Mills Blue Rhythm Band

The Mills Blue Rhythm Band was an American big band of the 1930s.

Mills Blue Rhythm Band
Two trombonists and three trumpet players facing inwards
Mills Blue Rhythm Band. From left to right: George Washington, J. C. Higginbotham, Henry "Red" Allen, Wardell Jones and Shelton Hemphill
Background information
Also known asBlue Rhythm Band, Blue Ribbon Band, Blue Rhythm Boys, The Blue Racketeers, Earl Jackson's Musical Champions, Earl Jackson and his Orchestra, Duke Wilson and his Ten Blackberries, King Carter's Royal Orchestra, Mills Music Masters, Harlem Hot Shots, Coconut Grove Orchestra
OriginNew York City, U.S.
GenresJazz, swing
Years active1930–1938
LabelsBrunswick, Columbia, Victor, Oriole, Perfect, Regal, Romeo, Banner, Melotone, Variety
Associated actsLouis Armstrong, Lucky Millinder, Edgar Hayes

The band was formed in Harlem, New York City, United States, in 1930, with reedman Bingie Madison the first of its many leaders. It started life as the Coconut Grove Orchestra, changing to Mills Blue Rhythm Band when Irving Mills became its manager in 1931.[1] At various times the group was known as the "Blue Rhythm Band", "Blue Ribbon Band", "Blue Rhythm Boys", "The Blue Racketeers", "Earl Jackson's Musical Champions", "Earl Jackson and his Orchestra", "Duke Wilson and his Ten Blackberries", "King Carter's Royal Orchestra", "Mills Music Masters", "Harlem Hot Shots"[2] and uncredited playing behind Louis Armstrong.

The Mills Blue Rhythm Band were based at The Cotton Club in Manhattan. They worked steadily through the 1930s deputizing for the Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway Orchestras; often taking their undesirable engagements.[3] Violinist Carroll Dickerson briefly fronted the band, followed by drummer Willie Lynch in 1931 and then compere Jimmy Ferguson (Baron Lee).[1] Edgar Hayes, Eddie Mallory and Dave Nelson all had temporary stints as band leader, until Lucky Millinder permanently took over the role in 1934.[1]

The band recorded 150 sides for a variety of labels including Brunswick, Columbia, Victor, the ARC stable of labels (including Oriole, Perfect, Regal, Romeo, Banner, Melotone, Domino), Variety, and Vocalion. Despite success with a few hit records (including "Truckin'" and "Ride, Red, Ride") and a strong line-up of talented soloists, the group never attained the prominence of their peers.[1] This is often attributed to the lack of a single identifiable leader,[1][4] and Irving Mills' preference to have the band perform an understudy role.

The group disbanded in 1938.[1] Millinder joined Bill Doggett's band before reforming it into his own orchestra in 1940.[5]

Irving Mills revived the Mills Blue Rhythm Band name for two recording sessions in 1947,[1] under the guidance of Van Alexander. The only original band member at either of the 1947 sessions was trumpeter Charlie Shavers.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 284. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ Chilton, John. Ride, Red, Ride. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 80. ISBN 0-8264-4744-9.
  4. ^ "The Mills Blue Rhythm Band AJA5634 : Jazz CD Reviews- 2006 MusicWeb International". Retrieved July 30, 2021.
  5. ^ "Anniston, Alabama, Lucky Millinder". Retrieved July 30, 2021.
  6. ^ Simmen, Johnny (2002). Kernfeld, Barry (ed.). The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. 2 (2nd ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries. p. 172. ISBN 1-56159-284-6.
  7. ^ "Jammin' for the Jackpot: Big Bands and Territory Bands of the '30s" (PDF). 2002. Retrieved January 27, 2019.
  8. ^ Gunther Schuller (1991). The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz, 1930–1945. Oxford University Press. pp. 386–. ISBN 978-0-19-507140-5.