Lionel Hampton

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Lionel Hampton 1977 during a concert in Aachen

Lionel "Hamp" Hampton (born April 20, 1908 in Louisville , Kentucky , † August 31, 2002 in New York ) was an American jazz musician . He is known as a band leader , jazz percussionist and vibraphone virtuoso . Hampton is one of the most famous names in jazz history and has worked with prominent jazz musicians such as Benny Goodman , Charlie Parker and Quincy Jones .


Childhood and youth

Hampton grew up in Kenosha , Wisconsin , and Birmingham , Alabama , but moved to Chicago as a child in 1916 , where he was sheltered by his uncle and attended a Catholic school. His uncle was Richard Morgan, who worked intermittently for Al Capone . Morgan was a Bessie Smith lover and was driving her car when she was killed in a rear-end collision.


Hampton began his career as a drummer in bands in Chicago and California, where he moved in 1927 and initially played with Paul Howard's Quality Serenaders . In the Les Hite Band he began to play the xylophone in addition to drums. They soon became the house band of Frank Sebastian's New Cotton Club , a popular jazz club in Los Angeles where Louis Armstrong heard him. As early as 1930 he made recordings on a vibraphone (which Armstrong discovered at NBC Studios in Los Angeles) with Armstrong, with whom he also performed at the Cotton Club in Harlem. The vibraphone became popular as a jazz instrument through Hampton. As early as 1934 he had his own band before playing for four years with Benny Goodman , whose orchestra came to Los Angeles in November 1936 to perform in the Palomar Ballroom. Goodman met Hampton through John Hammond and asked him to go to New York with him. So they formed the Benny Goodman Quartet with Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa . The quartet was one of the first racially integrated bands and performed in front of large audiences.

Hampton and Arnett Cobb performing at New York's Aquarium Jazz Club, circa June 1946.
Photograph by William P. Gottlieb .

While working for Goodman in New York, Hampton made recordings with various small groups under the name of Lionel Hampton Orchestra. In 1940 he left the Goodman band and formed his own touring band. Hamptons Band played talents like Illinois Jacquet , Dexter Gordon , Ernie Royal , Jack McVea , Charles Mingus , Monk Montgomery , Wes Montgomery , Quincy Jones , Benny Golson , Fats Navarro , Kenny Dorham , Clifford Brown , Dinah Washington , Betty Carter , Joe Williams , Arnett Cobb , Earl Bostic , Art Farmer , Clark Terry and others. His wife Gladys Hampton, who died in 1971, was also his manager .

Hampton's recording of Flying Home (1942) with the famous tenor saxophone solo by Jacquet was later refined and expanded by Cobb (1946); for some it is considered the first rock 'n' roll record. For Quincy Jones, Hampton was "something of a rock 'n' roller".

He was known for his energetic style of playing the vibraphone, drums, and piano - which he played with a two-finger technique like a vibraphone.

Lionel Hampton visits the White House on June 30, 2001

In the mid-1980s, Hampton and his band gave a concert at the University of Idaho at the " Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival " named after him a year later in 1985 . In 1987 the music college there was renamed "Lionel Hampton College of Music"; to this day it has remained the only university music college with the name of a jazz musician.

Hampton also made several film appearances, including a. in Pennies from Heaven (1936, a Bing Crosby film) with Louis Armstrong, in which he plays the drums (hidden under a mask). He later also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame . In addition to his music, he was also socially and politically engaged (on the part of the Republicans). He was the initiator of several housing developments in Harlem and Newark, New Jersey.

In 1996 he just got away with his life in a house fire, but lost all his household effects, instruments and records. Lionel Hampton died of cardiac arrest on August 31, 2002 at Mount Sinai Hospital , New York, and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx , New York.

Prizes and awards

In 1988 he received the NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship . He was multiple honorary doctorates. In 1996 he received the National Medal of Arts from American President Clinton .

Discography (selection)

  • 1945: All-American Award Concert at Carnegie Hall [live] , Decca
  • 1947: Lionel Hampton with the Just Jazz All Stars [live] , GNP
  • 1947: The original stardust , Decca
  • 1950: Moonglow , Decca
  • 1951: The Blues ain't news to me , Verve
  • 1953: The King of the vibes , Clef
  • 1953: The Lionel Hampton Quartet , Clef
  • 1953: Rockin 'and Groovin' , Blue Note
  • 1954: Hamp's big four , Clef
  • 1954: Swingin 'with Hamp , Clef
  • 1954: Hot Mallets , RCA
  • 1955: Hamp and Getz , Verve
  • 1955: The Tatum Group Masterpieces Vol. 5 , Pablo
  • 1956: Hamp in Hi Fi , Harmony
  • 1967: Newport uproar , RCA
  • 1978: As time goes by , Sonet
  • 1982: Lionel Hampton introduces Axel Zwingenberger in the Boogie Woogie Album , Vagabond
  • 1983: Air mail special , Clef
  • 2001: Ring dem vibes , Verve




  • Lionel Hampton, James Haskins: Hamp - an Autobiography , Amistad 1999.

Individual evidence

  1. The Death of Bessie Smith
  2. Chris Albertson : Bessie. Empress of the Blues. Sphere Books, London 1972, ISBN 0-300-09902-9 , pp. 192-197.

Web links

Commons : Lionel Hampton  - Collection of Images, Videos, and Audio Files