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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
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Prisoner Of Love

1. I Love The Rhythm In A Riff

2. Sophisticated Lady

3. She's Got The Blues For Sale

4. Jelly, Jelly

5. Lonesome Lover Blues

6. Tell Me Pretty Baby

7. Without A Song

8. Cool Breeze

9. Serenade In Blue

10. Oop-Bop-Sh'Bam

11. In The Still Of The Night

12. In My Solitude

13. It Ain't Like That

14. Prisoner Of Love

15. Second Balcony Jump

x

Track List: The Chronological 1946-1947

1. I Only Have Eyes For You

2. You're My Everything

3. I've Got To Pass Your House

4. The Jitney Man

5. Blue

6. Second Balcony Jump

7. Gloomy Sunday

8. Tell Me Pretty Baby

9. Love Is The Thing

10. Without A Song

11. Cool Breeze

12. Don't Take Your Love From Me

13. Oo Bop Sh'bam

14. I Love The Loveliness Of You

15. In The Still Of Night

16. Jelly Jelly

17. My Silent Love

18. Time On My Hands

19. All The Things You Are

20. In A Sentimental Mood

21. All Of Me

22. Where Are You

23. Prelude To A Kiss

24. She's Got The Blues For Sale

x

Track List: Airmail Special

1. Blowin' the Blues Away

2. I Wanna Talk About You

3. Together

4. Mean to Me

5. Without a Song (Live)

6. Mr. Chips

7. Air Mail Special

8. Don't Blame Me

9. If That's the Way You Feel

10. Opus X

11. Love Me or Leave Me

x

Track List: Jazz Masters 22

1. I Left My Hat In Haiti

2. My Foolish Heart

3. Imagination

4. Kiss Of Fire

5. Now It Can Be Told

6. I Apologize

7. Once

8. I Lost My Sugar In Salt Lake City

9. So Far

10. Jealousy

11. Everything I Have Is Yours

12. Strange Sensation

13. Because You're Mine

14. Sitting By The Window

15. Have A Good Time

16. Passing Strangers

x

Track List: Jazz 'Round Midnight: Billy Eckstine

1. Someone To Watch Over Me

2. My Old Flame

3. The Song Is You

4. Stardust

5. That Old Feeling

6. You Leave Me Breathless

7. What Will I Tell My Heart

8. September Song

9. I've Never Been In Love Before

10. Love Me

11. Oh, You Crazy Moon

12. Weaver Of Dreams

13. You're Mine You

14. Coquette

15. It Can't Be Wrong

16. Love Me Or Leave Me

x

Track List: No Cover No Minimum

1. Have A Song On Me

2. I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face

3. Lady Luck

4. Lush Life

5. Without A Song

6. Moonlight In Vermont

7. I Want A Little Girl

8. Medley: Prelude To A Kiss / I'm Beginning To See The Light

9. Fools Rush In

10. In The Still Of The Night

11. Prisioner Of Love

12. Little Mama

13. I Apologize

14. Till There Was You

15. Medley: I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart / I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good / Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me

16. Alright, Okay, You Win

17. 'deed I Do

18. It Might As Well Be Spring

19. That's For Me

20. You'll Never Walk Alone

21. Misty

x

Track List: Billy's Best !

1. The Boulevard Of Broken Dreams

2. Stella By Starlight

3. When The Sun Comes Out

4. I Got Lost In His Arms

5. Nobody's Heart (Belongs To Me)

6. Where Have You Been

7. Babalu

8. You Don't Know What Loves Is

9. A Sunday Kind Of Love

10. Trust In Me

11. That Ole Devil Called Love

12. Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart

13. It's Easier Said Than Done

14. Prisioner Of Love

15. Portrait

16. In The Rain

17. One Love In My Life

18. Vertigo

x

Track List: Everything I Have Is Yours / The Best Of The M-G-M Years

Disc 1

1. Everything I Have Is Yours

2. Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear To Tread)

3. Blue Moon

4. Mr. B's Blues

5. Temptation

6. Somehow

7. Caravan

8. Bewildered

9. Body And Soul

10. My Foolish Heart

11. Ev'ry Day (I Fall In Love)

12. I Love You

13. Dedicated To You

14. You're All I Need

15. I Wanna Be Loved

16. You've Got Me Crying Again

17. I've Never Been In Love Before

18. I Apologize

19. As Long As I Live

20. I Left My Hat In Haiti

Disc 2

1. Here Comes The Blues

2. Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries

3. Wonder Why

4. I'm A Fool To Want You

5. Taking A Chance On Love

6. You're Driving Me Crazy (What Did I Do?)

7. Early Autumn

8. Tenderly

9. One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)

10. If You Could See Me Now

11. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

12. Laura

14. Ill Wind (You're Blowin' Me No Good)

15. April In Paris

16. Coquette

17. Send My Baby Back To Me

18. How High The Moon

19. St. Louis Blues

20. Don't Get Around Much Anymore

21. Lost In Loveliness

22. Passing Strangers

Comments

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Reminds me of dancing with Billy on the juke box
O.Flannery
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He is an unsung pioneer in this music called jazz.
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sharonrae195 0
He was my Moms neighbor where she grew up in Pittsbugh,Pa . His Mom made him come in from play to practice the piano everyday. Practice makes perfect, that's for sure...
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umpfr55
Great Voice & style
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tom67602
This guy is ridiculously great.
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tom67602
I wished I could have seen him live. A singer's singer for sure.
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WOW what a voice!
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Billy one of our greatest vocalist ever!
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outstanding
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jjmargolis2
Billy Eckstine was a singer's singer--he was a guy that other performers would go to see when they finished their shows. There's no higher compliment.
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How come? There is not one word in the bio, but as I recall he was responsible for the Mr B shirt collar. Also, nothing about his y9uger days, when he was supposed to have been billed as Bull Moose Jackson as a result of the voice and the big sound. Does anyone know if that last is true? I did hear that back in the very late '40s or into the '50s. Anyway, very nice to listen to, and not even Italian!
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This music is timelessI I love this!!!
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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
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I really need to know more about Mr. Billy Eckstine- In fact, I would like to promote a movie about him!
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The man with the voice !
Makes the stones weep
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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.
Report as inappropriate
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
Report as inappropriate
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.
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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
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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?!
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Billy, Prysock, Earl Grant. Those cats were in a class by themselves.
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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.
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He was smooth.
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first time listening to his music i have added him to one of favorites
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Swank, sophisticate d , and oh so cool - Miles called him Mr. E!
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alejandro100 0 9
Leave a comment…
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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!
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Randy Ran-diesel Taylor, thanks for correcting me. You have now given me another great performer to listen to.
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@dru.steadma n Johnny Hartman did Lush Life with John Coltrane.
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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?
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excellent music.
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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.
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jomatr1
I can't believe his biography didn't mention his "Blue Moon"....one of his very best.
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Mr. E - swank, sophisticate d , hip, and ever so cool!
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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.
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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.
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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 )
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mooyoo.77
How did the great BILLY get on this set of music? good stuff no matter.
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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!
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I love them all thier all grate Artists
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lYRICS FOR SOMEHOW BY BILLY ECKSTINE
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"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.
Report as inappropriate
arlene1933
He was one of my favorite singers in my teen years (and now).
Report as inappropriate
Really like him. almost forgotten and its a shame.
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ummtaibah
beautiful voice.
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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!!!!!!!
Report as inappropriate
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.
Report as inappropriate
josephpelleg r i n o
silk,just pure silk! long live Mr.B !
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Mr B. Just a great voice! Love his music in the 40's and 50's
Report as inappropriate
gardenforeve r 4
Now, look for HERB JEFFERIES, same era!!!!
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