A man with brown eyes, and black hair, weighing 162 pounds, at five feet nine inches tall, and winner for the best trumpeter of 1956 in the Down Beat poll must be Dizzy Gellespie. Dizzy was born on October 21, 1917 as John Birks Gillespie from Cheraw north Carolina. He was the ninth and last child of John and Lottie Gillespie. Dizzy was given early instrumental training by his father, who was the teacher and director of a local band. This in turn meant there was many instruments in their home. Dizzy ended up learning to play the trumpet, piano, drums, and the trombone. At age of ten Dizzy’s father died, leaving Dizzy with the ability to play an organize his first band at age fourteen. At that age he already acquired a reputation for his prowess on the trumpet. Dizzy ended up winning a scholarship to the Laurinburg Institute, where he studied in theory and harmony. In 1935 Dizzy moved to Philadelphia, and got a job playing in the Frank Fairfax band. During this time he got his nickname “Dizzy”, because of his eccentric mannerism. In 1937 Dizzy made his first recording with the Teddy Hills Orchestra, during this time he was emulating the style of jazz trumpeter Roy Eldridge. He first toured Europe and the United States with Teddy Hills Orchestra until it broke up in 1939. Then in the fall of 1939, Gillespie joined the band of Cab Calloway. Impressed with Dizzy’s imaginative arrangements Calloway had him make several records including “Pickin the Cabbage.” In 1940 came the thought of a different view of jazz called Be Bop. Dizzy and a few musicians felt that the old jazz style didn’t express the modern generation. This began the after work meetings at the upper Manhattan night club called Minton’s Playhouse. By showing a musician how the last two notes of a musical phrase should sound Dizzy sang it out “be bop, be bop, be bop” and a new word came into the musical vocabulary. After leaving Calloway’s band he played with bands such as Benny Carter, Les Hite, and Charlie Barnet. He then played his first jazz concert at the Museum of Modern Art in New York with the Benny Carter’s band. In 1943 Gillespie formed a small band with violist Oscar
Pettiford and played at the Onyx Club, and later at the Yacht Club. This would be the first public introductiom to Bebop. Many people walked out because their music was different. In 1945 dizzy toured the nation and appeared at a concert sponsored by the New Jazz Foundation, at New York’s Town Hall. Dizzy led a disappointing road tour, and in turn Bebop became a national wide fad. With Bebop came the fans that started wearing goatees, horn rimmed glasses,berets, and vast vocabulary. In 1946 Dizzy formed a big band and played at Carnegie Hall, also at the Royal Roost in New York.After two years Dizzy took his band on a tour of Europe, he found that the continent was highly enthusiastic about the new style of music. Along with his tour of 1948 he also received “Bandof the Year”, by Metronome. Then 1950+ + Dizzy broke up his band as Bebop was fading. This led to Dizzy to change his style to singing and emphasizing comedy in his trumpet. In March of 1956 he lead a band organized by the American National theater and Academy, which toured the international exchange program of the U.S. Department of state. This was the first time a jazz band had been sponsored, and played sixty four concerts in fifteen cities. When Dizzy returned to New York he played for the White House correspondents’ annual dinner for President Eisenhower. After the performance the Appropriations Committee criticized the performance and wanted to cut the funds. Dizzy sent a telegram protesting the cuts saying “it served a very good purpose for a mixed band to be led by me”. So in 1956 Dizzy made another U.S. Department of State, sponsored tour to South America. Dizzy recorded under many labels including: Morgan, Savory, Norgran, Dial, and RCA Victor label. In 1951 made his own record label, Dee-Gee.