J.C. Higginbotham Day

May 11, 1906 – May 26, 1973

When You’re Smiling

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Trombonist Jay C. (Jack) Higginbotham was born on May 11, 1906 in Social Circle, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta.

Self-taught, by 15 he was playing professionally in local orchestras.

He relocated to New York at 22, where he quickly established himself as a “go to” player and studio musician.

You can hear his trombone on recordings by King Oliver, Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton and, most notably, Louis Armstrong’s 1929 recording of “St. Louis Blues.”

A trombonist who would come to be considered the most important of the swing era J.C. Higginbotham began his career in Chicago during the 1920s.

He Played with the “Fletcher Henderson Orchestra” in New York and became a prominent member of the Luis Russell’s band during the late ’20s.

When Louis Armstrong assumed control of the group in 1937 he remained until 1940.

Featured mainly as a soloist and sideman, Higginbotham found an ideal collaborator in Henry “Red” Allen with whom made the first recordings ever released under his own name at a session on February 5, 1930.

The two resulting sides “Give Me Your Telephone Number” and “Higgenbotham Blues” were issued as “J.C. Higgenbotham and His Six Hicks.”

During the 1960s he toured Europe and Scandinavia with pianist Sammy Price, before working briefly once again with Louis Armstrong.

J.C. Higginbotham is featured on a June 1958 episode of “Art Ford’s Jazz Party.”


Red Allen, trumpet
Buddy Iannone, trumpet
J.C. Higginbotham, trombone
Buster Bailey, clarinet
Hal Singer, tenor sax
Willie “The Lion” Smith, piano
Anthony Di Girolamo, violin
Chuck Wayne, guitar
Vinnie Burke, bass
Cliff Leeman, drums


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