Duke Ellington was one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. A noted pianist, bandleader and composer of unparallel prowess, Duke Ellington had a humble beginning and scaled the echelons in the mercurial world of music. Here are some of Duke Ellington major accomplishments.
1. Duke’s Early Career Was Not Very Promising
As a young artist, he accompanied his band member and drummer Sonny Greer to join New York’s Wilber Sweatman Orchestra. They quit and formed their own band. They moved back to Washington D.C. and struggled for a while. They got to play in Atlantic City and the limited exposure they got earned them a gig at Exclusive Club in Harlem. The band was then known as ‘Elmer Snowden and his Black Sox Orchestra’ which changed to ‘The Washingtonians’. It took Duke and his fellow band mates a while to get noticed. By 1924, Duke Ellington had composed eight records, one of which was ‘ChooChoo’.
2. Has Not Received Composing Credits
He did not just receive composing credits for three of the eight records but also got noticed. Within a year, Duke composed four songs and contributed to Chocolate Kiddies. Alongside these developments, Ellington grew his Kentucky Club Orchestra and started developing their own sound. It was Chocolate Kiddies that introduced Europeans to a different style of music and performance. Although people called it jazz, Duke Ellington liked to call his style ‘American Music’.
3. Signed An Agreement with Irving Mills
Within two years of his first records being produced and released, Duke Ellington signed an agreement with Irving Mills, an influential agent and publisher of the time. Over the following year, Duke got Mills to record his compositions prolifically and he eventually managed to bag a weekly radio broadcast as well as an opportunity to be the house band at Cotton Club in Harlem. The former got him national exposure.
4. Made it Through the Great Depression
Duke Ellington and his orchestra braved through the Great Depression despite more than nine out of ten artists being compelled to quit. Duke and his orchestra managed to stay afloat courtesy the radio show and the popularity was further maintained by tours. Duke came up with some amazing compositions during this time. Some notable ones are ‘Solitude’, ‘Mood Indigo’, ‘Sophisticated Lady’ and ‘In a Sentimental Mood’.
5. Grammy Award Winner
Ellington’s final compositions were ‘In the Beginning God’, ‘Second Sacred Concert’ and ‘Third Sacred Concert’. His autobiography was published in 1973. He called it ‘Music Is My Mistress’. He won nine Grammies while alive and three posthumously.