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Billy Eckstine
Billy Eckstine Sanford and Son
Billy Eckstine made a guest appearance on "Sanford and Son" as a nightclub singing hopeful in the episode "The Stand-In" in Season 5.
Vital Information
Birthname: William Clarence Eckstein
Born: (1914-07-08)July 8, 1914
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died March 8, 1993(1993-03-08) (aged 78)
Deathplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Occupation/
Career:
Jazz Singer
Years active: 1940s–1990s
Family/Personal information
Character/series involvement
Appeared on/
Involved with:
Sanford and Son in Guest appearance
Episodes appeared in: "The Stand-In"
Character(s) played: Nightclub singer
Sanford and Son retro Wiki Script


Billy Eckstine (born July 1, 1914-died March 8, 1993) made a guest appearance on Sanfrord and Son as a nightclub singer hopeful in the Season 4 episode titled The Stand-In. A legendary singer of jazz ballads and a bandleader of the swing era, Eckstine's smooth baritone and distinctive vibrato broke down barriers throughout the 1940s, first as leader of the original bop big-band, then as the first romantic black male in popular music. Eckstine's recording of "I Apologize" (MGM, 1948) was awarded the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999.

BiographyEdit

Early life Edit

Billy's paternal grandparents were William F. Eckstein and Nannie Eckstein, a mixed-race, lawfully married couple who lived in Washington, D.C.; both were born in 1863. William F. was born in Prussia and Nannie in Virginia. His parents were William Eckstein, a chauffeur, and Charlotte Eckstein. Eckstine was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; a State Historical Marker is placed at 5913 Bryant St, Highland Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to mark the house where he grew up.[1] Later moving to Washington, D.C., Eckstine began singing at the age of seven and entered many amateur talent shows. He attended Armstrong High School, St. Paul Normal and Industrial School, and Howard University.[2] He left Howard in 1933, after winning first place in an amateur talent contest.[3]

Career highlightsEdit

In 1944, Billy formed his own big band and made it a fountainhead for young musicians who would reshape jazz by the end of the decade, including some future modern jazz pioneers auch as Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Charlie Parker, and Fats Navarro. Tadd Dameron and Gil Fuller were among the band's arrangers, and Sarah Vaughan gave the vocals a contemporary air. The Billy Eckstine Orchestra was the first bop big-band, and its leader reflected bop innovations by stretching his vocal harmonics into his normal ballads. Despite the group's modernist slant, Eckstine hit the charts often during the mid-1940s, with Top Ten entries including "A Cottage for Sale" and "Prisoner of Love". On the group's frequent European and American tours, Eckstine, popularly known as Mr. B, also played trumpet, valve trombone and guitar.

After a few years of touring with road-hardened be-boppers, Eckstine became a solo performer in 1947, and seamlessly made the transition to string-filled balladry. He recorded more than a dozen hits during the late 1940s, including "My Foolish Heart" and "I Apologize." He was one of the first artists to sign with the newly-established MGM Records, and had immediate hits with revivals of "Everything I Have Is Yours" (1947), Richard Rodgers’ and Lorenz Hart’s "Blue Moon" (1948), and Juan Tizol’s "Caravan" (1949). Success continued in 1950 with Victor Young’s theme song to "My Foolish Heart" and a revival of the 1931 Bing Crosby hit, "I Apologize". However, unlike Nat "King" Cole (who followed him into the pop charts).

While enjoying success in the middle-of-the-road and pop fields, Eckstine occasionally returned to his jazz roots, recording with Vaughan, Count Basie and Quincy Jones for separate LPs, and he regularly topped the Metronome and Down Beat polls in the Top Male Vocalist category: He won Esquire magazine's New Star Award in 1946; the Down Beat magazine Readers Polls from 1948 to 1952; and the Metronome magazine award as "Top Male Vocalist" from 1949 to 1954.

His 1950 appearance at the Paramount Theatre in New York City drew a larger audience than Frank Sinatra at his Paramount performance. Among Eckstine's recordings of the 1950s was a 1957 duet with Sarah Vaughan, "Passing Strangers", a minor hit in 1957, but an initial No. 22 success in the UK Singles Chart. Even before folding his band, Eckstine had recorded solo to support it, scoring two million-sellers in 1945 with "Cottage for Sale" and a revival of "Prisoner of Love". Far more successful than his band recordings, these prefigured Eckstine’s future career.

The 1960 Las Vegas live album, No Cover, No Minimum, featured Eckstine taking a few trumpet solos as well. He recorded several albums for Mercury and Roulette during the early 1960s, and he appeared on Motown for a few standards albums during the mid to late 1960s. After recording sparingly during the 1970s for Al Bell's Stax/Enterprise imprint, Eckstine (although still performing to adoring audiences throughout the world) made his last recording, the Grammy-nominated Billy Eckstine Sings with Benny Carter in 1986.

Billy made numerous appearances on TV variety shows, including on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Nat King Cole Show, The Tonight Show with Steve Allen, Jack Paar , and Johnny Carson, The Merv Griffin Show, The Art Linkletter Show, The Joey Bishop Show, The Dean Martin Show, The Flip Wilson Show, and Playboy After Dark hosted by Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner. He also in addition to his Sanford and Son appearance, also acted in such films as Skirts Ahoy, Let's Do It Again, and Jo Jo Dancer.


Family lifeEdit

Billy married his first wife, June, in 1942; she too was a vocalist. After their divorce he married actress and model Carolle Drake in 1953, and they remained married until his death. He was the father of five children and two step-children, including Ed Eckstine, who was a president of Mercury Records, Guy Eckstine, who was a Columbia and Verve Records A&R executive and record producer, and singer Gina Eckstine.

Death and TributesEdit

In 1984 Billy recorded his final album, I Am a Singer, arranged and conducted by Angelo DiPippo and featuring Toots Thielemans on harmonica. He died on March 8, 1993, aged 78.

His friend Duke Ellington recalled Eckstine's artistry in his 1973 autobiography Music is My Mistress: Ellington is quoted as saying " (Billy) Eckstine-style love songs opened new lines of communication for the man in the man-woman merry-go-round, and blues a la B were the essence of cool. When he made a recording of Caravan, I was happy and honored to watch one of our tunes help take him into the stratosphere of universal acclaim. And, of course, he hasn't looked back since. A remarkable artist, the sonorous B." ... "His style and technique have seen extensively copied by some of the neocommercial singers, but despite their efforts he remains out front to show how and what should have been done."

Quincy Jones as stated in Billboard: "I looked up to Mr. B as an idol. I wanted to dress like him, talk like him, pattern my whole life as a musician and as a complete person in the image of dignity that he projected.... As a black man, Eckstine was not immune to the prejudice that characterized the 1950s."[4] Jones is quoted in The Pleasures of Jazz[5] as also saying of Eckstine: "If he’d been white, the sky would have been the limit. As it was, he didn’t have his own radio or TV show, much less a movie career. He had to fight the system, so things never quite fell into place."

Lionel Hampton-: "He was one of the greatest singers of all time.... We were proud of him because he was the first Black popular singer singing popular songs in our race. We, the whole music profession, were so happy to see him achieve what he was doing. He was one of the greatest singers of that era ... He was our singer. "[6]

ReferencesEdit

  1. Billy Eckstine - Pennsylvania Historical Markers on, Waymarking.com, 2006-10-29 accessed 2012-03-26.
  2. {{cite Billy Eckstine "Mr. B and His Band", Big Band Library, accessed May 25, 2011.
  3. {http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/musician.php?id=6481 Billy Eckstine at All About Jazz, Allaboutjazz.com, accessed May 25, 2011.]
  4. Billboard, March 20, 1993, p. 10.
  5. Leonard Feather, The Pleasures of Jazz: Leading Performers on Their Lives, Their Music, Their Contemporaries. New York: Horizon Press, 1976.
  6. Billy Eckstine Cremated Following Private Rites; Stars Pay Tribute to Him, JET Magazine, Vol.83, issue 22, p.18, ISSN 0021-5996, March 29, 1993

External linksEdit

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