Milt Hinton was widely regarded as the dean of jazz bassists. This master bassist was one of the consummate sidemen in jazz history. His career very nearly spanned the gamut of jazz generations and he was one of those rare musicians who exhibited minimal ego and had an ability to make a contribution to any setting he found himself in, no matter the style. He once said, according to the New York Times, that he had made more records than anybody, and at the peak of his recording career he kept instruments at each of several major recording studios so that he would be ready to play at a moment's notice.
Like so many African American families in the early part of the 20th century, his family migrated from Mississippi north to Chicago, where he was raised. His mother was a church musician, playing organ, piano, and directing the choir. She bought him a violin for his thirteenth birthday, which he studied for four years from 1923-27. Later he picked up the sarousaphone, bass horn, and tuba and studied music at Wendell Phillips High School in Chicago. In 1928 he found his voice when he switched to string bass. One of his earliest professional affiliations was with violinist Eddie South, with whom he played intermittently between 1931-36. Other of his early affiliations were with Zutty Singleton, Johnny Long, Tiny Parham, Erskine Tate, Art Tatum, Cassino Simpson, and Jabbo Smith.