Sam Woodyard gained his recognition and popularity behind the drum throne of the Duke Ellington Orchestra from 1955 to 1966.
Woodyard born on Jan. 7, 1925, hailed from Newark, was self taught, and by the '40s, he was playing with local bands . He played R&B in Paul Gayten's band around 1950.By the early '50s, Woodyard had played with tenor saxophonist Joe Holiday, trumpeter Roy Eldridge, and pianist Milt Buckner. His most productive and defining period of course were the ’55-’66 years with the Duke.
After his time with Ellington, Woodyard played drums for Ella Fitzgerald, and then moved to Los Angeles, after which he settled in Paris.
In the 1970s he played less due to health problems, but recorded with Buddy Rich and toured with French pianist Claude Bolling. In 1983 he played in a band with Teddy Wilson, Buddy Tate, and Slam Stewart. His last recording was on Steve Lacy's 1988 album “The Door” he died a little more than a month afterward on Sept. 20, in Paris.