Andy Kirk

Andy Kirk grew up singing, then learning the piano and saxophones (alto and tenor). Conductor Paul Whiteman's father, Wilberforce Whiteman, gave Kirk lessons in music theory. As early as 1916, he began playing the tuba and bass saxophone, in vogue at the time, in George Morrison's band. In 1925, Andy Kirk moved to Dallas, joined Terrence Holder's band, the Dark Clouds of Joy, and became its director in 1929. Mary Lou Williams joined the band as a substitute pianist, but soon became one of the band's main attractions, as well as arranger (1929-1942). The Dark Clouds of Joy move to Kansas City, a city teeming with orchestras and musicians (1930). Competition was fierce between Andy Kirk's band, the newcomer, and the Bennie Moten-Count Basie orchestra, the locals. From this point on (1930), Andy Kirk's band toured frequently throughout the United States, ending with a triumphant performance in New York (1936, "Until the Real Thing Comes Along"). For some fifteen years, the orchestra recorded for the two major labels, Brunswick and Decca. Andy Kirk disbanded the band in 1948, set up occasional bands (1960), worked on the West Coast, and came to Europe for the first time in the late 60s. From 1970 to 1979, Kirk worked as an archivist librarian for the musicians' union, after which he retired. Andy Kirk's band was not as famous as Bennie Moten's or Count Basie's, but it remained one of the best for some twenty years (1929-1948), featuring such excellent musicians as Mary Lou Williams, Don Byas, Charlie Parker, Howard McGhee and Fats Navarro.

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