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Chocolate Dandies

The Chocolate Dandies - orchestra/ensemble

It was a sort of rag tag outfit at first. But, in the 30's, leaders such as Don Redman and Benny Carter drilled them to a professional standard. And having, Teddy Wilson and Chu Berry in the band didn't hurt either.

The Chocolate Dandies were simply a smaller version of the McKinney Cotton Pickers band. While in the studio for the first time in July 1928, the McKinney's Coton Pickers recorded 25 songs. When a few members took a break, nine other songs were recorded. It was later decided that those nine songs would be released under the name of Chocolate Dandies, named after the 1924 Broadway show co-written by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle.

In October 1928 the same small group recorded four more songs. It was clear that the leader of the band was Don Redman, however he chose to have his name left off the record labels. Of course Redman would later lead a series of his own bands with great success. The first recordings of the Chocolate Dandies included: Rex Stewart, J. C. Higginbotham, Don Redman, Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins and Fats Waller.

Two of the recordings from October 1928, “Birmingham Breakdown” and “Stardust”, laid the foundation for the bands sound and further success. These recordings were recognized for their original musical design and progressive style. Throughout the next decade the band recorded with some innovative ideas: sometimes without the use of any drums; sometimes with dual sax and trumpet solos etc. The Chocolate Dandies 1940 recording of “Smack” showcased Carter on both the alto sax and trumpet. None of these feats were noteworthy to the musicians at the time, however today it is clear the ideas were ahead of their time.

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