William C. "Buster" Bailey (19 July 1902 – 12 April 1967) was a jazz musician specializing in the clarinet, but also well versed on saxophone. Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Bailey was one of the most respected session players of his era.
Buster Bailey was a master of the clarinet and was educated on the instrument by classical teacher Franz Schoepp, the man who taught Benny Goodman. Bailey got his start with W.C. Handy’s Orchestra in 1917 when he was just fifteen years old. After two years of touring with Handy, Bailey quit the orchestra while the band was in Chicago. In 1919, Bailey joined Erskine Tate’s Vendome Orchestra and remained with Tate until 1923 when he joined up with Joe "King" Oliver. As a member of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, Bailey met and became friends with Louis Armstrong, who was also a member of the band at that time. In 1924, Armstrong left King Oliver’s Jazz Band to join Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra in New York. Within a month Armstrong extended an invitation for Buster Bailey to join him as a member of Henderson’s band. Bailey accepted and moved to New York City.
In New York during the late 1920s, Buster Bailey became a highly respected sideman with Perry Bradford and others, and appeared on numerous recordings playing both the clarinet and the soprano saxophone. Most notably Bailey performed on a number of Clarence Williams albums. In 1927 he left Fletcher Henderson and undertook a tour of Europe with Noble Sissle’s Orchestra. After his return, Bailey performed with several other jazz greats, including Edgar Hayes and Dave Nelson. He rejoined Sissle’s orchestra in 1931 and continued with the group through 1933. In 1934, Bailey was back briefly with Fletcher Henderson, but by the end of the year he had settled down as a member of the John Kirby Band. Bailey remained a member of Kirby’s band until 1946, but that didn’t stop him from performing with other artists. In 1934 and 1935, Bailey was playing with the Mills Blue Rhythm Band and in 1937 he was a session player for Midge Williams and Her Jazz Jesters. He also recorded music during this time as Buster Bailey and His Rhythm Busters.
In 1946, Buster Bailey went independent and led his own band, but his group lasted for only the year. In 1947 he joined Wilbur de Paris and performed with him until 1949. During the early 1950s Bailey was with Big Chief Russell Moore, but for most of the decade Bailey played with Henry "Red" Allen. From 1961 to 1963 he performed with Wild Bill Davison. Bailey was with the Saints And Sinners from 1963 to 1964, and in 1965 he rejoined his old friend Armstrong and became a member of Louis Armstrong and His All-Stars.
Buster Bailey died in April 1967 of a heart attack. He was living in Brooklyn, New York, at the time.
Buster Bailey appeared on film three times during his career. The first was in a film entitled That's the Spirit (1933) in which he played himself as a band member. The second was in 1961 on the television program The DuPont Show of the Week in an episode entitled "America's Music - Chicago and All That Jazz". His final appearance was with Louis Armstrong in When the Boys Meet the Girls (1965), again as a musician.
From www.redhotjazz.com :
Like many of the early Jazz musicians from Memphis, Tennessee, Buster Bailey got his start playing with W.C. Handy's Orchestra. He toured with Handy from 1917 to 1919 when he quit the orchestra while in Chicago and joined Erskine Tate's Vendome Orchestra. He stayed with Tate until 1923 and then spent about a year with King Oliver. When Louis Armstrong left King Oliver's Jazz Band in 1924 to join Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra in New York, Bailey followed a month later after being recommended by Armstrong. Bailey's fast smooth clarinet style made him a sought after session musician in the mid-1920s. He appeared on dozens of records by Blues singers, and on a great number of Clarence Williams sessions. He quit the Henderson Orchestra in 1927 and toured Europe with Noble Sissle's Orchestra. When he returned from Europe he played with Edgar Hayes and Dave Nelson before rejoining Sissle from 1931 to 1933. In 1934 he hooked up with Henderson again and then joined Mills Blue Rhythm Band for a year and then returned the Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra. In 1934 he joined the John Kirby band and stayed put until 1946. He led his own band briefly in 1946 and then joined Wilber de Paris from 1947 to 1949. Throughout the 1950s he played with Henry "Red" Allen and others. In the 1960s he worked with Wild Bill Davison from 1961 to 1963 and with the Saints And Sinners from 1963 to 1964. In 1965 he joined Louis Armstong and his All-Stars and continued to play with them until he died in 1967.
A few selections as leader and sideman. I've been posting long enough now that many of these may be repeated on other lists with Bailey as sideman, but I just wanted to do a list today featuring his playing.....so enjoy. :)
Afternoon In Africa-Buster Bailey And His Rhythm Busters 1937
Am I Blue- from "Walk A Little Faster" - 1940-Buster Bailey And His Sextet
April In Paris-Buster Bailey And His Sextet 05-1940
Arkansas Blues-Teddy Grace 1939
Call Of The Delta-Buster Bailey And His Seven Chocolate Dandies 1934
Cant We Be Friends-w/ John Kirby 1940
Chained To A Dream-Buster Bailey And His Rhythm Busters 1938
Chocolate to the Bone-Frankie 'Half-Pint' Jaxon/Harlem Hamfats 1937
Clarinet marmalade-Fletcher Henderson 1926
Copenhagen-Fletcher Henderson 1924
Coquette-w/ John Kirby 1941
Corrine Corrini-Wingy Manone & His Orch
Cushion Foot Stomp-Clarence Williams Washboard Band 1927
Dizzy Debutante-Buster Bailey And His Rhythm Busters 1937
Don t Start No Stuff-Harlem Hamfats
Eccentric Rag-Buster Bailey And His Sextet 1940
Im Cuttin Out- 1940 Johnnie Temple
Ive Found A New Baby-1937 Teddy Wilson & His Orch
Jazzbo Brown From Memphis-Bessie Smith (Vocal) Buster Bailey (Clarinet) Fletcher Henderson (Piano) 1926
Kentucky-1930 Clarence Williams' Washboard Band
Light Up-Buster Bailey And His Rhythm Busters 1938
The Bed Song-1937
The Blue Room-Buster Bailey And His Sextet 1940
The Fable Of The Rose-Buster Bailey And His Sextet 1940