(1897 - 1952)
Born in Cuthbert, Georgia, pianist/arranger/composer Fletcher Henderson was a major figure in the development of Big Band Jazz. University-educated, Henderson originally trained as a chemist, but racial discrimination turned him to music, instead. Henderson's early music jobs were songplugger for W.C. Handy's publishing firm, and music director for vocalist Ethel Waters in the early 1920s, before organizing his big band. Among those who performed in his 1920s band were Don Redman, Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, and Louis Armstrong. Later Henderson bands featured the bandleader's brother, Horace Henderson, and such stars as Ben Webster, Red Allen and Lester Young. In his later years, Henderson reunited with Ethel Waters as her accompanist. A stroke ended Henderson's performing career in 1950 and he died in 1952.