Born David Roy Eldridge, January 30, 1911, Pittsburgh, PA
Died of “cardiopulmonary arrest” February 26, 1989, Hempstead, NY
Viola Lee Fong (1936-1989) (her death);
1 child, Carole Elizabeth, b. March 23, 1945
ubbed “Little Jazz,” the compact bundle of energy that was Roy Eldridge was all jazz. No one loved playing or was more competitive. He took the innovations of Louis Armstrong a step higher and faster, and added harmonic daring that captured the ear of young Dizzy Gillespie, whose idol Roy became.
As a soloist in many big bands, including those of Teddy Hill (with whom he made his first important records in 1935) and Fletcher Henderson, and on many great small-group sides with Billie Holiday and Teddy Wilson (1935-1941), Roy’s style was studied by every trumpeter of the day, but it was his sensational flights with his own swinging little band in 1937 that really showed what this “Wizard of the Trumpet” could do.
In 1941, he became the first black musician to join an otherwise white band (Gene Krupa’s) not just as a featured attraction or singer, but as a regular member of the section. He played the same role with Artie Shaw a few years later.
After 1945, he strictly led his own bands, big or small, though he joined other stars in Jazz at the Philharmonic, of which he was a mainstay from the 40s through the 70s. In JATP, he was often teamed with Coleman Hawkins; these two giants also worked a lot together on their own.
A heart attack in 1980 brought Eldridge’s trumpet playing career to a close. Thereafter he performed only occasionally, usually as a singer, drummer and even pianist. Tired of the demanding life of a full-time musician, he began to spend more time at home with his Wife, Vi, and focus on his hobbies of carpentry, radio engineering and electronics. Eldridge died in 1989, just three weeks after his wife.
All Music Guide
All Music Guide, Volume: 1, #1
by Dan Morgenstern