Chick Webb

Chick Webb, born William Henry Webb on February 10, 1905 in Baltimore, MD, was an American jazz/big band drummer, best known for his bandleader skills and drummers of the new "Swing" style.

Webb suffered from tuberculosis of the spine, which left him with his short, dwarf-like stature. Despite Webb's physical ailments, he pressed on, supporting himself as a newspaper boy and saving enough money to buy his first set of drums. Chick played his first professional gig at the age of 11.

When Webb was just 17 years of age he moved to New York City, and later, sometime around 1926, began leading his own band in Harlem.

Webb's band would often times compete with other top bands, such as the Benny Goodman Orchestra, the Count Basie Orchestra, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, in the "Battle of the Bands" at The Savoy. It seemed that by the end of the night, dancers would always vote Chick's band as the best. With his continual victories, Webb was worthy of being crowned the first "King of Swing."

Chick is credited for discovering a teen-aged vocalist, Ella Fitzgerald, who sang in his band from 1935 until Chick's death. Ella went on to lead the Chick Webb band until 1942, at which time she left to focus on her solo career.

There has been some dispute as to the exact year Webb was born, ranging from 1902 to 1909. Whatever year you choose, Chick died — way too young — on June 16, 1939.