Cleo Brown - pianist, vocalist (1909 - 1995)
Cleo Brown bears the distinction of being the first woman instrumentalist honored with the NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship. Her family moved to Chicago in 1919 and four years later, at age 14, she started working professionally with a vaudeville show. Her brother Everett, who worked with "Pine Top" Smith, taught her the boogie woogie piano style that became her trademark.
Brown performed in the Chicago area during the late 1920s. In 1935, she replaced Fats Waller on his New York radio series on WABC, and soon began recording. Her version of "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie" was influential on pianists that came after her, and she is credited with being an early influence on Dave Brubeck, who played during the intermissions of her shows, and Marian McPartland, among others