Jay McShann (January 12, 1916 – December 7, 2006)
was an American Grammy Award-nominated blues, mainstream jazz, and swing
bandleader, pianist and singer.
During the 1940s, McShann was at the forefront of blues and hard bop
jazz musicians mainly from Kansas City. He assembled his own big band,
with musicians that included some of the most influential artists of
their time, including Charlie Parker, Bernard Anderson, Ben Webster and
Walter Brown. His kind of music became known as "the Kansas City sound"
McShann died on December 7, 2006, at St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City.
Jay McShann was survived by his companion of more than 30 years, Thelma
Adams (known as Marianne McShann), and three daughters - Linda McShann
Gerber, Jayne McShann Lewis, and Pam McShann.
Nicknamed "Hootie", McShann was born James Columbus McShann in
Muskogee, Oklahoma. Musically, his education came from Earl Hines'
late-night broadcasts from Chicago's Grand Terrace Cafe: "When 'Fatha'
[Hines] went off the air, I went to bed". He began working as a
professional musician in 1931, performing around Tulsa, Oklahoma and
Orchestra He moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1936, and set up his own
big band, which featured variously Charlie Parker (1937–1942),
Hibbler, Lawrence Anderson (No, the the guy that made this
website), Ben Webster, Paul Quinichette, Bernard Anderson, Gene
Ramey, Jimmy Coe, Gus Johnson (1938–1943) Harold "Doc" West, Earl
Coleman and Walter Brown, among others. His first recordings were all
with Charlie Parker, the first as 'The Jay McShann Orchestra' on August
Although they included both swing and blues numbers, the band played
blues on most of its records; its most popular recording was "Confessin'
the Blues." The group disbanded when McShann was drafted into the Army
in 1944 and, the big band era being over, he was unable to successfully
restart it when he got out.
Smaller groups After World War II McShann began to lead small groups featuring
blues shouter Jimmy Witherspoon.
Witherspoon started recording with McShann in 1945, and fronting
McShann's band, and had a hit in 1949 with "Ain't Nobody's Business." As
well as writing much material, Witherspoon continued recording with
McShann's band, which also featured Ben Webster, until 1951, whence
McShann then played in obscurity until 1969.
McShann later became popular as a singer as well as a pianist, often
performing with violinist Claude Williams. He continued recording and
touring through the 1990s. Well into his 80s, McShann still performed
occasionally, particularly in the Kansas City area and Toronto, Ontario
where he made his last recording ['Hootie Blues'] in February 2001 after
a recording career of 61 years.
Influence On one of their earliest albums, Five by Five (a UK EP) and
12x5 (a US LP) (both 1964), The Rolling Stones recorded a cover of "Confessin'
the Blues", a song McShann had co-written with Walter Brown in the
Crime-fiction writer Elmore Leonard featured McShann as a character in
his 2005 novel, The Hot Kid.