Lionel Hampton was a popular vibraphone player and a well-known band leader. This African-American celebrity earned a name after he worked as an American jazz vibraphonist, pianist, bandleader, actor, and a percussionist. He has worked with many great jazz musicians including Buddy Rich, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus and Quincy Jones. In 1996, he was honored with the National Medal of Arts.
Hampton was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on April 20, 1908. He was a drummer before the famous vibraphonist. In the 1930s, Lionel became an important part of a racially incorporated group of four by Benny Goodman. Later in 1940, he created a group of his own and named it ‘Lionel Hampton Orchestra’.
He was honored for his great achievements by two presidents of America; namely H.W.Bush and Bill Clinton.
Lionel Hampton was raised by his grandmother when he along with his mother moved to Birmingham, Alabama, the hometown of his mother shortly after his birth. He documented Kenosha, Wisconsin as his early life’s most favorite places where he had spent his childhood. Thereafter, the family shifted to Chicago, Illinois in 1916.
He became a young member of Bud Billiken Club. The Bud Billiken Club was a replacement of a racial group ‘Boy Scouts of America’. He was a keen teen who started taking xylophone lessons and learned how to drum from Jimmy Bertrand. He was raised in Roman Catholic environment which influenced him to play the drum in Holy Rosary Academy.
Benny Goodman came to Los Angeles to play Palomar Ballroom through ‘Benny Goodman Orchestra’ in November 1936. Goodman was brought by John Hammond to Hampton’s performance and from here the two started working together. After this, the trio of Goodman became Quartet with four members in it; Goodman, Hampton, Teddy Wilson, and Gene Krupa. This amazing group of four was the first racial jazz group to perform in front of audiences.
In 1992, Hampton was appointed to the Board of the Kennedy Center by then-president George H.W. Bush. And in 1997, he was also elected for the prestigious honor of National Medal of Arts by President Clinton.
After giving some magnificent performances, Hampton passed away on August 31, 2002, in New York City.