Monthly Archives: May 2011

Producer John Hammond Remembers Charlie Christian

John Hammond, father of the bluesman with the same name, was a towering figure of 20th-century recorded music. Born into the Vanderbilt family, Hammond was an unsurpassed talent scout and unswerving advocate of racial integration in music. Within a year of joining Columbia Records in late 1932, he produced 78s by the Fletcher Henderson, Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins, Chick Webb, and Benny Goodman orchestras, as well as with the Joe Venuti Blue Six, Chocolate Dandies, Teddy Wilson, and Bessie Smith. He also discovered an unknown 17-year-old singer named Billie Holiday and arranged her recording debut with the Goodman band. As the 1930s rolled on, Hammond produced stellar recordings by Albert Ammons, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Mildred Bailey, Harry James, and many others, but he was most closely associated with his brother-in-law, Benny Goodman. Hammond had played an essential role in the organization of Goodman’s original swing band, and he encouraged him to hire black musicians – Charlie Christian among them. In late 1930s, Hammond showcased his musical passions in the legendary From Spirituals to Swing concerts at Carnegie Hall. Continue reading