Hobart Melvin Banks, Sr.

 

August 17, 1907 -- 1957

Hobart Banks was born in Rentiesville, Oklahoma, August 17, 1907. His family always had a piano in the home, and he took to it with complete naturalness and an astounding sense of how to play it. He was a child prodigy on the instrument. “He began playing the piano when he was about three years of age,” his mother said, and reached the point very soon where could play any composition once he had listened to it.

The family moved from Arkansas City, Kansas to Muskogee, fertile ground for such other Oklahoma jazz greats as Jay McShann, Claude Williams, and Barney Kessel. Young Hobart obtained all of his education in the Muskogee Public School System, participating in all of the music programs offered.

He played regularly as a teenager at Muskogee’s Grand Theater before the advent of taking pictures. He loved music dearly and had the gifts to perform it strikingly. Perfect pitch, according to his harmony teacher – “he could reproduce any musical sound he heard.

Banks worked with many bands – Ben Johnson’s and Leonard Howard’s Muskogee bands, Bucky Coleman’s band in Oklahoma City and Ernie Fields in Tulsa – and traveled all over the Southwest to perform. He played with a “Who’s Who” of well known musicians – McShann, Clarence Love, Ernie Fields, Jr., Don Byas, Earl Jackson, Kessel and Aaron Bell. During the Harlem Renaissance, he played at the famed Cotton Club in New York. Banks passed away in 1957.