Chick Webb: Age 34 | Cause Of Death: UNDER THE KNIFE

Chick Webb

born: William Henry Webb

(Born Feb 10, 1909  Baltimore, MD, Died Jun 16, 1939 in Baltimore, MD)

Chick Webb represented the triumph of the human spirit in jazz and life. Hunchbacked, small in stature, almost a dwarf with a large face and broad shoulders, Webb fought off congenital tuberculosis of the spine in order to become one of the most competitive drummers and bandleaders  of the big band era. Perched high upon a platform, he used custom-made pedals, goose-neck cymbal holders, a 28-inch bass drum and a wide variety of other percussion instruments to create thundering solos of a complexity and energy that paved the way for Buddy Rich (who studied Webb  intensely) and Louie Bellson. … In 1935, Webb hired the teenaged Ella Fitzgerald after she won a talent contest at the Apollo Theatre, became her legal guardian, and rebuilt his show around the singer, who provided him with his biggest hit record, “A Tisket-A-Tasket,” in 1938. The band’s fame continued to grow, fueled by its reputation as a giant-killer in the Savoy battles and a continuous string of Decca 78s that featured such irresistible numbers as “T’aint What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It)” and the B-side of “Tasket,” “Liza.”  But Webb’s precarious health began to give way, and after a major operation in Johns Hopkins  Hospital in Baltimore, he died (his last words reportedly were, “I’m sorry, I’ve got to go.”). After  Webb’s death, Fitzgerald fronted the the band until it finally broke up in 1942. — Richard S. Ginell,  All-Music Guide