Monday, August 18, 2008

Lee Young

An Amazing Obituary
Lee Young, drummer who played with greats, dies
Posted by: editoron Wednesday, August 13, 2008 - 05:05 PM
Jazz News LOS ANGELES—Lee Young, a jazz drummer, recording artist and producer who played with Duke Ellington and other greats and became the first black to work as a Hollywood studio staff musician, has died. He was 94. Young died of complications from colon cancer on July 31 at his Los Angeles home, said his grandson, Wren T. Brown.

Young was raised in a musical New Orleans family and as a child toured carnivals and vaudeville with his brother and sister, visiting more than 30 states by the time he was 8. He performed in the thriving local jazz scene after the family moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s.

He made his first records with Fats Waller and also worked at the MGM studio, where he taught Mickey Rooney how to play drums for the film "Strike Up the Band."

In the 1940s, Young led a number of small bands and also did Hollywood work.

In 1944, Young played drums at Norman Granz's first Jazz at the Philharmonic concert in Los Angeles, which featured the likes of saxophonist Jean-Baptiste Illinois Jacquet, trombonist J.J. Johnson and guitarist Les Paul. The concert jam session was followed by nationwide tours of jazz stars.

In 1946, Young turned down a chance to become the drummer in Stan Kenton's all-white orchestra in order to accept a contract as a staff musician at Columbia Pictures. He was the first black to integrate a Hollywood studio orchestra but found the work unrewarding and left after two years.

Young made scores of records and performed with many jazz greats, including Count Basie and Billie Holiday. From 1953 to 1962, he was Nat King Cole's drummer and musical director.
He later went into music producing and was an executive for several labels, including Liberty, Vee-Jay, Motown and ABC/Dunhill Records.

Young is survived by his wife, Geraldine; a daughter, Rosalind Brown of Los Angeles; a son, Lee Jr., of Los Angeles; a sister, Vivian Johnson of Louisiana; six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
So What's So Amazin' About This Obituary?
It mentions nowhere that Lee Young was Lester "Prez" Young's brother! It's hell watching he music you grew up loving and idolizing and trying to promote fading off into a corner of nowhere. Lee and Lester were very close--In 1942 Lee and Lester formed a band together in L.A. Lee and Lester began jamming at Billy Byrd's L.A. jazz club on Sunday afternoons and in attendance at those sessions was a young Norman Granz, then an editor with MGM pictures--from these jam sessions, Granz went on to form Jazz at the Philharmonic--and Lester and Lee were always on the bill of the JATPs in the beginning--as was their friend Nat "King" Cole--Lester played on the JATP up until a year or so before his death. To think that Lee lived 94 years! And that's another amazin' thing about this obituary--Lee outlived Lester by 49 years!!!
Lee Young Family Collection

for The Daily Growler

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