Claude Hopkins - pianist, bandleader, (1903 - 1984)
Often overlooked by historians, Claude Hopkins was a major contributor to the development of early jazz and swing music. He was an incredibly gentle yet powerful stride pianist who could perform both ballads and hot numbers with equal virtuosity. Hopkins also wrote and arranged many compositions of his own and in collaboration with other artists like J.C. Johnson and Bud Freeman.
Hopkins grew up in the Washington, D.C., area and learned to play piano at age seven. He studied music and medicine at Howard University, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree, and later attended the Washington Conservatory. He worked with several bands while in college and formed his own group in 1924 for an engagement in Atlantic City, after which he spent a brief period with Wilbur Sweatman before forming another group of his own.