Chick Webb

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Chick Webb (February 10, 1905[1][2][3] - June 16, 1939) was a black American jazz drummer and band leader.


William Henry Webb was born on February 10, 1905 in Baltimore, Maryland to William H. and Marie Johnson Webb. As a child he contracted spinal tuberculosis which left his body deformed. He stood under five feet tall as an adult.

He moved to New York City in about 1925 and almost immediately was playing with the likes of Duke Ellington. Jazz drummer Tommy Benford said he gave Webb drum lessons when he first reached New York. In 1927 on Ellington's adive Webb formed the Harlem Stompers. By 1931 Webb had formed the Chick Webb Orchestra. Ella Fitzgerald was hired by Webb to sing for his band in 1935.

By 1938 his health began to fail and he spent more time in hospitals. On June 16, 1939, Webb died in Baltimore.

Birthdate Mystery

For many years the actual date of Chick Webb's birth has remained a mystery. Webb joins Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Earl Hines and Coleman Hawkins as early jazz musicians whose birthdates have been disputed.

The Encyclopædia Britannica Online gives two possible years for his birthdate, 1902 and 1909.[4] Still other publications claim other years.

During Webb's lifetime a book entitled "Rhythm on Record" by Hilton Schleman stated his birth year was 1907.[5] The New York Times also reported in 1939 that Webb was born in 1907.

More recently the year 1909 erroneously became the accepted year of his birth based on the birthdate listed on his death certificate which had "1909" written over "1907" and the grave marker which gives the same year.

His true birth year was discovered in 2005 by jazz researcher Eric B. Borgman. He states that he has proven that Webb was actually born in 1905, based on the 1910 and 1920 United States census records.[6] The Internet Movie Database among other websites have since adopted the 1905 year.[7]


  1. American Rag, Uhl Tidings column, November 2005.
  2. Setting the Record Straight
  3. Template:Imdb name
  4. Encyclopedia Britannica
  5. Rhythm on Record: Who's Who and Register of Recorded Dance Music, 1906/1936, Hilton Schleman, Melody Maker Limited, London, 1936, page 264.
  6. Setting the Record Straight
  7. Template:Imdb name

External links