Kansas City in the Jazz Age & Great Depression


Displaying 1 - 17 of 17
Count Basie
David Conrads

In the rich and celebrated musical history of Kansas City, few individuals are more closely associated with hard-swinging, riff-based Kansas City jazz style than Count Basie. The Count Basie Orchestra became both the best known and the longest-lived big band to emerge from this region, and Basie made Kansas City jazz nationally and internationally renowned.

Bennie Moten Orchestra
Jason Roe

On September 23, 1923, the Bennie Moten Orchestra made its first recording consisting of eight songs. By strict musical standards, the songs themselves were unrefined and not much removed from existing blues music. But the Bennie Moten Orchestra would soon build upon its earliest recordings to develop a distinct Kansas City style of jazz that later dominated the jazz scene in the late 1930s and 1940s.

Charlie Parker
Jason Roe

Parker was born in Kansas City, Kansas, on August 29, 1920. He grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, where he played in jazz clubs as a teenager and young man. The local jazz culture based in the Vine Street nightclub district cultivated his talents as a teenager. Indeed, it was during this period that Kansas City made notable contributions to jazz with hometown artists such as Count Basie, Bennie Moten, and Buster Smith.

Half length view of William "Count" Basie with caption typed above: "Three years ago, William Basie was organist at a small Kansas City, Mo., theater, after a conservatory training at the University of Kansas. Followed a ten weeks' daily organ radio program, then played one of two pianos featured by Benny Moten's orchestra at the New Harlem (Kansas City), Unanimously elected to lead the band after Moten's death, his popularity skyrocketed.

Half length view of Count Basie.

Publicity photo of Count Basie at piano and Carmen Miranda holding percussive shaker at Command Performance. Basie is sitting at the piano wearing a white suit and looking forward. Miranda is standing behind the piano against a studio wall and wearing a suit jacket and floral head wrap.


Count Basie shaking hands with Joe Belford at the Roseland Ballroom. Basie is smiling and looking up. Belford is wearing a pinstripe suit and patterned tie.

December 1936

Publicity photo from the side of Count Basie playing piano while looking down and smiling. Basie is wearing a tuxedo.


Earl Hines, Count Basie, and Dave Dexter standing around a radio (or possibly a phonograph) looking down at a record in Dexter's hand at Basie's birthday celebration.


Circa 1937 photograph of Count Basie (piano) and Herman Walder (saxophone) at Street's Blue Room, part of the Street Hotel at the northeast corner of The Paseo and 18th Street. Source: Herman Walder.

Count Basie at piano at Municipal Auditorium, showing audience in background, including Jay McShann, no date. Municipal Auditorium is located on 13th Street between Wyandotte Street and Central Street in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Source: John Randazzo.

Portrait of Bill "Count" Basie, headshot, no date. Source: Duncan Scheidt.

Snapshot on stage of Count Basie at piano, Lester Young at mic, no date. Source: Duncan Scheidt.

Musicians' Protective Union membership card for William "Count" Basie for the year 1933. E. M. Jefferson is listed as the union secretary.


Photograph of Count Basie, piano, performing with Samuel "Baby" Lovett, drums; Clairborne "Frog" Graves, saxophone; and Jimmy Hill, guitar. A tipping 'kitty' is shown left scenter.

Photograph of Bennie Moten’s Orchestra at Pearl Theatre in Philadelphia, PA, 1931. Pictured from left: Jimmy Rushing, vocals; Hot Lips Page, trumpet; Willie McWashington, drums; Booker Washington, trumpet; Ed Lewis, trumpet; Count Basie, piano; Buster Moten, accordian; Leroy "Buster" Berry, banjo; Thamon Hayes, trombone; Bennie Moten, piano; Harland Leonard, reeds; Eddie Durham, trombone; Jack Washington, reeds; Vernon Page, tuba; Woodie Walder, reeds.


Jackson County Court documents regarding the Decree of Incorporation of the Negro Musicians Association. Documents include the statement that the purpose is to "unite ... the musical profession for the better protection of its members," "to serve the public in furnishing music on all occasionans where it may be required," as well as listing members including Count Basie, Bennie Moten, and Leroy Berry.