Today the website celebrates Duke Ellington’s birth 120 years ago.

The number of visitors to this and other Ellington websites and blogs attest that his music is still alive and hopefully it will continue to be for many years to come.

When Ellington was born, William McKinley was the President of the United States. Two and a half years later he was assinated and succeed by the Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, who was to establish USA on the global scene.

One wonders if this was discussed in the Ellington family and had any impact on Duke’s first 10 years.

However, the election of a president with a strong segrationist agenda – Woodrow Wilson – in 1913 most likely had it since the implementation of Wilson’s segrationist policies halted the growth of the black middle class in Washington D.C.

When Ellington turned 30 on April 29, 1929, he was in residency at the Cotton Club and had been so for quite some time. Nothing is known about how he celebrated this birthday but it seems likely that there were some celebrations at the Cotton Club.

10 years later he was in Stockholm as part of his Swedish tour and there he was celebrated a lot. As we wrote in the first article on the new DESS website three years ago, Duke “was celebrated from the early morning into the late night”.

The article is available here.

In the article we included a photo in Orkesterjournalen of the morning celebration. Since then Jan Bruér has provided the website with the photo that was reproduced in OJ and we are happy to share it with DESS’ members and other Ellington aficionados. The French photo and video specialist Gérard Bouyssee has kindly helped fix some issues with the photo.

In 1949, Duke Ellington spent his 50th birthday in New York. He started an engagement at the Paramount Theatre on April 22 and it lasted until May 10th.  He and the band did six shows a day between showings of the new Glenn Ford movie. Billy Eckstine was also featured in the program but did not perform with Ellington.

In between the shows on his birthday, Ellington was interviewed by Barry Ulanov. The result was published in the June issue of Metronome. Unfortunately, we have not yet managed to locate this issue of the jazz magazine but small excerpts from the interview can be found at the TDWAW website.

In the evening of his birthday, Ellington did his first TV appearance. It was in a CBS TV show “Adventures In Jazz” hosted by the disc jokey Fred Robbins. DESS members can enjoy the soundtrack of the show in the “Goodies Room”.

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