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Count Basie Orchestra Biography

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William "Count" Basie (August 21, 1904 – April 26, 1984) was an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, & composer.

Basie was born in Red Bank, New Jersey to Harvey Lee Basie, and Lillian Ann Childs and lived on Mechanic Street. He had a brother, LeRoy Basie. His father worked as coachman for a wealthy family. After automobiles replaced horses, his father became a groundskeeper and handyman for several families in the area. His mother took in laundry, and was Basie's first piano teacher when he was a child. He started out to be a drummer. But the obvious talents of another young Red Bank drummer, Sonny Greer, who was Duke Ellington's drummer from 1919 to 1951, discouraged young Basie and he switched to piano. While he was in his late teens, he gravitated to Harlem, where he encountered Fats Waller. He was taught informally by Fats Waller. [] The Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank was named in his honor.

Basie toured the Theater Owners Bookers Association (T.O.B.A.) vaudeville circuit, starting in 1924, as a soloist and accompanist to blues singers. His touring took him to Kansas City, Missouri, where he met many jazz musicians in the area. In 1928 he joined Walter Page's Blue Devils, and the following year became the pianist with the Bennie Moten band based in Kansas City. It was at this time that a Kansas City radio host deemed him "Count" Basie (see Jazz royalty).

He started his own band in 1934, but eventually returned to Moten's band. After Moten died in 1935, the band unsuccessfully attempted to stay together. Basie formed a new band, which included many Moten alumni.

One O'Clock Jump and Jumpin' at the Woodside were among Count Basie's more popular numbers. Basie was also known for his band's version's of April In Paris and Lil' Darlin.

Jerry Lewis used Blues in Hoss' Flat, from Basie's Chairman of the Board album, as the basis for his own "Chairman of the Board" routine in the movie Errand Boy, in which Lewis pantomimed the movements of a corporate executive holding a board meeting. (In the early 1980s, Lewis revived the routine during the live broadcast of one of his Muscular Dystrophy Association telethons.) Blues in Hoss' Flat, composed by Basie band member Frank Foster, was also the longtime theme song of San Francisco and New York radio DJ Al "Jazzbeaux" Collins.

Basie and his band made a cameo appearance in Mel Brooks' 1974 comedy film Blazing Saddles.

He received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1981.

Basie is one of the producers of the "world's greatest music" that Brenda Fricker's "Pigeon Lady" character claims to have heard in Carnegie Hall in 1992's Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.

Count Basie will be inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2007.
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