A native of the West Indies, Nanton joined the Ellington orchestra in 1926, as a trombonist. He was a key player in the development of the bands overall sound and also remembered for his use of the plunger mute.
Joe Nanton, was born, in 1904. His professional career as a trombonist began in Washington with pianist Cliff Jackson. From 1923 to 1924 he worked with Frazier's Harmony Five. A year later he performed with banjoist Elmer Snowden. At age 22 Joe Nanton found his niche in Duke Ellington's Orchestra when he reluctantly took the place of his friend Charlie Irvis. He remained a member of the orchestra until his early death in 1946.