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Billy Eckstine

Billy Eckstine's smooth baritone and distinctive vibrato broke down barriers throughout the 1940s, first as leader of the original bop big band, then as the first romantic black male in popular music. An influence looming large in the cultural development of soul and R&B singers from Sam Cooke to Prince, Eckstine was able to play it straight on his pop hits "Prisoner of Love," "My Foolish Heart" and "I Apologize." Born in Pittsburgh but raised in Washington, D.C., Eckstine began singing at the age of seven and entered many amateur talent shows. He had also planned on a football career, though after breaking his collar bone, he made music his focus. After working his way west to Chicago during the late '30s, Eckstine was hired by Earl Hines to join his Grand Terrace Orchestra in 1939. Though white bands of the era featured males singing straight-ahead romantic ballads, black bands were forced to stick to novelty or blues vocal numbers until the advent of Eckstine and Herb Jeffries (from Duke Ellington's Orchestra).

Though several of Eckstine's first hits with Hines were novelties like "Jelly, Jelly" and "The Jitney Man," he also recorded several straight-ahead songs, including the hit "Stormy Monday." By 1943, he gained a trio of stellar bandmates -- Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Sarah Vaughan. After forming his own big band that year, he hired all three and gradually recruited still more modernist figures and future stars: Wardell Gray, Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, Kenny Dorham, Fats Navarro, and Art Blakey, as well as arrangers Tadd Dameron and Gil Fuller. The Billy Eckstine Orchestra was the first bop big-band group, and its leader reflected bop innovations by stretching his vocal harmonics into his normal ballads. Despite the group's modernist slant, Eckstine hit the charts often during the mid-'40s, with Top Ten entries including "A Cottage for Sale" and "Prisoner of Love." On the group's frequent European and American tours, Eckstine also played trumpet, valve trombone, and guitar.

Though he was forced to give up the band in 1947 (Gillespie formed his own bop big band that same year), Eckstine made the transition to string-filled balladry with ease. He recorded more than a dozen hits during the late '40s, including "My Foolish Heart" and "I Apologize." He was also quite popular in Britain, hitting the Top Ten there twice during the '50s -- "No One But You" and "Gigi" -- as well as several duet entries with Sarah Vaughan. Eckstine returned to his jazz roots occasionally as well, recording with Vaughan, Count Basie, and Quincy Jones for separate LPs, and the 1960 live LP No Cover, No Minimum featured him taking a few trumpet solos as well. He recorded several albums for Mercury and Roulette during the early '60s (his son Ed was the president of Mercury), and he appeared on Motown for a few standards albums during the mid-'60s. After recording very sparingly during the '70s, Eckstine made his last recording (Billy Eckstine Sings with Benny Carter) in 1986. He died of a heart attack in 1993. ~ John Bush, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

I really need to know more about Mr. Billy Eckstine- In fact, I would like to promote a movie about him!
The man with the voice !
Makes the stones weep
I'm happy to have both Sinatra and Eckstine in my lifetime; sorry that Billy Eckstine can't get
the recognition as Sinatra has . received . Sinatra recognized that it was a difference in
ethnicity that was th only difference . Billy Eckstine won top vocal awards for five years ;
Sinatra asked Billy to take his place in Vegas after Frank had surgery ..
Eckstine was on the cover of Life Magazine ,and a picture of a young lady in Dallas TX hugging
him . ;a story if my daughter I'd thrash her.
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in the next 2 days. Now you've started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this on 5 songs in the next 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in BIG letters this is so scary cud it actually works
danmatti
He left his mark in the 1940's and 1950's but his recording back then have stood the test of time and today we have the privilege of listening to Mr. B' s smooth baritone voice.
This music is perhaps the biggest factor making wish -- really often -- I were living in those years, of course I would want to know what I know now because I am realistic enough to know one can't live on love. Tim Matas
Every time I'm listening to Pandora and Mr. E comes on it always makes me stop and take notice. Man did this guy have a set of pipes or what?!
Billy, Prysock, Earl Grant. Those cats were in a class by themselves.
I just loved this man's singing and that is why I requested him to be added to my Frank Sinatra's Variety. What a voice!! So melodic and smooth. I could listen to him all day and night. He makes me want to fall in love all over again. I'm so glad to have the memories of him I have. This is real singing and just presenting a Love Song like it was meant to be presented.
He was smooth.
first time listening to his music i have added him to one of favorites
Swank, sophisticate d , and oh so cool - Miles called him Mr. E!
alejandro100 0 9
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One of the best voices in the business! Better than Sinatra! His voice makes me melt!!!! So sorry all these wonderful artists have to leave us. Music isn't what it once was. This music is heavenly!
Randy Ran-diesel Taylor, thanks for correcting me. You have now given me another great performer to listen to.
@dru.steadma n Johnny Hartman did Lush Life with John Coltrane.
I believe he recorded Lush Life with John Coltrane. I have the CD The Very Best of Coltrane and I think Billy does the vocals, What a killer song! Can someone verify this for me?
excellent music.
I could listen to this music night and day. It brings back memories of the 40's when you could understand the words and the wonderful feelings of hearing these wonderful men with the smooth vocals and the women who could sing the blues. There will never be an era like this.
jomatr1
I can't believe his biography didn't mention his "Blue Moon"....one of his very best.
Mr. E - swank, sophisticate d , hip, and ever so cool!
I just found Pandora Internet Radio and I am playing Billy Eckstine , just like I did in 1949 while in the service when I saw Billy Eckstine's concert in person. I love this.
jet495
My Dad played this music all the time. Even as a teen I would listen to Billy, Arthur Prysock, Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan on the stereo. I can listen to Billy all day.
powellle13
Billy was great and one of my favorites of all time. I loved Sarah Vaughn too - especially when the two were together.
Lloyd ( http://publi c d e f e n d e r . e w a s h t e n a w . o r g )
mooyoo.77
How did the great BILLY get on this set of music? good stuff no matter.
One of the best male vocals of his era. I love duets with him and Ms. Sarah Vaughan. Thankfully, both my grandmother, uncles and mother listened to them. I might not have known of their musical gifts if I did not listen to them as a child. I hope my children will appreciate and learn from them and pass it on too. Thank you to all at Pandora Internet Radio!
I love them all thier all grate Artists
lYRICS FOR SOMEHOW BY BILLY ECKSTINE
"I Apologize".. . . . . . s i m p l y the best. My #1, gotta-hear-i t vocal, bar none. Only heard for 1st time in late'90s. Helped me appreciate < Prysock > too.
arlene1933
He was one of my favorite singers in my teen years (and now).
Really like him. almost forgotten and its a shame.
ummtaibah
beautiful voice.
As a child my exposure to this great artist was dictated by what my parents listened to, now i'm a mature man listening to "grown folk music", that I choose. What an amazing artist, no wonder folk in the 1940's and 50's knew how to romance a woman!!!!!!!
thebcw19398
I don't know who actually sang 'Stella by Starlight', but want to find out. Also, would the name of the album
by Lou Rawls in which he sings a sng entitled, something like- 'Down Here On the Ground and I'm Hoping for
Something Better' . I am sure that is not the exact title.
josephpelleg r i n o
silk,just pure silk! long live Mr.B !
Mr B. Just a great voice! Love his music in the 40's and 50's
gardenforeve r 4
Now, look for HERB JEFFERIES, same era!!!!
I can well remember those spell bound young lovers setting stary eyed and crooning to the wonderful singing voice's of Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, and BILLY Eckstine ,,,, during those wonderful years of the forties (the War years ) the years of Saddness,,,, Beautiful and Romantic Music, lonlyness, and Memories those years of Tear and Laughter , the wonderful fellings love , deep romance and and Passion in the Moonlight under the Starry slies above OOOOH yes how well I remember ( cause I wa
I'm looking for the album with Moonlite in Vermont by Billy Eckstine
I'm also looking for your phone contact number; i can't type very well .
How do I play Eckstine ? I'm getting everything but what I click.
I never heard of him until today, I must say I love this man voice.... How I wish their were more like him.
My mother saw him in Detroit at the famous FLAME SHOW BAR when I was a kid. I remember her telling my grandmother how handsome he was and how the women were falling all over him...includ i n g my mother. A great voice and talent.
original record of SOMEHOW by billy eckstine (album 1943 to 1953)
jopartida
The best smooth baritone singer in his day. He was well known as a wonderful trumpet player as well. A handsome man always impeccably dressed, he passed away far too soon. I have many of his records and thoroughly enjoy them. I especially love his "Everything I Have is Yours" and "Do Nothing Till you Hear From me." I grew up in the Big Band Era and maintain that in spite of many wonderful songs written and sung from the mid 30's through the present year, 2008, nobody sings like Mr "B."
I didn't grow up with this stuff...bein g my age...but I think it's really good and all modern musicians should learn from or at least appreciate this ol' stuff. By the way, I LOVE this guy's singing
The very Best!!!!!"MR 'B'
A wonderful performer that has been overlooked by the jazz media. This guy had a beautiful voice with chops that extended beyond Bop & Pop. Jazz was his base. A musician first, last & always. He was a master at the use of his primary instrument, that beautiful Baritone voice. (dmaxIII@aol . c o m )
ang32
This is such a wonderful website. I have enjoyed this music all night, reminds me of the days when I was young and went dancing all night. Oh to be young again in the 40's & 50's. Thank you for all this wonderful music. If my mother was living today she would have been 92 and she loved this music also. Please don't change, I love it..
ferryrf
Great
Excellent website! I miss the Days of Wine and Roses, when men were men and women were women!
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