Trombonist Bill Hughes, the Director of the Count Basie Orchestra since 2003, was born in Texas in 1930 in the midst of the Depression. Hughes’s family moved to Washington, DC when he was nine years old. His father, who worked for the Bureau of Engraving, began playing the trombone, and performed in the Elks Club marching band. After attending rehearsals and marching band gigs with his dad, Hughes began playing the trombone at the age of 12 or 13.
His musical skills progressed rapidly, so much so that by 16 he was jamming at a jazz venue called the 7T Club�”it was located at 7th and T Street. There he played with many great musicians, including his friend Frank Wess. During his last year in high school, his father took him to New York, where in 1947 or ’48 he saw the Count Basie band live for the first time. Although he had heard the band on the radio, this live performance mesmerized him. Although he loved playing music, he didn’t think that he would become a professional musician, especially after marrying his college sweetheart. He thought becoming a pharmacist would be his ticket to career stability, so he graduated from the Howard University School of Pharmacy in 1952. Hughes began working at the National Institute of Health under the direction of Dr. Arnold W. Pratt. Interestingly, Dr. Pratt would have the staff take breaks in which they would sight sing! By this time, Hughes was raising a family with his beloved wife Delores.