Pianist Albert Ammons was the king of boogie-woogie, a bluesy jazz style that swept the United States, and then the world, from the late 1930s into the mid-1940s. Although his origins were modest, his powerful piano style would take him from Chicago barrooms to Carnegie Hall to the White House. As a soloist and in duets, Ammons's propulsive style gave life to classics like Boogie Woogie Stomp and Pinetop's Boogie Woogie. Albert Ammons was one of the big three of late-'30s boogie-woogie, along with Pete Johnson and Meade Lux Lewis.
Ammons was born on September 23, 1907, in Chicago, Illinois. Both of his parents were pianists, so it was little surprise that he had learned to play by the age of ten. He also played percussion in the drum and bugle corps as a teenager, and was soon performing with bands on the Chicago club scene. After World War I, he became interested in the blues, and learned by listening to Chicago pianists Hersal Thomas and the Yancey brothers.
In the early-to-mid 1920s, Ammons worked as a cab driver for the Silver Taxicab Company and continued to reside in Chicago. In 1924 he met a fellow taxi driver who also played piano, Meade Lux Lewis. Soon the two players began working as a team, performing at clubs and house rent parties. Silver Taxicab eventually set up its own clubroom, complete with a piano, so that they would be able to find Ammons and Lewis when someone needed a ride.