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Bennie Moten Orchestra
Author: 
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
Author: 
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.

Autographed program cover of The Wheezer: Souvenir Issue, with signatures of Bennie and Bus Moten, Eddie Durham, Oran Page, no date. Source: Ida Minturn.

Group photo of Bennie Moten's Victor Recording Artists taken at Fairyland Park by Cresswell's Photo Studio, Kansas City, Missouri; band is seated with instruments, ca. 1930. Source: Herman Walder.

Date: 
1930

Bennie Moten's Victor Recording Artists posed around piano taken by Bert Photo Studio, Kansas City, Missouri, ca. 1926. Source: Charles Goodwin.

Date: 
1926

Bennie Moten's Orchestra, posed with instruments, ca. 1926. Source: Duncan Scheidt.

Date: 
1926

Group photo of Bennie Moten's Victor Recording Orchestra with instruments; handwritten notation states "Oklahoma City 1927".

Date: 
1927

Photograph of Bennie Moten, standing in second row at right, and his band pose with their tour bus in front of a music shop.

Photograph of Bennie Moten's Orchestra on a stage with their instruments. Pictured, bottom row from left: Mack Washington, drums; Thamon Hayes, trombone; Ed Lewis, 1st trumpet; Paul Webster, 2nd trumpet; Leroy "Bus" Berry, banjo; Harlem Leonard, 1st saxophone; Woodie Waldon, 2nd saxophone; Jack Washington, 3rd saxophone. Pictured, top row from left: Vernon Page, bass; Bennie Moten, piano; "Tiny" Taylor, director & entertainer.

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.

Date: 
1931

Panoramic photograph of the bands of the Musicians Protective Union Local 627, assembled for the annual Battle of the Bands at Paseo Hall, followed by a parade to the Musicians Association Building at 1823 Highland Avenue, where this picture was taken. The eight contestant bands pictured are Bennie Moten and George Lee's orchestras, Elmer Payne's Music Masters, Paul Banks's Rhythm Aces, Andy Kirk's 12 Clouds of Joy, Jap Allen's Troubadours, Julius Banks's Red Devils, and Bill Little and His Little Bills.

Date: 
May 4th 1930

Circa 1931 photograph of the Bennie Moten Orchestra posed in front of the Fairyland Park stage at the southeast corner of Prospect Avenue and 75th Street. Pictured in bottom row are Count Basie, Hot Lips Page, Ed Lewis, Eddie Durham, Woodie Walder, Leroy Berry, Harlan Leonard, and Jack Washington (second, third fourth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and twelfth from left, respectively). Top row, from left are Bennie Moten, Bus Moten, and James Rushing.

Date: 
1931

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.

Date: 
1929

Photograph of the Bennie Moten Orchestra with Bennie Moten, piano; Lammar Wright, trumpet; Thamon Hayes, trombone; Woodie Walder, clarinet; George Tall, banjo; Willie Hall, drums; and Mary H. Bradford and Ada Brown, singers.

Full-length portrait photograph of jazz trumpet player Lammar Wright Sr. (1907-1973) in a tuxedo. Wright played in Bennie Moten's band starting in 1923 before relocating to New York City in 1927.

Photograph of Bennie Moten's Orchestra posed outside. Pictured left to right: are Jimmy Rushing, Jack Washington, Woodie Walder, Count Basie, Leroy Berry, Bus Moten, Eddie Durham, Willie McWashington, Vernon Page, Thamon Hayes, Harlan Leonard, Ed Lewis, Booker Washington, Bennie Moten.

Date: 
1929

10" 78-rpm recording of "South", an instrumental fox trot by Bennie Moten and Thamon Hayes, performed by Oran "Hot Lips" Page And His Band. Members include Don Stovall, Don Byas, Eddie Barefield, saxophones and clarinet; Oran "Hot Lips" Page, trumpet; Pete Johnson, piano; John Collins, guitar; Abe Bolar, bass; A. G. Godley, drums. Matrix number: 68335A; Catalog number: 18124 A.

Date: 
November 11th 1940

10" 78-rpm recording of "Moten's Swing", an instrumental fox trot by Buster Moten and Bennie Moten, performed by Eddie Durham And His Band. Members include Buster Smith, Willard Brown, Lem C. Johnson, saxophones; Joe Keyes, trumpet; Conrad Frederick, piano; Eddie Durham, guitar; Averill Pollard, bass; Arthur Herbert, drums. Matrix number: 68337A; Catalog number: 18126 A.

Date: 
November 11th 1940

10" 78-rpm recording of "She's No Trouble (Ella No Molesta)", a fox trot by Thamon Hayes, performed by Bennie Moten's Kansas City Orchestra. Matrix number: 42934; Catalog number: 24893-B.

Date: 
September 7th 1928

10" 78-rpm recording of "South (Sur)", a fox trot by Bennie Moten and Thamon Hayes, performed by Bennie Moten's Kansas City Orchestra. Matrix number: 42935; Catalog number: 24893-A.

Date: 
September 7th 1928

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KANSAS CITY PUBLIC LIBRARY | DIGITAL HISTORY
Civil War on the Western Border: The Missouri-Kansas Conflict,1855-1865.
The Pendergast Years, Kansas City in the Jazz Age & Great Depression.
KC History, Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Kansas City Public Library.