of a Kind" Award from Broadcast Music, Inc.
- 1984 - Jazz Hall of Fame Award from the Institute of Jazz Studies
- 1984 - Honorary Doctorate of Music from USC
- 1983 - The International Film and Television Festival of New York City Award
- 1983 - Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the State University of New York
- 1982 - Hollywood Walk of Fame Star
- 1981 - Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Glassboro State College
- 1979 - Honorary Doctorate of Music from Howard University
- 1978 - Bronze Medallion from New York City
- 1976 - Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Daniel Hale Williams University
- 1975 - Honorary Doctorate of Music from Xavier University of Louisiana
- 1974 - Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Pepperdine University
- 1968 - Papal Medal from Pope Paul VI
- 1966 - George Frederick Handel Medal
- 1957 - American Goodwill Ambassador by President Dwight D. Eisenhower
- 1954 - Israel's Statehood Award
|1937–39||Benny Goodman -The Complete RCA Victor Small Group Recordings||along with Teddy Wilson, appearing as sideman with Benny Goodman||RCA Records|
|1937–39||Hot Mallets, Vol. 1||appearances by Cootie Williams, Johnny Hodges, Harry James, Benny Carter, Chu Berry, Rex Stewart, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Charlie Christian||Bluebird Records|
|1937–39||The Jumpin Jive, Vol. 2||Bluebird Records|
|1938||The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert||appearance as sideman for Benny Goodman||Columbia Records|
|1939–40||Tempo and Swing||appearances by Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Nat "King" Cole and Helen Forrest||Bluebird Records|
|1944||Star Dust||the famous "Just Jazz" jam session||Verve Records|
|1947||with the Just Jazz All Stars||Charlie Shavers, Willie Smith, Corky Corcoran, Milt Buckner, Slam Stewart, Jackie Mills, Lee Young||GNP Crescendo/Vogue 78s/London Records 1972 transfer|
|1953–54||The Lionel Hampton Quintet||with DeFranco and Peterson. Includes a 17 minute jam on "Flyin Home". There is also a 5CD box of the complete Verve recordings of the quartets and quintets with Peterson, as well as a number of other compilations and selections.||Verve Records|
|1955||Hamp and Getz||Verve Records|
|1958||Golden Vibes||with a reed quintet||Columbia Records|
|1960||Silver Vibes||with a Trombones And Rhythms (Trombone Quartet)||Columbia Records|
|1963||Benny Goodman Together Again!||reunion with Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson & Gene Krupa||Columbia Records|
|1963||You Better Know It!!!||with Clark Terry, Ben Webster, Hank Jones, Milt Hinton, Osie Johnson||Impulse! Records|
|1972||Please Sunrise||Brunswick Record Corporation|
|1979||Live In Emmen/Holland||Timeless Muse|
|1988||Mostly Blues||Jazz Heritage Society|
|1991||Live at the Blue Note||jamming with old friends including trombonist Al Grey||Columbia Records|
|1995||For the Love of Music||featuring Norman Brown, Ron Carter, Roy Haynes, Chaka Khan, Tito Puente, Joshua Redman, Dianne Reeves, Wallace Roney, Patrice Rushen, Grover Washington Jr., and Stevie Wonder||Motown Record Company|
|37–40||Swing Classics - Lionel Hampton and His Jazz Groups||Recordings from 1937-1940 Reissued 1961||RCA Victor LPM-2318|
|39–56||Greatest Hits||Selections from above records||RCA Victor|
|37–63||The Lionel Hampton Story||Selections from all records and eras above||Proper|
|1933||Girl Without A Room||himself||Ralph Murphy||Comedy|
|1936||Pennies From Heaven||himself||Norman Z. McLeod||Comedy/Musical|
|1937||Hollywood Hotel||himself||Busby Berkeley||Musical/Romance|
|1938||For Auld Lang Syne||himself||?||Documentary|
|1948||A Song Is Born||himself||Howard Hawks||Comedy/Musical|
|1949||Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra||himself||Will Cowan||Music|
|1955||Musik, Musik and nur Musik||himself||Ernst Matray||Comedy|
|1955||The Benny Goodman Story||himself||Valentine Davies||Drama|
|1957||Mister Rock and Roll||himself||Charles S. Dubin||Drama/Musical|
|1980||But Then She's Betty Carter||himself||Michelle Parkerson||Documentary|