Primary Instrument: Band/orchestra
The Missourians - orchestra/ensemble
This midwest band, greatly influenced by Benny Moten's orchestra, began life as Wilson Robinson's Syncopators in the early 1920s. In 1923, they were called 'Wilson Robinson's Bostonians', In 1925, this was the same group that became the house band at New York City's Cotton Club, where they replaced Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra, who was the first band to play in New York City's renovated and renamed Cotton Club.
When Henderson left, the Missourians moved in, but under the name of Andy Preer and The Cotton Club Orchestra. In 1926, the band had such sidemen as: Andy Brown (Sax); DePriest Wheeler (trombone); Roger Q. Dickerson (trumpet), Bill Blue (William Thornton Blue) Reeds, and Leroy Maxey on drums.
In 1927, when Preer died, Duke Ellington and His Washingtonians became the house band at the Cotton Club. (They had been playing at the Washington Club off Broadway in New York's Times Square district. The Washington Club had originally been called the Hollywood Inn.) At the Cotton Club, Ellington's band then became known as Duke Ellington and the Jungle Band. Songwriter Jimmy McHugh, who with Dorothy Fields was writing the revues for the club, had been impressed by Ellington's band and persuaded Cotton Club manager Herman Stark and his partner Dan Healy to go hear them play at the Lafayette Theatre in the show 'Dance Mania'. Shortly after, Duke signed a contract to appear with his orchestra in the Cotton Clubs upcoming revue.
Ten of the original players departed, changed their name to 'The Missourians' (they were all from St. Louis, MO), and with Ethel Waters as their singer, began touring nationally. From 1928-'29, the band played regularly at the Savoy Ballroom under the direction of alto sax man George Scott.
In 1929, Cab Calloway first started working with the Missourians, and, as the Missourians, they cut about a dozen hot recordings for RCA from 1929-'30. Still, the band was struggling and would have disbanded were it not for Cab Calloway, who, in 1930, hired all of the musicians as the nucleus of his own 'Cab Calloway Orchestra' and, interestingly, led them back into the Cotton Club, replacing the Duke Ellington Orchestra that had originally replaced them back in 1927. But this time the Missourians (whose name was dropped) were quite subservient to its leader, no longer having its own separate identity. And over time, one by one, the musicians were replaced by Calloway as the Missourians passed into history.