American Jazz Vibraphonist: The Dedicated Lionel Hampton

Written By Sonny Akbar Sembada

Hi, my name is Sonny Akbar Sembada and I welcome you to my blog, The Uncle Jazz. The main topic of my blog is everything related to jazz music.. 

American jazz vibraphonist Lionel Hampton‘s story – the vibes maestro who kicked off life on April 20, 1908, in Kentucky, USA. Growing up with a Catholic vibe, he starts drumming with nuns at Holy Rosary Academy in Wisconsin.

Lionel Hampton The American Jazz Vibraphonist

Heading back to Chicago, he’s drumming with The Chicago Defender Newboys and also learning timpani and marimba from the legendary Major N. Clark Smith. Oh, and on the side? He’s keeping an eye on Jimmy Bertrand, soaking in all those percussion tricks.

Roots and Family Grooves

Lionel’s uncle, Richard Morgan, plays a big role. He hooks Hampton up with a drum and marimba set, launching him into various bands like Curtis Mosby, Paul Howard, and Reb Spikes. Fast forward to Les Hite’s crew at the Los Angeles Cotton Club, where he meets Gladys Riddle—future wife and manager. She gifts him a vibraphone and pushes him to dive deep into musical theory at the University of Southern California.

After uni, American jazz vibraphonist Hampton knows the vibes are his jam. In 1936, he’s tearing it up at Paradise Café in Los Angeles. And guess what? He bumps into Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, and Teddy Wilson. Six weeks later, he’s part of Benny Goodman’s Quartet on the Camel Cigarette radio show. Boom! Hampton’s jazz journey kicks into high gear.

Big Band Adventures and Taking Flight

Fast forward to 1942, and the American jazz vibraphonist Hampton drops the hit “Flying Home.” Think high energy, brass screaming, and rhythms that light up the room. In the ’60s, his big band is owning it, hitting up legendary jazz festivals like Newport in 1967 and 1972. But here’s the kicker: Hampton’s not just about big bands. He’s rocking combos like Lionel Hampton’s Inner Circle, dropping beats with jazz legends like Hank Jones, Clark Terry, and Ben Webster.

Vibes Behind the Scenes: Composer, Arranger, and Smooth Producer

Hold up, it’s not just about the vibes. Hampton’s a heavy hitter as a composer, arranger, and producer, with over 100 gold and platinum albums under his belt. And get this—he’s not sticking to one genre. He’s jamming with jazz, rock, and pop giants like Paul Simon, Aerosmith, and Billy Joel.

Read also Mike Mainieri The Innovative Jazz Vibraphonist

Vibes Legacy and Laid-Back Later Years

In the mid-’70s, Hampton’s hustle pays off. He dives into entrepreneurship, starting his own publishing company and record label, Who’s Who. Plus, he’s putting millions into Harlem, building apartment complexes like a boss.

Even in the ’90s, Hampton’s still grooving with his big band, Hampton’s Golden Men Of Jazz, featuring OGs like Clark Terry and Harry “Sweet” Edison.

Youtube video by Jazz³+ 

And guess what? The American jazz vibraphonist Hampton Center opens up in Idaho in 1988, becoming a hub for artsy vibes. The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival? It’s THE event, bringing in jazz giants and making waves.

So, the vibes maestro, American jazz vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, jams on until the end. He checks out on Saturday, August 31, 2022, at 94. Hampton’s legacy? It’s the stuff of jazz legends, leaving an everlasting mark on the music scene.

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