1990 Inductees

The Blue Devils are perhaps Oklahoma’s most famous jazz band. Having roots in Oklahoma City in the early 1920s, they went on to become nationally acclaimed, influencing a score of musicians along the way. Count Basie said that the first time he heard the Blue Devils “was probably the most important turning point in my musical career – once a Blue Devil, always a Blue Devil.” The Blue Devils produced such great artists as Walter page, Oran “Hot Lips” Page, James Rushing, Eddie Durham, Buster Smith, Lester Young, Abe Bolar and Alvin Burroughs. They recorded only one session (November 1929). The personnel from that band became the nucleus of the Benny Moten band in the early 1930s which later formed the core of the Count Basie Band. 

Part of the reason for their vast influence came from the new verve that they brought to jazz through their many innovations. Walter Page brought the string b ass into prominence in big bands. James Rushing permanently changed the big band vocal style. Buster Smith became the prominent influence on a cadre of musicians in the mid-and late-thirties, including the young Charlie parker. Many people credit the Blue Devils with beginning the “riff” structure which has become one of the hallmarks of jazz. With the innovations and the abundance of talented soloists, the Blue Devils have become legendary among the “territorial bands.”

Alfred Stanley Dennie was born in Wellston, Oklahoma, on September 27, 1903. He was one of many great musicians introduced to music by Douglass High School teacher Zelia Breaux. Al moved to Kansas City and received further training from Tuskegee graduate, Professor William H. Dawson. His professional beginnings go back to his days with such seminal Kansas City bands, as Chauncie Downs and the Rinky Dinks, George Wilkerson’s Musical Magnets, Jessie Stone’s band, and Bennie Moten’s band.

Along with Bennie Moten, he organized the Jap Allen Band. This group toured extensively throughout the Midwest, soon becoming featured in many of the historic band battles which were such an important part of Kansas City’s daily musical menu. He also played a prominent role in the e Paul Banks Orchestra, another important early territorial band.

Al was one of the first people to notice the development talent of a seventeen year old piano player named Jay McShann. Jay’s first lessons in big band music were taken from Al in Tulsa. Al spent much of his life in Kansas City playing and keeping company with jazz legends from Kansas City and across the country.

Clarence Love was born on January 26, 1908 in Muskogee. His family moved to Kansas City where he first began his music studies. His first influence was Charlie Watts, a protégé of ragtime genius Scott Joplin. He attended Kansas City’s Lincoln High School, forming a jazz band there before he graduated. He was inspired to become a full-time professional musician after hearing George Lee’s Band performing at Kansas City’s Lyric Hall. By 1928 he had formed the Clarence Love Orchestra which included some of Kansas City’s finest musicians. Love’s band rivaled Bennie Moten’s George Lee’s for local and regional popularity.
In 1933 he moved to Dallas and formed a new band. The group was an immediate success, soon broadcasting over Dallas’ KRLD. After hearing Love’s group over KRLD, a Decca records agent scheduled them to record in New York. The band broke up before they reached New York with Clarence ending up in Indianapolis. Clarence helped to start one of the biggest black booking agencies in the business. He founded an all female group called the Darlings of Rhythm, managing and touring with them all over the world. When his father died, Clarence moved back to Tulsa and began another Clarence Love Orchestra. In 1848, he opened his own club, The Love Lounge, where locally and nationally prominent musicians would congregate and play. He owned and operated clubs until 1957 when he returned to the booking business. Love died in Tulsa on January 18, 1998.

Love has memorabilia on display at the 18th and Vine Jazz Museum in Kansas City. 

Born in Oklahoma City on August 26, James Rushing developed musical skills which have earned him honors as both a jazz and blues great. It has been said that he was “one of the greatest of all big band singers.”  It has also been claimed that his blues career “reached the furthest and spread the appeal of the blues on a wider area than anyone.”

Jimmy was first encouraged to play music (piano) by his uncle Wesley Manning, a sporting house pianist. As a child he became involved as a singer at school and church functions in Oklahoma City. In his teenage years he became restless and roamed across the United States, meeting such musicians as Blind Lemon Jefferson and Jelly Roll Morton. When he returned to Oklahoma City, he joined the Blue Devils. By doing this, he began to bridge the gap between itinerant street singing and the blues-based lyrical swing which was to become the standard singing style for most big band singers for the next four decades. He recorded with the Blue Devils on their first and only recording. Later he joined the Bennie Moten band which became the foundation for the Count Basie Band. His excellent intonation and robust, yet sensitive, manner perfectly complimented the Basie group and helped to shape its identity. He stayed with Basie from 1935 until big bands began to wane in the early 1950s. He also recorded frequently with Bennie Goodman’s band. 

Mr. Five-By-Five as he was affectionately known is regarded as the father of the “blues shouter,” a style that arose in the 1940s. He became famous within this idiom, touring (until his death in 1968) with the likes of Basie, Dave Brubeck, and Earl Hines. His influence has been strongly felt in the field of jazz, rhythm and blues, blues and rock and roll, reaching a range of artists from Lowell Fulson to Chuck Berry. Rushing died in 1972.

His birth date became a matter of debate when the U. S. Postal Service listed the birth date of Rushing as 1902 on a stamp as part of the “Legends of American Music – Jazz & Blues Singers” collection. The Penguin encyclopedia of Popular Music listed Rushing’s birth date as August 26, 1902, while The Encyclopedia of Jazz lists the date as August 26, 1903.

Claude Columbus Skinner was born in Clarkesville, Tennessee. In his early teens, he began his commitment to religious music. By 1920 he had become the musical minister for Paradise Baptist Church of Tulsa, a position which he held for the next thirty years. He taught piano and other music lessons in his home, instructing and inspiring dozens of musicians in the Tulsa area.
Known affectionately as “Uncle C.C.” by his students, he founded (in 1975) the North Tulsa Singing Convention and served as its president for ten years. C. C. traveled across the United States teaching choirs in every part of the country. He was a prolific songwriter, composing such songs as “Back to the Dust,” “Jesus in My Heart,” and “Working for the Lord.”  He died in Tulsa on September 22, 1989.

The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame created a scholarship fund in honor of C.C. Skinner.

Clark Terry was born in St. Louis, Missouri on December 14th, 1920. He attended Vashon High School there and began his professional career in the early 1940s by playing in local clubs before joining a Navy band during World War II. Afterwards, he played with Charlie Barnet, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Quincy Jones. He also performed and recorded regularly both as a leader and sideman. In all, his career in jazz spans more than sixty years.
His years with Basie and Ellington in the late 1940s and 1950s established him as a world-class jazz artist. Blending the St. Louis tone of his youth with contemporary styles, Terry’s sound influenced a generation. During this period, Terry took part in many of Ellington's suites and acquired a lasting reputation for his wide range of styles (from swing to hard bop), technical proficiency, and infectious good humor. In addition to his outstanding musical contribution to these bands, Terry exerted a positive influence on musicians such as Miles Davis and Quincy Jones, both of whom credit Clark as a formidable influence during the early stages of their careers. 

After leaving Ellington, Clark's international recognition soared when he accepted an offer from the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) to become its first African-American staff musician. He appeared regularly for ten years on The Tonight Show sitting in with the Tonight Show Band led by Doc Severinsen, where his unique "mumbling" scat singing became famous when he scored a hit as a singer with "Mumbles."

He also continued to play jazz with musicians such as J. J. Johnson and Oscar Peterson, and led a group with Bob Brookmeyer that achieved some popularity in the early 1960s. In the 1970s, Terry began to concentrate increasingly on the flugelhorn, from which he obtains a full, ringing tone. In addition to his studio work and teaching at jazz workshops, Terry toured regularly in the 1980s with small groups (including Peterson's) and performed as the leader of his Big B-A-D Band (formed c 1970). After financial difficulties forced him to break up BBB, he performed with big bands like the Unifour Jazz Ensemble and others. His humor and command of jazz trumpet styles are apparent in his "dialogues" with himself, either on different instruments or on the same instrument, muted and unmuted.

Some venues Clark performed are Carnegie Hall, Town Hall, and Lincoln Center; tours are the Newport Jazz All Stars and Jazz at the Philharmonic, and he was featured with Skitch Henderson's New York Pops Orchestra.
Clark wholeheartedly shares his jazz expertise and encourages students. Has began hosting the

Clark Terry Jazz Festivals on land and sea, held his own jazz camps, and appeared in more than fifty jazz festivals on six continents.His career as both leader and sideman with more than three hundred recordings demonstrates that he is one of the most prolific luminaries in jazz. Clark composed more than two hundred jazz songs and performed for seven U.S. Presidents. 

Bobby "Blue" Bland was born in Rosemark, Tennessee. Later moving to Memphis with his mother, Bland started singing with local gospel groups there, including the Miniatures. Eager to expand his interests, he began frequenting the city's famous Beale Street where he became associated with an ad hoc circle of aspiring musicians, the Beale Streeters. 

Bland's recordings from the early 1950s showed individuality; however, a stint in the U. S. Army put his ambitions on hold. When the singer returned to Memphis in 1954 he found several of his former associates, including Johnny Ace, enjoying considerable success, while Bland's recording label, Duke, had been sold to Houston entrepreneur Don Robey. In 1956 Bland began touring with Little Junior Parker. Initially he doubled as valet and driver, a role he reportedly fulfilled for B. B. King and Rosco Gordon.  

Simultaneously, Bland began asserting his characteristic vocal style. Melodic big-band blues singles, including "Farther Up The Road" (1957) and "Little Boy Blue" (1958) reached the US R&B Top 10, but Bobby's craft was most clearly heard on a series of early 1960s releases including "Cry Cry Cry," "I Pity The Fool" and the sparkling "Turn On Your Love Light," which became a much-covered standard. Despite credits to the contrary, many such classic works were written by Joe Scott, the artist's bandleader and arranger. Bland’s career remained steady throughout the 90’s and into the 2000’s as he still continues to perform.
Bobby Bland was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1981, the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame as an honorary inductee in 1990, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.