Buck Clayton first rose to national fame as the lead soloist with the first great Count Basie band that roared out of Kansas City in late fall, 1936. Ironically, while Clayton’s understated, bell-like sound is associated with the hard swinging Kansas City style, he actually spent little time in Kansas City. By the time he arrived at the famed Reno Club, a small dive on 12th Street, Clayton had already led a colorful career as a band leader, ranging from Los Angeles to Shanghai.
Born in Parsons, Kansas, Clayton grew up in a musical family. Clayton’s father, a minister, taught him the basics of music. Picking up the trumpet as a teenager, Clayton performed with the church band, featuring his mother on organ. He first heard the clarion call of jazz during a stopover by the George E. Lee band in Parsons. After high school, Clayton followed his muse to California, where he began his professional career.