Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson Day

December 18, 1917 – July 2, 1988

A tribute to the bop saxophonist and blues singer

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Alto-saxophonist and singer Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson was born on December 18, 1917 in Houston, Texas.

Vinson began playing alto when he was 16 and within a year he was a member of the Chester Boone big band.

The orchestra, which was later taken over by Milt Larkin, found Vinson sitting next to tenors Illinois Jacquet and Arnett Cobb.

A member of the territory band for six years, Vinson left in 1940 to join Floyd Ray for a year and then gained some fame as the altoist and blues singer with the Cootie Williams Orchestra during 1942-45.

Vinson, who led his own big band during 1946-47, was primarily the leader of his own combos during the remainder of his life, straddling the boundaries between swinging bebop and blues.

Cleanhead, who could sound like Charlie Parker on the alto, regularly sang such blues numbers as “Just A Dream,” “Kidney Stew Blues,” “Person To Person,” “Old Maid Boogie” and “They Call Me Mr. Cleanhead.”

Vinson, who was a popular attraction for decades, composed two songs (“Tune Up” and “Four”) that Miles Davis “borrowed” and copyrighted, and in 1952 his sidemen included a young John Coltrane.

Here is a delightful set from the 1974 Montreux Jazz Festival on which Vinson performs “Just A Dream,” “Home Boy,” “Laura,” “Hold It Right There” and “Person To Person.”


Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, vocals, alto sax
Hal Singer, tenor sax
Jay McShann, piano
Jo Wright, guitar
Jerome Rimson, bass
Peter Van Hooke, drums

-Scott Yanow


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