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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.

Woody Walder, Corrine Walder, Alberta Minor, and Bob Minor at Joe Jacob's Place, 18th and Vine, no date. Source: Corrine Walder.

Thamon Hayes’ Rockets on stage at Fairyland Park, ca. 1930. Fairyland Park was located at the southeast corner of Prospect Avenue and 75th Street. Pictured from left: Harlan Leonard, alto sax; Vic Dickenson, trombone; Herman Walder, alto sax & clarinet; Hayes, trombone; Woody Walder, tenor sax & clarinet; Richard Smith, trumpet; Booker Washington, trumpet; Ed Lewis, trumpet; Charles "Crook" Goodwin, banjo & vocals; Samuel "Baby" Lovett, drums; Vernon Page, bass & tuba; Jesse Stone, piano, arranger & conductor. Source: Claude Williams.

Date: 
1930

Photograph by J. E. Miller of Woodie Walder's Swing Unit. Pictured from left: Woodie Walder, reeds; Elbert "Coots" Dye, piano; Bill Terry, vocals; Baby Lovett, drums; Jack Johnson, bass.

Date: 
1938

1932 photograph of Thamon Hayes’ Kansas City Rockets group posed in front of the Fairyland Park stage at the southeast corner of Prospect Avenue and 75th Street. From left: Ed Lewis, Baby Lovett, Jesse Stone, Richard Smith, Herman Walder, Thamon Hayes, Vic Dickenson, Woodie Walder, Harlan Leonard, Booker T. Washington, Vernon Page.

Date: 
1932

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

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

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.

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

Bennie Moten's Orchestra, with instruments, taken by Bert Photo Studio, ca. 1926. Pictured from left: Thamon Hayes, trombone, Lammar Wright, cornet; Willie McWashington, drums; Leroy "Buster" Berry, banjo; Bennie Moten, piano; Harlan Leonard, reeds; Vernon Page, brass bass; Woody Walder, reeds; LaForest Dent, reeds. Source: Charles Goodwin.

Date: 
1926

Bennie Moten's Radio Orchestra, posed with instruments, ca. 1923. Pictured are Willie Hall (drums), Lammar Wright (trumpet), Bennie Moten (piano), Thamon Hayes (trombone), Woodie Walder (clarinet). Source: Duncan Scheidt.

Date: 
1923

Bennie Moten's Orchestra, with instruments on bandstand, likely to be Paseo Hall, 15th Street and Paseo Boulevard, Kansas City, Missouri, c. 1925. Pictured from left: Willie McWashington, drums; LaForest Dent, banjo; Vernon Page, brass bass; Thamon Hayes, trombone; Lammar Wright, cornet; Bennie Moten, piano; Harlan Leonard, alto saxophone; Woody Walder, tenor saxophone. Source: Charles Goodwin.

Date: 
1924

Chauncey Downs' band with Woody Walder (sax) and Ernie Williams at Chauncey Downs Hall (known later as the Casa Loma Ballroom) in the Downs Building at the southeast corner of 18th Street and Prospect Avenue, ca. 1940. Source: Corrine Walder.

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.