Jazz great Hampton dies at 94

Aug. 31, 2002 at 7:25 PM
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NEW YORK, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Jazz legend Lionel Hampton, who played for several presidents at the White House during his six-decade career, died Saturday of heart failure. Hampton was 94.

Hampton died at Mount Sinai Medical Center, said his manager, Phil Leshin. Hampton was "probably the last major icon from the era of the Big Band and jazz," Leshin told CBS News.

"He was an American music legend and will be sorely missed," President George Bush said in a statement Saturday.

Originally a drummer, Hampton developed a mastery of the jazz vibraphone, an instrument that resembles the marimba but with electrically operated valves.

As a vibraphonist, drummer and bandleader, Hampton performed with hundreds of musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Buddy Rich, Benny Goodman and Sid Robbin.

Hampton teamed up with Goodman and Robbin in 1939 on "Flying Home," which became Hampton's signature song.

Hampton was born April 20, 1908 in Louisville, Kentucky. After graduating from high school, the 15-year-old Hampton left for Los Angeles to join Reb Spikes's Sharps and Flats.

In 1930, Hampton joined a recording session with Louis Armstrong, and picked up a vibraphone. Hampton ended up playing the instrument on one song and went on to become known as the "King of the Vibes."

As a composer and arranger, Hampton wrote more than 200 pieces, including "Evil Gal Blues" and "Midnight Sun."

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