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He Set the WORLD on Fire! Swinging the Blues to Lindy Hop with Jazz Legend Eddie Durham


Saturday Night July 15th 2017 - the FINAL NIGHT of Mid Summer Night Swing (MSNS) in New York City.

Some heavy hearts are obvious as this classic and Special Summer dance staple nears it's end.  But one person's heart is touched to hear her family's musical legacy blaring from the DJ Booth, a bit more than they anticipated.

On this night the MSNS DJ played -  on average -  three to four of Eddie Durham's compositions for Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Bennie Goodman or 
Jimmie Lunceford. This year she heard Blues In The Groove (Lunceford), Sent For You Yesterday & Here You Come Today (Basie), WHAM REBOP BOOM BAM (Benny Goodman) and Durham's Infamous ARRANGEMENT of IN THE MOOD for Glenn Miller, one of the most famous arrangements globally.

These were all played in a row, right before the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra HRO) hit their musical stride at 7:30.  Not too much later the  Harlem Renaissance Orchestra performed you could hear TOPSY and SWINGING the BLUES (Basie versions). 

Yes, charts that created the genre of Swing music, and on this night - DECADES later - was encompassing the New York City Swing Dance or Lindy Hop scene once more ......  :>)

Art by Charles Frazier
  • Who is Eddie Durham?  
Eddie Durham (8/19/1909 - 3/6/1987) began as a trombone and guitar performer 
with his family band THE DURHAM BROTHERS ORCHESTRA in Texas.  
He emerged as the "go to" composer in the(seminal) big band music era, whose hit
compositions were a pedestal for any big band leader to shine with. 
He emerged as the "go to" arranger whose arrangements created the big band elite.
He emerged as the "go to" choreographer for any big-band brass section to 'visually' compete.  
Eddie Durham was musical director, arranger, manager and mentor for the best of the all women's orchestras. 
He even went a step further by helping dozens of female musicians become Members of the Musicians Unions.  
Regarding his technique as a musician, he played non-pressure on both slide and valve trombone,
which completely eliminated the development of any sores or marks on his lips.

On guitar, Durham created his own amplified guitar - and built his own amplifier (dubbed by other musicians
as his “starvation box”).  He was one of the first to record major hits on amplified guitar. 
He was one of the first to record single line solos on songs which are collector's items. 
He usually alternated performing on both instruments.  He arranged and composed with many bandleaders,
who hired him to teach their orchestra to become a force to be reckoned with. 

Eddie Durham retired on his royalties for fifteen years in order to raise his five children. 
He suffered a nervous breakdown when his wife suddenly departed,
but nevertheless for another five years was a devoted, mentoring single parent, into their adulthood.
Only then did he return to full-time touring.  He was part of The West End live music shows by Phil Schaap
in the late 1970's and then joined the Harlem Blues & Jazz Band, founded by Albert Vollmer,
for the last ten years of his life.  He appears in the films Last of The Blue Devils and Born to Swing. 
Eddie Durham is an American hero, a champion in all aspects of his life.

  • What are his contributions to Jazz and Jazz dance?
Eddie Durham's contributions to Jazz are amazingly diverse in that he set out to
 "make Blues danceable".  He accomplished this goal in that Eddie Durham's seminal
 big-band charts, no matter who he wrote and/or arranged them for, invented 
the idiom of the “Big-Band Swing Era" and subsequently, the phenomenon still 
known today as Swing Dance. Swing dance has outlasted every other dance 
on the planet.

  • What are some of his famous tunes?
Any song Eddie Durham was a part of, were hits. And there are many... 
However I'd say that the best sellers are still:
- TOPSY (1938 big band version), TOPSY I & flip side TOPSY II (1958 for drummer Cozy Cole),
MECO TOPSY (1976 for Star Wars Meco LP): 
- I DON'T WANT TO SET THE WORLD ON FIRE (for the Ink Spots) 
- WHAM! REBOPBOOMBAM (1939 for Glenn Miller and Jimmie Lunceford)
- The infamous 1938 arrangement of IN THE MOOD (for Glenn Miller)
 (perhaps the best known arrangement in the world - still to date and forged Durham
 into the N.A.R.A.S. Hall of Fame).

- The infamous 1938 KANSAS CITY 4 & 5 (adding Lester Young) collector's recordings.
This LP contains the first electric guitar recordings. 

ALL of the seminal hits Durham charted, which are performed by 
THE COUNT BASIE ORCHESTRA (co-compositions): 

  • Moten’s Swing (the Anthem of Swing Music) 
  • Swinging the Blues (the name of his Publishing Company)
  • One O’Clock Jump (co-written with Buster Smith)
  • Jumping At The Woodside (a Band collaboration)
  • Sent For You Yesterday & Here You Come Today
  • John’s Idea
  • Time Out
  • Every Tub
  • Lafayette (brass duel in Robert Altman’s film “Kansas City”) 
  • Topsy


  • What are the favorites dancers like to get down to? 
ALL of the Eddie Durham's Count Basie charts, including

  • Jumping at the Woodside
  • ·Swinging the Blues 
  •  Topsy
  •  WHAM rebob boom bam
  • Moten Swing
  •  John's Idea

  • Why is his name seemingly "unknown"?  
Eddie Durham was the "go to genius" of many Bandleaders.  He therefore did not stay
with any band more than a few years.  He was not a Bandleader - but it was DURHAM 
with the flair of his brass choreography, providing charts and hit songs to record,
who made Bandleader's achieve a marketable position among their contemporaries.
 In addition, he was extremely humble.  He would create, teach, mentor,
then move on to the next big-band.  EDDIE DURHAM became the tread through
 most all the orchestras.

It seems that some of the reissues have gone out of their way to exclude his contributions,
in order for the bandleader to maintain his own genius status.  However, look at some 
of their stats, before and after Eddie Durham.

  • What do you have as far as a collection? 
Items which  my father left us and whatever continues become available online. 
We have four of his musical instruments and other personal items shown on
the official site: website.  The family would love to loan or donate
them to a museum.  We urge you to please leave a comment on our website and YouTube,
- as there is a wealth of information lovingly shared by his family, info which is uniquefor book reports, research, college papers, Professors, teachers, music students
and even accomplished musicians.

  • Who plays his music besides the Count Basie Orchestra?  
  • Music charts have been  donated swing & ballad charts to Ron Allen of HRO. 
Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks perform live, Durhams pre-swing recordings of 1929 –
his earliest hits from the Bennie Moten Orchestra. 

The Swedish phenomenon "Gundhild Carling & Her Swingadelics" perform live, 
Durham swing hits. 

  • How can lindy hoppers, Swing dancers, Enthusiasts and others read
and learn more about his contributions?

There is the website:  www.DurhamJazz. com   and Facebook page DurhamJazz  

DURHAM Brothers Orchestra
EDDIE DURHAM - NARAS Hall'Famer: IN the MOOD arr.; PIONEER Amplified & Elec/Solos Guitar & NonPressureTrombone t...

  • What else would you like for us to know about his legacy?
I am currently working on a 2019 book release: "Swing'in the Blues, The virtuoso of EDDIE DURHAM, Post-humorous Memoirs, 
by Topsy M. Durham" (daughter). 

If you worked with, or knew Eddie Durham, please contact his family at for an interview.  The Eddie Durham Memorial Park & 
Pavilion in his hometown of San Marcos, Texas has had it's ribbon cutting ceremony!  
Please visit it when near Austin (go south) or San Antonio (go north),it's between the two.  

Also, Texas State University in San Marcos, TX hosts a 3 week Festival.

And has a section of mp3's and films  Eddie Durham is a part of. 


He indeed did set the world on fire with effects still being felt today by all Jazz Enthusiasts and
Lindy Hoppers & Swing Dancers.  More on this Jazz Icon in a future post.


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