JON HENDRICKS (b 1921 )
Lyricist, Vocalist, Composer, Film and Theater Writer
Jon Hendricks was a member of the unsurpassed vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. He pioneered vocalese, the art of writing and singing lyrics to the music and solos of jazz instrumentalists. He left law school for New York in 1951 to pursue music at the urging of Charlie Parker. There he met Dave Lambert, who, as Hendricks relates it, conceived the preposterous idea of writing lyrics to Count Basie’s music as a way of being remembered when they died of starvation, which seemed near at hand. “Dave dragged me kicking and screaming to stardom”.
They multi-tracked the songs with Annie Ross because the chorus couldn’t swing. Thus was formed LH&R in 1958. Their repertoire included Hendricks’ lyrics to three Horace Silver tunes, Randy Weston’s “Little Niles,” Cannonball Adderley’s “Sermonette,” Clifford Brown’s “Joy Spring,” and Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night in Tunisia” (on which Frank Paparelli collaborated).
When the group broke up in 1964 Hendricks moved to London, gaining recognition on the continent and appearing in a couple of films. He returned to California where he received Peabody and Emmy awards for his documentary, Somewhere to Lay My Weary Head, and his Evolution of the Blues had a five-year run at San Francisco’s Broadway Theater. In 1981 he toured with Hendricks & Company, which included wife, Judith and daughter Michelle, and in 1985 he wrote lyrics for the Manhattan Transfer’s Oscar-winning album, Vocalese, which featured Joe Zawinul’s “Birdland.”
His successful 1990 recording, Freddie the Freeloader, included several other fine jazz musicians. In the film White Men Can't Jump (1992) he is featured in an a cappella group. He and Annie Ross paired up in the late ‘90s for a two-year tour. Currently Hendricks, known as the “James Joyce of Jive,” is teaching at the University of Toledo in his hometown.
-- Sandra Burlingame
Courtesy of JazzStandards.com