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(1897 - 1962)

Composer, Band Leader, Theatrical Agent, Music Publisher

While a teenager, Maceo Pinkard formed his own band and toured the Midwest, but by 18 he tired of the road and settled in Omaha, Nebraska. While there he started composing for a local music publisher. In 1917 he formed his own publishing firm, Maceo Pinkard Music, and began selling compositions to national publishing companies such as Frank K. Root in Chicago and Leo Feist in New York. In late 1918 he was hired by the prestigious firm of Shapiro, Bernstein & Company in New York and the following year saw the publication of first big hit, “Mammy O’Mine”.

He began writing for the theater, composing music for the successful African-American musical Liza, which ran 172 performances in 1922. In 1925 he wrote his biggest hit, “Sweet Georgia Brown,” with lyrics by Ken Casey. Bandleader Ben Bernie, who sensed the song’s potential, added his name to the composer credits to “help” the song along.

Although Pinkard continued to compose until three years before his death, his best work was written during the decade 1921-1931. Vocalist Ethel Waters, whose version of “Sweet Georgia Brown” had been a minor hit, had much success with Pinkard’s 1926 number “Sugar,” which was also recorded by Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra in 1928 featuring talented jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke. The tune was featured by vocalist Peggy Lee in the 1955 motion picture Pete Kelly’s Blues. Another 1926 composition, “Gimme a Little Kiss, Will Ya, Huh?” was included in the 1929 movie Showboat. Bix Beiderbecke, with an all-star group that included clarinetist Benny Goodman and trombonist Jack Teagarden, recorded a memorable version of Pinkard’s 1930 composition “I’ll Be a Friend (With Pleasure)”.

Aside from “Sweet Georgia Brown” his most enduing song was the 1930 “Them There Eyes” which was recorded by singers Bing Crosby and Billie Holiday and the bands of Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington and continues today to be a favorite of musicians and vocalists.

-- Sandra Burlingame

Courtesy of JazzStandards.com

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