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Panama Francis

Panama Francis - drums

David “Panama” Francis, legendary drummer noted for a career remarkable for its longevity--dating from Harlem jazz spots of the 1930s to Hollywood movie sets of the 1990s--but for its sheer scope as well. Who else could have claimed to have worked with Cab Calloway, Frankie Valli, Dinah Shore,The Platters and LaVerne Baker, to name just a few of his colleagues.He then established himself as a dynamic leader of the revived Savoy Sultans.

David Albert Francis was born on December 21, 1918, in Miami, Florida. He played drums at a young age and gained most of his early experience on the instrument at church meetings around his hometown. He also began playing in a local drum and bugle corps at the age of eight. While still a teenager, Francis joined his first band, the Cavaliers, under the direction of saxophonist George Kelly. In 1938, not quite 20 years old, Francis traveled to New York City in search of his big break. After impressing trumpeter Roy Eldridge at an informal jam session with Billy Hicks and the Sizzling Six, the bandleader offered Francis a position with his band, which headlined at the Arcadia Ballroom.

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