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This is Bernard Gabriel. I'd like to begin this broadcast by reading you a letter from the president of the United States dated May 17th 1969. No the letter is not to me but to my guest. And please let me quote. You have my warmest congratulations and deep appreciation upon the completion of your successful tour of the Far East. As a musician as an American and as a man you are a fine representative and a first rate ambassador of goodwill. The reports I've been receiving of the acclaim accorded you are absolutely glowing. Your efforts both in and out of music have contributed greatly to the cause of international understanding. Sincerely Richard Nixon. Well this letter of appreciation was sent to Lionel Hampton who is right now sitting very modestly beside me and as I happen is so well-known and his accomplishments so manifold that he actually no point in my attempting to enumerate even just the most noteworthy of his endeavors.
So please let just the following sentence or to do for an introduction. Well Lionel Hampton has played for inaugurals at the White House one for Truman two for Eisenhower and one for President Nixon. He has recorded extensively and let me underline that word on virtually every label both big and small appeared on just about all the leading radio and TV shows and collaborated with such as being Crosby Billy Armstrong Benny Goodman made many films and again please let me underline that he's been honored with college doctorates and to it over 50 countries don't have to and I will just have to do for an introduction meager and incomplete. As it is all right. Well I think they get the idea. Let me just say there are many fine musicians today in all fields whose skill is of a high order and many of those I'm thinking of are famous but their art is largely imitative. There are only a very few who truly contribute something original something unique
to the world of music and I feel that you are one such. Certainly are a vital force in today's music and it's about your special contributions that I'd like to dwell on this broadcast. Why what happened. I know that you were one of the originals in the Benny Goodman quartet. You composed many songs well known to all. And your remark about the drums on the vibraphone But what facet of your work do you feel has made the greatest impact on today's music. Well I think the time that I joined have been a Goodman quartet and started playing the viola hops with him and this was the face in a Greek group that Marable have was it had known at that time Benny Goodman playing the Klan a Gene Krupa had the drums playing the piano and myself playing the vibes as you know it was two black boys. Yes. And this music became very exciting and.
New area boy in a new area brought in new ideas and new thinking this was the place run up for the blacks and baseball and blacks and integrated basketball and the stage and motion pictures. And you have now the Metropolitan Opera You know they have a lot I've interviewed several people down there and really a sizable proportion of the people at the Metropolitan now are black. Well this was a this was in the route to it and I think Benny Goodman did it did a great job and he deserves a lot of credit because a lot of people say oh well he's making money but I know the time he was making money. The money came after was after his great musical outfit claim around the world has been one of the greatest musical out of the globe you know. But what do you feel is your strongest contribution musically I mean as a. Performer on the vibraphone as a bandleader as a composer of songs in films. What do you see yourself.
Chiefly I think my music attributes. Becoming known for those around our whole picture the whole picture. No no specialties all being a drama where you started it when I was a kid 16 years old when I was to play with Louis Armstrong. And that's when I first got the inkling that I want to play vibes I have to go recording station and there are some viable hops then and Louis Armstrong asked me to play a no in one home and that the guys was playing the pretty notes and. And I was a youngster and I was to listen all the records that Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins and Benny Goodman used to play and I was a player solos on a little solo toy bells. So naturally when I got to the vibe of the Vibe has a keyboardist same as the bells in the room most of the xylophones and I wasn't able to interpret this type of play into the vibe. And I've actually had a lot of followers Aventura since oh yeah well I've been the face one new instrument and naturally America is
known to follow suit. If something is good and I think they do it yes. You still have to practice it. Yes I practice every day. It's a terrible thing to ask musicians you know I mean a lot of the classical field imagine anybody asked me Do you still have do you have to you'll have to practice I mean gosh six hours a day isn't enough but I don't need but I you know I think in the poppy fields a little different isn't it. Well you know it's about the same if you want to be a good soul if you really have to be bad you know you have your reflexes flexible enough to to let me ask you that. Supposing you didn't touch my heart so well they have a viable hop and have a vi What do you play. But it's the same instrument but it was made by different Come let me ask you this last person you didn't touch it for say two three months. What do you know what I would do it would you know it be complete strangers to me. Oh you really would. Yes I wouldn't I couldn't get right up on a stage and I did your best and I will lose all my time and I wouldn't I wouldn't. I think my mind will be within the same.
But what I say articulate I think will slow up so me up a bit by now you say that you don't see yourself in any one particular capacity because you've done so many things you've done them all well but how do you think the public thinks of you also in this role around capacity or do they chiefly think of you in as. You know one special branch of it. Well they consider me as a viable operator and now they can sell me the drums they get to see me on television and in public I play drums. The bottom 50 percent of the time at night stand and this is where they begin to be a part of me and I play the piano sometime. Wasn't that actually your first work in music the drums the other drummer was as I said before yes we Louis Armstrong here. That's. Great. Oh yes let me ask you a little about the songs I know you've written so many songs. How important do you feel they are and I wonder if you'd kind of mention a few that would bring back some memories to people listening and did you have some of that are right now.
Well I think that the flying home that we played which which we as a compilation that I compose and the late Charlie Christian who used to play guitar with us and they've been good and sextet whom was known by all to be really the father of the modern jazz guitar player and what shall I know I wrote just to fly home and I think this was the beginning of the new version of the blues the swing version of the blues and had a grey impact on the music business and I think also the Hamps boogie woogie that used to play these beats like pop up but up in there. That that that that I think this was in a greeting to music a whole lot and I think that the Midnight Sun I wrote the midnight sun. This is a beautiful piece and I think this will take its place in the realm of being great with one of the pieces that is played an important part in
this modern music history. Are you doing anything now in composition song. Well our our what I can show you here when I was when I was on the show and composed 110 piece orchestra it was it was performed by the late me just Metropolis and also by the Buffalo symphony I don't know about walking also by a sense analysis of the orchestra. What was it that these actors called the king Davis we wrote in honor of my biblical training and. DAVID The Shepherd Boy was my one of my favorite and I really don't the songs recorded by nature. No it's beautiful I have a tape of it and I like to hear that. I certainly would like very much a lot of Hampton not the least of your achievements is discovering talent and Weren't you the first to
recognize Dinah Washington or something or somebody special. Well I'll tell you when I started my band I need a girl singer and I have to be plain engaged in Chicago Illinois and I was playing in the South Side of Chicago. And the late Joe Gleeson managing my band the time of the book. One of his friends in Chicago who had a place called Garrett bar Gado name was Joe Sherman and he told you he said I got to do what he was saying he said. She's made in the in the ladies parlor room. And the band with a band called Walla follow who we have to be a very famous trumpet player. And so I have to show that night hours after she came out a few minutes and the power room and started singing with the band and I was so fascinated by saying and I said would she come in and do a show with me and next
day at the at the Regal Theater which is now at forty seven South Parkway on the South Side of Chicago and she sang and she really wrapped it up so tremendous as to when she joined the band and she said Yes I said What is your name. And she said My name is Ruth Jones can I change your name. She said Yeah just give me a thing. So I save now and your name was Dinah Washington and there were no name. That's where you start. And having that boy at the door the doughboy the washer door backstage came to me and said you know you need the singers are saying. So I'll give him a chance and he's playing the song that he made famous with Count Basie band. I have to say my band for two years was a late joke you know that he's still here. Joe Williams How do you like that when you turn you find out who are some of your is not well Quincy Jones Sammy Davis Jr. work with us
quite a while his uncle and his father Earl Bostic the famous alto saxophone player Kat Anderson whose plays I knows with Duke Ellington now. And also on the jacket. The late Brown Clifford Brown and these were people you discovered kind of launched and then they all became very famous Wes Montgomery who very famous guitar player he played in the band and so many of those kids. That's pretty important in itself isn't it to be able to recognize talent. Well yes well we're going to start. We have a band now and there's some new kids and they have come out emerge and the only owns and you hear from course is just a shame that music is going to a revolution change isn't it. Right along with what was happening in our country and that just grumble feeling but I think it will be straighten out.
I notice you have a button on your coat jacket which says I'm proud to be an American. Well that's right. Someone with a lot happen I guess. There are few places in this old world that you have visited. You can say anything about satellites I suppose you haven't embarked that way yet probably next year but I may get well all right. I wouldn't put it past you have you found equal enthusiasm everywhere and it really is. Speaking of the world now for your work or other type of music that you that you play and are interested in or do you find that your work is appreciated more in some parts of the world than others but I think it's pretty go over the sea. If you don't know if you give an honest performance you have to be a pony as was it as I said before and treat the public with the respect they have say what I will give you the chill and I think
we do all this well. Don't go away yet there responded but in serious music you find that some artists are very tremendous hits in a certain country and come to come over here let's say or go to another country and somehow it doesn't click. And then they may come back 15 20 years later and it does collate yours still may not now you take even even Arthur Rubinstein for the famous concert pianist. I think his first trip or two here it just didn't go at all and there been several others Michelangeli is another world famous band of course I would think pianists first being a concert pianist myself but the first time he just by well almost bombed here he played very well it wasn't that. And then later came back 15 18 years later and all of a sudden he was recognized here as he has been in Europe all these years as a famous man a great great artist. Well I'm quite sure that he was recognized because he kept his attitude up that he played good. If I play good and I know I'll play good.
If the quality is not responsive it is supposed to be is that time oh so one of my Else my Yankee responses response should be greater. It don't worry me LOL I know arguable on his performance but you found a real rapport no matter where you went. I think that I will get to him sometime in my life right now to get all these travels in 50 countries and maybe it's more than that by now I don't know. There must've been a number of unusual experiences that you've had I think you told me that were sitting in his nowhere and i told me some very interesting things. Well in a jam session where we just traveled in the far east as what the president was for and to that letter that you read in the first part the program we traveled it was boys and girls in Japan and Taipei and Laos in the Philippines and also Thailand and Thailand
it was really a gay ass because we we were met by the diplomats from the United States diplomatic order told us that the king of Thailand had requested that he want to have a session with us because we we all dreaded that. No no no no no no. Been performed and been informed that that the king of Thailand he was just a terrific. I know he's a musician he's a terrific saxophone player a flute player. And this last time he played a terrific trumpet call so this is the time that I jam with you know all I want are all policy you know he has are all bad. I think my bad and I mix it up with his band and we got some tapes that we can play. And boy you know what. You'd be surprised. Yeah and I pointed out the other day. So people are just this guy that played the bad tones that's only on this record.
I like it so when guys say oh that's that's Connie would do. And one guy said no. That's Jerry Markon. And I think that's the king of Thailand playing the baritone sax will have an experience you know he was so good at the meantime he won't give the king didn't see the join the band. Very good can you think of any other particular some isolated experience somewhere in the world that was a little bit unusual. I guess you've been somebody plays hard to pinpoint when right off like that. We went to Israel and we had a jam session over there. But my band and musicians got together and we start the mixed up the Jewish music with black so it was a mess. We came up with pork chops and bagels. So you've been there you're done and you're sort of combined forces a lot of places and when you've been somewhere recently nowhere with us where we are in France and Italy
and also England and Germany and even countries but we talk about my group my band and I but the one thing that was very fascinating is that we had a chance to play on the Riviera. We played jazz festival. And this is why this will be on the Riviera playing jazz and I would almost like to see the date I'm on the horn jazz night this is really give you a lot of color and you're thinking of the beaches aren't you. You got it you have to think about to see what you see. That's what you said. Very good. Through the years Langham you must change your style many times what with the changing music scene constantly and things to change more often all the time. What musical metamorphosing have you been through.
I mean if you want to just touch on the highlights from the days when you first joined that Benny Goodman quartette and I don't change my style you don't run with misplayed you know I don't see my style as you think out to say I want change and I have no sense to do so is to be an assistive feel and that I feel things would happen a day and I and I played music to the those attitudes of the times. Yes that's where I am you know and I just fall right into that you know. So you are conscious of. No no no no no I'm serious. You would think in a way you would because now I mean rock is so different from the jazz Benny Goodman's time. No all we have is not to play rock then and fainting or by any color there. Yes we did for the rock n roll and that's where when we had to leave. They were sort of that used to play we call a rock to roll and you did. Yes it's amazing because you know I was just interviewing Charlie Gillette who wrote a book called The Sound of the city
which are tracing rock the history of rock and he seems to think that I think that the term rock n roll was used only first maybe in 150 families. It goes way back to oh sure even the musical we bet this music goes back to you. You get to the slavery days on the plantation and on the Mississippi River when the and when the black musicians to wait for their their pay their they had to be labels in the daytime and had to play it night and you know this way you muscle shields girl from me and you came from and they had just beaten they had this type of music going. When I want time music are you presenting now I mean these two words that you might just feel like I want to play that's what I was. But you wouldn't characterize it as strictly rock rock and roller and all of that
just with this what what me as artist is it in the paper tape when you listen back to what I thought I mean this really thing goes my rate with me all the ranges I have I don't make them all myself but when they come down I supervise and I know I am up and swing them around to the way that I think they should go and the way that this me you know stand and they'll split with the mood that I have in this area that me and you know can you ever put on a turntable one of the records that you made maybe 20 years ago. Yeah how does it strike you know. Well I play some of the goodman records and I can see some of the things that happened because you know the records I think that the quote that was that was the choice open and go not only to the area of times that we change and racially. But musically too I mean he used to play because life feels nines and them cause thinking because this was no use in
that and it in a good area. You're trying to tell me then that rock isn't such a break with everything as a lot of people seem to feel. Oh was this all done by press. You think you're just a great low relative and that's really not that different than truth. The black musicians have been discredited for the music he invented this music was played by the blacks and I don't and in the days when he played down the Mississippi River when he played on the plantations and they bought this music all the way from know there is rap today you know you guys might try to prove cause on him but the basic or the basic bitches oh I think that that's her name to hear you say that. Speaking of recordings and you have made so many as I say for virtually all labels and I think I can say that and I think the way. You know I believe record for your own label which is called a glad hand right over there I have a recording called What is it.
Portrait portrait of a woman. Yes and that's not so all isn't all that a few months. Yeah I just want to say a word about some eight months to read it with a different girl saying oh this is the thing with my like Ruth Brown she was one of the early call rock singers if you want to or I think you know I would say go the blag thing goes with your call right and she's quite known and girl by the name of Comcast who is a very known in Brazil she's saying and she's supposed to be down a wash in the Brazil and we have a Japanese the whole shebang. He got that big. Yeah yeah. She she she learned how to speak English by listening to American songs and learning for allegedly And there we have Sally Garcia on leave from Mexico and by the way I'm going to Mexico. All right I'm going to ask you you know what your media future holds for a while. I already actually There's now.
What does it all Mexico Jazz Festival in November and I think I have another girl saying on there to this day planned. Oh yeah sure would hurt her yeah. There was the thinking different times and we like it always together put together. And me the album either. Are you recording entirely now for your own outfit lad have. Well I will have to wait from that now because I'm going into television business myself for television called cooperation and we put on out for a show this New Year's Eve for the Howard Hughes network you know how would you when I heard him and we would get into the record business really in a big week. Well while we're on records are there any other recent ones that you want to especially bring to your attention. You know anything coming up you know we might as well but I have just my
mom and I missed this television thing now and then. Well let me ask you this since you seem to be sis all around man of popular music is there any field of jazz rock. Call it what you will that you haven't attempted. You've done them all. I'm going to be a big shot if you know me but you haven't left out any any brand you know but I mean I did what I feel like I want to do and I covered the waterfront pretty well you know what I want to party I could you know you know all these goodwill trips that you've made for the government is there anything else along those lines that's coming up. Yes and also the I'm so are modest I have well I'll make another trip this year. You know after I get these things that the way you know I'm making this trip to Mexico. But just the way she looked in the album and then I come back and play some of the gauges you see and like Upland California hotel a whole month and I'll be in Milwaukee for a while while lovely and he'll here for a couple weeks doing the you in the
holidays. Let me ask you this. How do you feel about. Well you told me already that you wrote a sort of a concerto or a symphony which is played by metropolis. So that's pretty serious music how do you feel about serious music in general you would think that musicians would all have a kind of feel for any kind of music that isn't always true I know so many classical musicians really don't understand popular music at all except for dancing and I know a few popular people who simply don't seem to get the message about Beethoven and Brahms Hao or any other of the big big names in classical music. How do you feel yourself about real serious music just for it. I think there is a whole lot of pop music that played a key ingredient from the classics. You know what I mean. When you go to even a Dixieland music like you take a great piece like you take high society known down to almost all of the this is this is integrated in with our beloved letter I'm going to direct you to spoiling somebody
invited you to a performance of the Boston Symphony or to have a real I don't care who you know I would I would you would enjoy it and you wouldn't be thinking of it in terms of something else. Oh I think I think music all that relationship. I wish everybody felt that way but I'm not sure that they all do. I certainly can't imagine that you would have such a thing as an unfulfilled ambition. But if you do what might it be. Well I mean something that you haven't yet accomplished in your life and it will go away. Is there such a thing I'd just like to learn how to play my instrument better and better every day be. Look at Seymour Apple and we're asking for the impossible always got you. You don't know and I think I do when I get at me a little early a little bit I should be but and I am now I think time should make good we buy cheap prices. And people like you seek the knowledge of this. And I nod to him when I think I'd be better deleterious
Matt was modest. Well Lionel Hampton to wish you a continuation of the success that has been yours for so long would be about as fine a wish as I could possibly give you to seek still more would be asking I think I lost too much. So many many thanks for joining me. This has been Bernard Gabriel trusting that all who listen will be along next broadcast. This program was acquired with funds provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This is the national educational radio network.
Bernard Gabriel
Episode Number
Lionel Hampton on Himself
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Chicago: “Bernard Gabriel; 33; Lionel Hampton on Himself,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 8, 2023,
MLA: “Bernard Gabriel; 33; Lionel Hampton on Himself.” 1971-00-00. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 8, 2023. <>.
APA: Bernard Gabriel; 33; Lionel Hampton on Himself. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from