Sunday, March 07, 2010


Jazz drummer Lee Young, was born on March 7, 1917, grew up in a musical family and was the young brother of tenor saxophonist Lester Young. Lee was a very successful musician, who played on scores of recordings with some of the who's who of jazz. He also led his own band.

Lee Young made his first recordings with the great piano player Fats Waller. In the late 1930s he worked for MGM Studios where he taught Mickey Rooney how to play drums for the film "Strike up the Band".

In 1946, Lee Young was the first African-American hired for a staff position with a Hollywood studio orchestra. However he found the work unchallenging and left after two years. His father Willis who was often referred to as Professor, was a multifaceted musician who player several instruments and was a very successful music teacher.

Lee and his brother Lester Young were like night and day. The former was a leader, an extrovert, a consummate business man, dependable, organized, health conscious, a terrific golfer and a great drummer.

In 1952 Lee started an association with Nat King Cole, serving as the singer's musical director and drummer until 1962.

On July 31st,2008, Lee passed away at his home in Los Angeles at the ripe old age of 94. Lee survived his brother Lester by nearly half a century. Lester Young died on March 15th, 1959 at the age of 50.

Lee Young in action with Nat King Cole.

Reference - Jon Thurber, staff writer with The Los Angeles Times.

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