Luckey Roberts - stride pianist, composer (1887 - 1968)
He was Harlem's original piano powerhouse, the king of the New York Fast Shout pianists, the grandfather of stride piano. The name Luckey Roberts has become little more than a footnote in the pages of jazz history books. The names of his students are better known today than the master whom they worshipped. And what a list of disciples it is. These musicians include such luminaries as Duke Ellington, Earl Hines, James P Johnson, Eubie Blake, Willie The Lion Smith and last but not least George Gershwin.
Luckey Roberts was born on August 7, 1887 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After working in vaudeville as a child, Roberts moved to New York where he established a minor reputation as a composer and a major one as a performer of “Rags” and later “Stride” piano.
Luckey was the first of the Harlem pianists to record, for Columbia in 1916. But it would be more than half a century before recording engineers would have the ability to record such explosive music and the records were never released and are today lost. During the 1920s, he accompanied several vocalists and also provided background piano on some of the famous Two Black Crows recordings. Luckey recorded next in the ‘40’s for Circle records. In the ‘50’s he made a Honky Tonk album and finally after surviving a car accident in which his hands were shattered and several strokes, he was finally captured in stereo for the Good Time Jazz label.