Thursday, October 13, 2022

Jimmy Crawford - the Engine Room for the Jimmie Lunceford Harlem Express

 © Copyright ® Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“The drummer situation is unbelievable. There are not many big-band drummers around. The young guys don't know how to assert authority. They have no experience whatsoever except in small groups. So I use Jimmy Crawford a lot. He can give me spirit, time, enthusiasm, sympathy with the musical situation, a professional attitude and — very important —musical discipline.

"The thing we did with Dinah Washington (Swingin’ Miss D) was one of the best albums we ever made, and Crawford played drums on it. Guys like him and [bassist] Milt Hinton are irreplaceable. There is nobody anywhere in the world like them."


“He never was intrusive. Craw swung a band without making a noise. I mean, you felt him.”


At one time or another during the heyday of The Swing Era [primarily the 1930s] most Jazz musicians wanted to try their hand at playing in a big band. Membership in one was both a training ground and a proving ground.

When you play in a big band that clicks, there’s nothing in the world like it.

The surge of energy and rhythmic propulsion generated by a powerful big band leaves you giddy with excitement.

Navigating your way through a big band arrangement with a dozen or so [later to be up to 15 or more] companion musicians creates a sense of deep satisfaction that comes from successfully meeting a difficult challenge.

The art of individualism, which is so much a part of Jazz, gets put aside and is replaced by the teamwork and shared cooperation of playing in an ensemble setting.

When it all comes together you feel like you’re in love; overwhelmed by something bigger than you and that you don’t understand.

You gotta pay attention; you gotta concentrate and you gotta do your best, otherwise it’s a train wreck.

So much goes into the creation and maintenance of a successful big band

- great arrangements

- strong section leaders to help keep the band organized

- great soloists to keep the music interesting and not too repetitive 

- a tight rhythm section with an energetic drummer to power the music along

- and most of all, a great leader who melds it all together.

"Although it did not play concerts. Lunceford's [band] was a show band par excellence, a smash hit in black theatres like the Apollo in Harlem, the Royal in Baltimore, the Howard in Washington and the Regal in Chicago. As welI dressed as it was well rehearsed, its stage presentation was the slickest and most precise of any in the business."

Critic Stanley Dance

For almost 20 years until his death in 1947, Jimmie Lunceford led one of the most successful big bands of The Swing Era [and beyond]. He was the epitome of the “great leader who melds it all together.”

It began for Jimmie in 1928 when he organized a student band at Manassas High School into the Chickasaw Syncopators. The band was named after a predominantly black neighborhood in Memphis, TN where most of the pupils lived. It was in Itawamba County where Lunceford hailed from. The land

originally belonged to the Chickasaw Native American tribe before they were relocated to Oklahoma.

Fortunately, these and other details about the history of the Lunceford band are available in Eddy Determeyer’s Rhythm Is Our Business: Jimme Lunceford and the Harlem Express [published in 2009 as part of the University of Michigan Jazz Perspective Series, edited by Lewis Porter].

Eddy Determeyer has been a freelance music journalist for more than three decades. In 1984 Determeyer wrote a seven-part series on Jimmie Lunceford for the Dutch Jazz Nu magazine. Determeyer has written thousands of articles on music for a variety of Dutch publications and is the author of several books. He also produced the weekly Holiday for Hipsters radio show for Dutch station Concertzender.

With its appearances at the Lafayette, Cotton Club, Savoy and other major venues in New York City and its first professional recordings in 1930, the Chickasaw student band had morphed into the full-fledged commercial big band known as the Jimmie Lunceford Harlem Express in two, short years.

It had all the necessary ingredients for success: a forceful, dynamic and visionary leader in Jimmie Lunceford, trumpeter Eddie Tompkins and alto saxophonist Willie Smith as capable brass and reeds section leaders, superb arrangements by Sy Oliver, Benny Carter, Edwin Wilcox,Gerald Wilson [and later, Tadd Dameron], fine soloist in trumpeter Paul Webster, trombonist Trummy Young, alto saxophonist Ted Buckner and drummer Jimmy Crawford firing up the engine room.

In an age dominated by the likes of Gene Krupa, Chick Webb and Jo Jones, Crawford was an excellent drummer who pretty much gave the Lunceford orchestra its rhythmic personality.

Every drummer’s time feel is different and Crawford’s rhythmic uniqueness gave the Lunceford band a lighter touch which fit perfectly into its fast-paced, highly syncopated and showy repertoire.

Many big bands of The Swing Era expected a certain amount of ostentatious showmanship from the drum chair. While Crawford could provide such entertainment replete with tux tails and tympani mallets, most of his was in the service of providing the syncopated rhythmic punch that propelled the Lunceford Band’s hip. Slick and cool arrangements.

Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1910, Crawford was a self-taught drummer who first came to Lunceforth’s attention as a student at Manassa High School where Lunceford taught English, Spanish, music and athletics. Crawford joined the band when it was two years old [c. 1929] and stayed until 1942 when he went to work in a defense plant during World War II.

Before entering the Army in 1943 he played briefly with Ben Webster. After he was mustered out of the service in 1945, he went to NYC where he played with clarinetist Edmund Hall’s group at Cafe Society, among other gigs in the Big Apple.

He performed in Broadway pit bands in the 1950s and had an active career as a studio drummer backing leading entertainers including Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Mary Martin. He was also featured on many big band recording dates by Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Mel Powell, Dizzy Gillespie and many others before retiring in 1972.

Although Jimmy was a pioneering rhythmic linchpin for the Lunceford Orchestra from 1929-1942, he flew “under the radar screen” like O’Neil Spencer [1909-1944] with the Mills Blue Rhythm Band and Lucky Millinder, Cliff Leeman [1913-1986] with the Artie Shaw Orchestra or Ray Bauduc [1906-1988] with Bob Crosby’s big band.

Jimmy Crawford, like O’Neil, Cliff and Ray, were well-kept secrets: musicians knew and admired them and Jazz devotees acknowledged their gifts. The general public was peripherally aware of them giving their attention and affection to the more colorful members of the Jazz drumming circle.

To paraphrase Buddy Rich, who no doubt headed the latter category of admired and adored big band drummers: “These drummers performed for others, for the band. We neglect drummers of that kind. We don’t seem to know what a drummer really is.He’s not the showman - the guy who sits the highest or has his cymbals on backwards. He’s the guy who makes the band sound good.”

Given the frenetic showmanship that was an outstanding feature of the Jimmie Lunceford organizer, Jimmy Crawford had the ability [and the strength] to hold it all together. He also had the technical skills and talent to make the music sound fresh and surprising. [BTW the contributions of bassist Moses Allen in solidifying the “beat” should not be overlooked.]

And actually, perhaps it would be better to reference “beats” as opposed to “beat” for as Gunther Schuller observes in his monumental The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz, 1930-1945 [1989]: “One of the real problems in trying to analyze the so-called Lunceford style is that there wasn’t a single style but several. There may have been, especially in later years, a “Lunceford beat” or a “Lunceford tempo,” but the band’s very versatility would almost by definition preclude a single stylistic approach. … Indeed one of the miracles of the Lunceford band was that its performances had as much cohesiveness as they did, a cohesiveness second to only that of Ellington’s or Basie’s.” 

Given the relative obscurity in which drummers like Jimmie labored relative to other Flashman drummers who captured the spotlight during The Swing Era, we are fortunate to have some treatments about him in the Jazz literature.

Here are some excerpts from Eddy Determeyer’s Rhythm Is Our Business: Jimme Lunceford and the Harlem Express

“Drummer Jimmy Crawford was not a great soloist, not in the class of a Chick Webb or a Buddy Rich. Nor was he an innovative drummer, devising new rhythms or accents or whole concepts, like Kenny Clarke or Jo Jones would. For the Jimmie Lunceford band he was the perfect anchorman, though. His timing was rock-steady: whenever the band recorded two takes of a song — it seldom required more than two — the difference in duration rarely was over one second. He could also slightly retard or speed the band to build climaxes. Crawford, known by the band members as "Craw," was a master of dynamics, and he could roll his drums to thunderous effect. He was an ideal section man. As a teenager, clarinetist Buddy DeFranco first saw Craw with the Lunceford band in a Philadelphia theater, when an uncle ("he was a fan") took him and his brother to go hear it. "You wanna hear a band really do something, this is it, this is the Lunceford band," had been his recommendation.

“My brother and I had the habit of going to different theaters around Philadelphia, where the big bands were playing. They would play five shows a day. We'd stay all day. One show after another, and just listen. Fifty cents, sixty cents. Sometimes we'd bring a sandwich along, sat there for the whole day, and watch all the shows. He [Crawford] was not only one of the best rhythmic drummers, but he could influence this feel, the feeling of the band. And he was the greatest showman. He was marvelous to watch. I actually loved to go to stay at the theater, and watch the stage shows of the Lunceford band. You could spend a whole concert or a show, watching Jimmy play the drums. He would throw the sticks in the air, behind him, do all sorts of fancy things, but never, never ever missed a beat. Maybe the closest I can remember of the feeling would be Sid Catlett.”

Didn't Lionel Hampton take after Crawford, juggling his sticks and showing off? 

"Yes, he had it. But Hampton was a little coarse. Jimmy Crawford was positive, smooth, his technique was a wonder to watch. And of course, there again, that deep-seated feeling that made people dance to the band, gave it a swing appeal, and half of that emanated from Jimmy at the drums."

Jimmy Crawford was the band's spark plug in more ways than one: his contagious happy shouting spurred both his fellow musicians and the dancers to great heights of abandon and expression. In a couple of early Lunceford recordings, Craw is heard hollering in the background. This band clearly liked its work.

The secret of swing lies in timing, in the way the musician's personal beat interacts with the rhythmic pulse. Timing gives life to rhythm, so to speak. Crawford's timing was impeccable. The typical Lunceford timing was slightly behind the beat. This almost imperceptible difference between, say, the rhythm in one's head and the one in one's body made it impossible not to tap one's foot from the moment the band played its first bar.

Like so many musicians, Jimmy Crawford got his start in an amateur band of youngsters. His aunt used to take him to the local Palace Theater, where he saw the stars appearing on the TOBA circuit. (The Theater Owners Booking Association, or TOBA, was an early booking office for black talent, which catered to a large theater circuit, mainly in the South.) The Palace pit band accompanied artists such as blues singers Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, and the comedy team Butterbeans and Susie. Young Jimmy was duly impressed by the drummer, Booker Washington, who had a theatrical way of playing, throwing his sticks twirling in the air, shooting pistols, blowing horns, and a host of other musical antics.

At seventeen, Jimmy was in Lunceford's large school orchestra at Manassas High. He told writer Stanley Dance, "I was always interested in drums, of course, but I was just too poor to own a drum outfit, and whoever was well enough off to afford a set of drums played in the band. I borrowed one of the school horns, a peck horn, just to be in the band. When eventually the drummer left, the school acquired drums, and I sat behind them." Crawford stayed in the Chickasaw Syncopators, which evolved into the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra, until, tired of the endless traveling, he finally left in 1943.

When in 1933 Sy Oliver became the staff arranger, Crawford had a hard time getting adjusted to the two-beat feel Sy wanted. The drummer thought it was old-fashioned, corny. "What's wrong with this two-beat thing, man," Sy would ask. "Well, there's two beats missing, that's all," was the invariable reply." But before long, Craw's two-beat rhythm became one of the trademarks of the orchestra.

It is important to note that around this time, the early 19305, the general trend in jazz was away from the old two-beat rhythm. The changes in the rhythm section, from the tuba and the banjo to the more agile double bass and the guitar, was responsible for a shift towards a more even four-four rhythm.

The orchestra's two-beat rhythm even prompted certain record stores to file its discs under the heading "Dixieland"! Writer Barry Ulanov regarded the typical Lunceford bounce as "the most effective utilization of two beat accents discovered by any jazzman; it made a kind of impressive last gasp for dying Dixieland, with its heavy anticipations, it's almost violently strong and whisperingly weak beats, its unrelenting syncopation." [11, quoted in Stanley Dance, The World of Swing].

Their conflicting ideas about the usage of 2/4 or 4/4 meters caused Sy and Jimmy to have quite a few rows. Jimmy felt that when he really turned loose in 4/4 during the middle part of the number, which felt like doubling the tempo, it was no use getting back to 2/4 for the finale. However, they always made up after the rehearsal or the show.

An important asset of his drum kit was a twenty-five-inch Chinese sizzle cymbal that seemed to contain all the sounds, shadings, and effects any percussionist could ask for. Craw used to hammer his fellow band members into high levels of commitment during the ride-out chorus of a number. The outcome, according to bass player George Duvivier, a fan of the orchestra, could give one goose pimples. He compared listening to the band to "breathing pure oxygen."' [12, Edward Berger, Basically Speaking].

Crawford had a sharp eye for the needs of both the dancers on the floor and the chorus line. In a letter to Stanley Dance he wrote, "I could tell when the band had the crowd in their hands, so I would holler to Lunceford between two numbers, 'don't quit now! We have ‘em! And don't call trash like White Heat or any other flag wavers! Just call medium-tempo numbers, because we're ahead now and don't want to be unjointed!' "

Crawford's idiosyncratic style did not go unnoticed by other drummers. Butch Ballard worked in trumpeter Cootie Williams's band, later graduating to Count Basie and Duke Ellington. He remembered his colleague well: 

"Everything was right there. Jimmy Crawford's laying that two-four beat, you know" (he demonstrated this by clapping his hands and singing enthusiastically), "and coming out of that two-four, and going to four—ooh-ooh-ooh! And the walls come tumbling down. Oh man, that Crawford was a tremendous drummer." 

Art Blakey was another admirer of the Lunceford bounce: 

"That beat! You know, that tempo, ways of tempo. That's hard to do. I tried it, but they got something masterful about it. It's that tempo." He shook his head, still amazed after all these years, "Hm, hm, hm! Not too fast, not too slow. Just right. They were masters at that."

And this brief overview of Jimmy’s career and his significance is from Burt Korall’s essential Drummin’ Men: The Heartbeat of Jazz - The Swing Years [1990].

“He never was intrusive. Craw swung a band without making a noise. I mean, you felt him.”


“Jimmy Crawford was a drummer who instinctively knew what had to be done, regardless of the style or size of the band. He created a warm, positive, musical feeling whenever he performed. Amiable, personable, sincere, always smiling, he was well liked on and off the bandstand.

Craw, as he was known to his friends and musical associates, learned on the job. He did not need or seek out formal training on drums until late in his career, when he began playing Broadway shows.

Jimmie Lunceford, a Memphis instrumentalist, teacher, and ultimately band leader, took on eighteen-year-old Crawford as his drummer in the summer of 1928. Crawford grew with the band, which became one of the truly great jazz and show ensembles of the 1930s and 1940s. After fourteen years of almost constant traveling, Crawford left Lunceford in 1942.

SY OLIVER: When Lunceford was a teacher at Manassas High School in Memphis, he came across Crawford dancing in the school yard. He was impressed with what he saw and told Crawford he was going to make a drummer out of him. Jimmie wanted to train Craw and put him in the band.

What Lunceford didn't know was that the young string bean had been fascinated with drums since the age of fourteen. After seeing and hearing drummer Booker Washington at the Old Palace Theater in Memphis, his hometown, Crawford knew what he wanted to do.

JIMMY CRAWFORD: He [Washington] just thrilled the whole audience. When the overture hit, the man would do things—throwing sticks, twirling [them] in the air, shooting pistols, blowing horns, and everything. He was a nice-looking fellow with a beautiful smile, and, when you saw him on the street in a derby, he was quite a dude.

SY OLIVER: Craw was the personality kid of the Jimmie Lunceford band. All of his traits and talent came out in his drumming. He played like he was. He never was intrusive. Craw swung a band without making a noise. I mean, you felt him. Most people who came to hear the band would walk away impressed with Craw. But it wasn't so much his technique that got their attention. The man's charm as a person and as a player reached them.

TRUMMY YOUNG: Craw had great spirit. He consistently picked the band up. He was the driving force. I enjoyed playing with him because he was so supportive. When you're a horn player, you really need someone behind you. I'll never forget Craw. I hope a drummer comes along some day and moves everyone the way he did.

Crawford brought something special to music both in the Lunce-ford band and over the course of his career. He was fresh yet controlled; he carefully developed each performance. In the swing mode, his drumming had a strongly pulsating quality; the beat was central! to all of his work. A solid, adaptable, and exciting drummer, he tied a band together as few can. The Lunceford recordings on Decca (now MCA) and Columbia reveal Crawford could be open and very swinging, yet run down the scale to quiet and subtle. He was convincing and comfortable in any time signature, but became most widely known as the foundation of the famed Lunceford two-beat.

When his Lunceford days were over in 1942, Crawford played in an Army band with Sy Oliver, Buck Clayton, and other leading swing players. Before and after his stint in the Army, Crawford performed with various small bands, including those led by Ben Webster and Edmond Hall. He worked briefly with Harry James, Stan Kenton, and Fletcher Henderson before embarking on his Broadway show and recording years in 1950.

If anything, Crawford became even more well known during his years on Broadway. One show followed another, beginning with Alive and Kicking with Jackie Gleason. He seemed to have a flair for this kind of work. Until he retired in 1972, he piled up numerous Broadway credits—Pal Joey, Jamaica, Mr. Wonderful, Golden Boy, Bye Bye Birdie, How to Succeed in Business, and others.

The drummer also filled his schedule with countless recording dates. He provided the pulse for so many people: Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Bing Crosby, Sy Oliver, Ella Fitzgerald, Quincy Jones— the list goes on and on. Like Tommy Henrich, the great hitting outfielder for the old New York Yankees, Crawford was "old reliable." A band leader knew there was little to worry about if he saw Crawford's smiling face in the pit of a show, in a recording studio, or on a job of any kind.

James Strickland Crawford died in 1980 at seventy. A fastidious performer and a real gentleman, he never missed a performance, showed up late, or did anything that would demean him in the eyes of other musicians or the public. We need more like him.”

As noted earlier, given the fact that Jimmy was not as well known as big band Engine Room luminaries such as Chick Webb, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Jo Jones and Sonny Greer, we are fortunate to have another profile about him in addition to the one by Korall. This one can be found in Stanley Dance, The World of Swing [1974].

“The drummer situation is unbelievable. There are not many big-band drummers around. The young guys don't know how to assert authority. They have no experience whatsoever except in small groups. So I use Jimmy Crawford a lot. He can give me spirit, time, enthusiasm, sympathy with the musical situation, a professional attitude and — very important —musical discipline.

"The thing we did with Dinah Washington (Swingin’ Miss D) was one of the best albums we ever made, and Crawford played drums on it. Guys like him and [bassist] Milt Hinton are irreplaceable. There is nobody anywhere in the world like them."


"When I was a kid in Memphis, Tennessee," Jimmy Crawford recalled, "my aunt used to carry me to the old Palace Theatre. It would be around 1924, 1 guess, and there I saw Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Ida Cox, Baby Cox, and Butterbeans and Susie. That was the time of the TOBA circuit and there was an orchestra in the pit led by Charlie Williams [Theatre Owners Booking Association, or T.O.B.A., was the vaudeville circuit for African American performers in the 1920s.]. Booker Washington was the drummer and he was sensational. He just thrilled the whole audience. When the overture hit, this man would do things — throwing sticks twirling in the air, shooting pistols, blowing horns, and everything. He was a nice-looking fellow with a beautiful smile, and, when you saw him on the street in a derby, he was quite a dude. He was so good he went to New Orleans later on. All the good musicians used to leave Memphis then for New Orleans or Chicago. I understand he got tuberculosis down there and passed.

"My interest in drumming began right there, in the theatre.

"Then Jimmie Lunceford came on the scene. He had attended Fisk University and gone north after he graduated to see what he could do with the bands of that time; but he couldn't quite make it, although he was a great instrumentalist. So he came back to Memphis and accepted a job at Manassa High School as music teacher and athletic instructor. He formed the school band and out of it we finally got a little dance group.

"I was always interested in drums, of course, but I was just too poor to own a drum outfit, and whoever was well enough off to afford a set of drums played in the band. I borrowed one of the school horns, a peck horn, just to be in the band. When eventually the drummer left, the school acquired drums, and I sat back behind them. I thought I had a natural gift, but I was just keeping time, and I kept going without any instruction. Drummers were really timekeepers in those days. They weren't solo men like they are today.

"We used to play gigs around town and we became very popular, although we were really only a lot of amateurs. Moses Allen, who played bass with Lunceford for so long, was in the band, and we had a girl pianist named Bobbie Brown who was a real professional and much better than the rest of us. John Williams, who married Mary Lou, was from Memphis, and they came through with a package show from Pittsburgh. They quit the show and ran a little band that gave us plenty of competition. As compared with Bobbie, Mary was boss.

"Our first professional job was in the summer of 1928, in a hotel in Lakeside, Ohio. We were eleven pieces and we went back to school after the engagement. Willie Smith and Eddie Wilcox graduated from Fisk the following year and joined us for fourteen weeks at the same summer resort. So did Henry Wells, the trombone player. After that, we agreed to keep going north, to get out of the South, and to try to make it somewhere else. We had heard so much about the northern bands that we wanted to listen and learn. Of course, when I first heard Alphonso Trent in Memphis, I thought his band the greatest thing I ever heard in my life, and it was pretty close to what we were to hear up north, because he had musicians like Stuff Smith, Snub Mosley and Jeter Pillars, and other good men, although a lot of them fell by the wayside.

"In the fall of 1929, we had a job to go to in Cleveland, Ohio, but the depression had started and there was a waiters' and musicians' strike on, so we were stranded, broke, hungry, and everything else. I spent my last dollar there to hear Fletcher Henderson. I'd heard so much about that band, and Coleman Hawkins. We lived on peanuts and water. If anyone made a gig, the money was shared.

"We laid around there for three or four months until we got a gig in Cincinnati, where we ran into the Zack Whyte and Speed Webb bands. Webb had one of the swingingest bands in the world, with musicians like Roy and Joe Eldridge, Vic Dickenson, Eli Robinson, Teddy Wilson and his brother Gus, who was a good arranger. We were coming up then, but our band didn't compare to those, for though they were young the musicians in them were real pros. But Cincinnati was a hellhole for all bands. Even Fletcher's band used to get stranded there at that time, about 1930.

"Later, we worked in Buffalo, where we picked up Jonah Jones and Joe Thomas. They were playing at the Vendome Hotel in a little combo led by a drummer named Jackson. Everyone knows about Jonah, but what Joe became with Lunceford may be forgotten. He was a ball of fire when he was playing. He played more soul, more funk in two beats than most guys do in a chorus.

"I think it was in Columbus, Ohio, that Sy Oliver left Zack Whyte and joined us. He had been arranging for Zack in a way that was to help make Lunceford famous. Sy did such a lot for our band. He really organized it, told us about two beats, and many other things. I always wanted to play in four, but Sy said, 'No, put it in two, and keep it right there!' That was the beginning of a lot of that two-beat rhythm.

"Willie Smith used to write arrangements, but he stopped after Sy had been with us a while. Lunceford wrote some, too, and Wilcox stayed with it, but I guess when Willie saw another fellow come along with talent and ambition he felt he didn't want to run too much competition within the band. Willie was another very valuable man, and he probably thought it was enough that he took solos, led the saxes, and sang.

"We came to New York in 1933, played the Lafayette Theatre, and hit it off very good. Besides Sy and Eddie Tompkins in the trumpet section, we had Tommy Stevenson on trumpet to play the high notes, and he'd really peck 'em — peck 'em up and down. We did so well they booked us into the Cotton Club, which was uptown then. When you went in there, you were supposed to have it made. Only three bands played there in those days — Ellington's, Cab's and the Blue Rhythm Band. We stayed there six or eight months, broadcasting every night, working for Irving Mills [promoter/producer].

"After that, we kept on for fourteen years, until I'd had enough of traveling. We were the biggest one-nighter band in the world, year in and year out, from Maine to Florida, from New York to California, over and over again, all the time, until I was sick of it. I wasn't getting anywhere, living from hand to mouth, and I could see the handwriting on the wall. Sy had already left. I put my notice in and only went back for ten days to help [drummer] Joe Marshall work in.

"I really learned all I knew within that band. I wasn't tired of working with it, but tired of traveling. I laid around New York until, like they say, my 'capital was exhausted,' and then I worked in the shipyards for a month or so. It was 1943, wartime. I went to 52nd Street one night to hear the boys. Specs Powell was leaving Ben Webster at The Three Deuces to go to CBS, where he's been ever since — a good drummer, fast as lightning. So I sat in there with Ben, opposite Art Tatum, Tiny Grimes and Slam Stewart, the most wonderful trio you could ever hear in your life. Ben's combo included Billy Taylor (piano), Teddy Walters (guitar) and Charlie Drayton (bass), and I was offered the gig.

"I went back the next night thinking I could cover the scene, but I got butterflies in my stomach after the first set. After playing with Lunceford for fourteen years, with all that power and volume, to make a transition into this little, smooth group was a great thing. Shelly Manne used to come and sit in, and I'd listen and watch him, and he'd take me in back and show me a lot. 'Just take the brushes and relax,’ he'd say. I kept going, but after the first week I told Ben:

" 'I have to quit.'

" 'No, please don't.’ he was nice enough to say. 'Just stick around and everything will jell eventually.'

" 'I'll come back tomorrow night,” I'd say, 'but I'll have to quit. I just can't fit in this.'

"A week or so later, something did jell. I was relaxing, fitting in. Making that transition was my greatest achievement. Nowadays, you have to be a flexible drummer. That's something about guys like Osie Johnson— they're so flexible. There are others, though, who I feel play for musicians or other drummers rather than the group or artist they're working with. If their name is on the record especially, they don't want to play dead. straight time. They're thinking, 'I've got to show 'em a few tricks.' But I don't think they're right, especially when the spotlight is on a singer. I remember what Pearl Bailey used to say:

" 'I thought you were here to accompany me, not to destroy me.'

"Well, eventually I was asked to carry my own little group into The Three Deuces, and that made me very happy, but just as I was getting organized the Army stretched out its long arm and said, 'Come hither.' I was lucky enough to be stationed at Camp Kilmer, which is only about thirty miles from New York. They had a great orchestra out there and they sent for Sy Oliver and Buck Clayton. When I came out of the service in 1945, I ran into Mary Lou Williams one day and she was instrumental in getting me a job with Ed Hall [clarinetist] at Cafe Society. I worked there, uptown and downtown, for about three years, until the recording scene was really under way.

"Billy Kyle had been in the Army, too, and he got a job as rehearsal pianist for a Broadway revue called Alive and Kicking. They asked him about a suitable drummer, because there were a lot of jazz-like numbers, and solo spots for drums in different times, three-four, six-eight, and so on. Billy recommended me, and although it only lasted six weeks, I must have impressed someone, somewhere, somehow, because they called me for another show, Pal Joey. From that time on I've been mostly in Broadway musicals like Delilah, Mr. Wonderful, Jamaica and Gypsy. Recommendations for those shows often come from the stars themselves.

"When you're in the pit, you watch the stick. You can't watch the star and the stick at the same time. To me, it's always pretty perturbing when a star says, 'Watch me — don't pay any attention to him.' After all, there are thirty other guys in the pit with you.

"It was different when we played vaudeville houses with Lunceford. He would bring his stick down for the opening beat, but from then on the drummer had to control the tempo, make the transitions, watch the music, the feet of the dancers, the gestures of the singers, and everything. They had their music and set routines, but if I didn't look at the dancers' feet as well as at the music, I couldn't make those transitions right.

"Dancers influenced the music a whole lot in those days. Sometimes we'd have jam sessions with just tap dancers, buck dancers and drums. Big Sid Catlett was one of the greatest show drummers who ever lived. He could accompany, add on, improvise, so well. And believe me, those rhythm dancers really used to inspire you. In ballrooms, where there's dancing like I was raised on, when everybody is giving to the beat, and just moving, and the house is bouncing — that inspires you to play. It's different when you go to those places where it's 'cool' and the people just sit listening. I don't care too much for the 'cool,' harsh pulsation. I don't like music where it's simply a matter of 'Listen to my changes, man!', and there's no emotion or swing. I think Louis Armstrong has done more to promote good feeling among earthy people than anyone. He can't speak all those foreign languages, but he lets a certain feeling speak for him. You can play too many notes, but if you make it simple, make it an ass-shaker, then the music speaks to people."

For many years, Jimmy Crawford played Broadway shows without ever missing a performance and without ever having been late, despite the fact that he may have had colds and, as he wryly admitted, an occasional hangover. For this, he gave credit to the discipline of the Lunceford band, and he recalled the amazed reaction of one famous newcomer to it: "How can you guys always be on time? It's bad for your personal prestige."

Crawford did not feel that way. One of the warmest, friendliest and most modest musicians in the profession, his conscientious attitude towards his

commitments was exemplary. His unselfish consideration of others was extremely uplifting, particularly on record sessions, for which he was always very much in demand. He recorded with Count Basie, Quincy Jones, Jackie Cleason, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, Perry Como and many other stars, as well as on hundreds of jazz sessions by studio groups. Even were he not one of the greatest and most dependable of drummers, his cheerful personality would often make all the difference between the success or failure of a date. His solos were relatively few, not because he lacked any ability in that direction, but because of his conception of the drummer's role. He practiced xylophone two-and-a-half hours a day, not to improvise, but just, he said, "to feel more adequate in the pit."

In the words he uses admiringly of so many other musicians, Jimmy Crawford is "a real professional." One of his old associates put it another way: "You don't feel nervous with Craw sitting back there."”

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