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 thge 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.
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.
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. The Internet Movie Database among other websites have since adopted the 1905 year.
- Chick Webb: Baltimore's Jazz Giant
- The Life and Music of Chick Webb
- "Setting the Record Straight" article
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