McKinney's Cotton Pickers
McKinney's Cotton Pickers were an African American jazz band founded in Detroit in 1926 by William McKinney, who expanded his Synco Septet to ten pieces. Cuba Austin took over for McKinney early on drums.
In 1927 Don Redman left Fletcher Henderson's orchestra to become the Cotton Pickers' musical director, and he assembled a band which rivalled Henderson's and Duke Ellington's. Aiding Redman with arrangements and rehearsals with the band was the talented trumpeter-arranger John Nesbitt. The line-up in 1928 was Cuba Austin (drums and vocals), Prince Robinson (clarinet, tenor saxophone), George Thomas (clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, vocals; Redman (arranger, clarinet, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, vocals, and leader), Dave Wilborn (banjo, vocals), Todd Rhodes (piano, celeste), Ralph Escudero (tuba), Nesbitt, Claude Jones (trombone), Milton Senior, Langston Curl (trumpet).
Other bandmembers at one time or another included George Bias (vocals), Benny Carter (clarinet, alto saxophone), Doc Cheatham (trumpet), Bill Coti (vocals), Ed Cuffee (trombone), Sidney de Paris (trumpet), Lois Deppe (vocals), Leonard Davis (trumpet), Jimmy Dudley (clarinet, tenor saxophone), Coleman Hawkins (clarinet, tenor saxophone), Robert Inge (clarinet, (alto saxophone), Quentin Jackson (trombone), Moxey-Hilton Jefferson (clarinet, alto saxophone), James P. Johnson (piano), Buddy Lee (trumpet), Donald King (vocals), Kaiser Marshall (drums), Frank Marvin (vocals), Theodore McCord (clarinet, tenor saxophone), Jim Napier (vocals), Milton Senior (trumpet), Joe "Fox" Smith (trumpet, cornet), Rex Stewart (cornet), Billy Taylor (tuba), Fats Waller (piano, celeste). Between 1927 and 1931, they were one of the most popular African-American bands. Many of their records for Victor were best sellers.
In 1931 Redman left to form his own band and was replaced by Benny Carter. The Cotton Pickers disbanded in 1934, unable to make money during the Depression. Manager of the band was Jean Goldkette (who arranged for the group to record "Birmingham Bertha" for him in July 1929, released on Victor under his own name).
A New McKinney's Cotton Pickers was organized in the early 1970s by David Hutson, using the original Don Redman arrangements. They recorded several albums and featured original banjoist Dave Wilborn, who was believed to have been the only surviving original member at the time.
McKinney's Cotton Pickers' performance of "Milenberg Joys" was used as the theme tune of Robert Parker's 1980s radio series "Jazz Classics in Digital Stereo".
William McKinney, showman-drummer, formed his Cotton Pickers in Springfield, Ohio in 1922, but it was not until the summer of 1928 that they commenced their short but illustrious recording career for Victor. In the autumn of 1931 Don Redman, who did most of the arrangements, took a band of his own, including in it several of the Cotton Pickers. The Cotton Pickers were based originally in the Greystone Ballroom in Detroit, opposite Jean Goldkette's excellent White orchestra, but by the early part of 1929 we find them in Harlem at various nightspots. Their personnel varied as any personnel in a band this size, but in it's ranks were at one time such brilliant stars of the Harlem Jazz firmament as Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins, Lonnie Johnson, James P. Johnson, Joe Smith, Ed Cuffee, Claude Jones and Fats Waller. The original policy of the band was to play hot numbers, many of which were composed by Redman and/or other musicians in the band, but once in New York, with a recording contract from Victor that was demanding of all its artists a more commerical approach to work, the Cotton Pickers included a repertoire of the better popular hits of the day, giving them a rich and rare treatment, with warm section work and beautifully executed soli . Although the brass bass is supposed to be heavier than a string bass, in Billy Taylor's hands it is a living thing, giving adequate support to Wilborn's lively banjo and Austin's crisp drumming.
Here's a little list of some of the tunes that I have..........enjoy!
Do something 4-9-1929 Victor V-38051-B
Do you believe in love at first sight? 9-8-1931 Victor 22811-A
Four or five times 7-11-1928 Victor 21583-A
Gee, ain't I good to you? 11-5-1929 Victor V-38097-A
Honeysuckle Rose 2-3-1930 Victor
I Miss A Little Miss (Who Misses Me In Sunny Tennessee) Voc: George Bias 11-5-1930 Victor23024-A
I Want A Little Girl voc: George Thomas 7-30-1930 Victor 23000-B
I want your love voc: DaveWilborn 11-5-1930 Victor 22638-A
If I could be with you one hour tonight voc: George Thomas 1-31-1930 Victor V-38118-A
Millenberg Joys 7-11-1928 Victor 21611-A
Peggy 11-7-1929 Victor V-38133-A
Some sweet day 7-12-1928 Victor 21730-B
Talk to me 11-3-1930 Victor 22640-A
Wherever there's a will, baby 11-7-1929 Victor 22736-B
You're driving me crazy 11-17-1930 Victor 23031-B
Zonky 2-3-1930 voc: Dave Wilborn Victor V-38118-B
After all you're all I'm after 11-5-1930 Victor 23024-B
Baby won't you please come home voc: George Thomas 7-28-1930 Victor 22511-B
Blues sure have got me 7-29-1930 Victor 62-0084-A
Cherry voc: Jean Napier Victor 21730-A
Hello 11-5-1930 Victor 23031-A
Hullabaloo (From Warner Bros. picture "Dancing Sweeties") voc: Dave Wilborn 7-30-1930 Victor 22511-A
I'd love it 11-5-1929 Victor V-38133-B
It's tight like that 11-23-1928 Victor V-38013-A
Nobody's sweetheart 7-12-1928 Victor V-38000-B
ShooShoo Boogie boo 1929
Stop kidding 7-12-1928 Victor V-38025-A
Will you won't you babe?4-8-1929 Victor
Wrap your troubles in dreams (And Dream Your Troubles Away) 9-8-1931 Victor 22811-B
Put it there 7-11-1928 Victor V-38025-B