Boy what a girl

January 17, 1910 – March 25, 1951

A tribute to the influential swing drummer

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Drummer Sidney “Big Sid” Catlett was born on January 17, 1910 in Evansville, Indiana.

Catlett grew up in Chicago and started playing professionally in 1928 with Darnell Howard, Sammy Stewart, Elmer Snowden (1931-32) and Benny Carter (1932-33).

A versatile and colorful drummer who was one of the first to change the patterns that he played behind each soloist, Catlett was equally skilled with big bands and combos.

He worked with such groups as McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Fletcher Henderson, Don Redman, the Louis Armstrong Big Band (1938-42), Benny Goodman and the Teddy Wilson Sextet (1942-44).

In demand for record dates throughout his career, Catlett recorded with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in 1945, worked with the John Kirby Sextet, and was an original member of the Louis Armstrong All-Stars (1947-49).

Suffering from ill health during his final years (which led to him leaving Armstrong), Catlett was busy until the end (with Muggsy Spanier, Sidney Bechet and Eddie Condon) before passing away from a heart attack in 1951 when he was just 41.

This excerpt from the 1946 film Boy, What A Girl starts with a Big Sid Catlett drum solo before Gene Krupa joins in; there is some amusing dialogue between the two great drummers.

-Scott Yanow


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