The remarkable Chick Webb overcame a chronic spinal deformity and fragile health to become one of the founding fathers of drum set playing. Referred to as, “the daddy of them all” by no less than Buddy Rich, Chick Webb’s advanced technique and show stopping soloing was credited by Gene Krupa for paving the way for drummer-led bands.
By the age of seventeen, Chick was playing in New York night clubs encouraged by Duke Ellington who suggested he should form his quintet, which would evolve into a “swing” big band known as The Chick Webb Orchestra.
As the house band at New York’s Savoy Ballroom in 1931, Webb gained a reputation for winning more than his share of the club’s “Battle of the Bands” against such giants as the Benny Goodman and Count Basie orchestras to be crowned “The King of Swing”. He also discovered the young vocalist Ella Fitzgerald with whom he experienced his biggest hit, "A-Tisket a Tasket”.
As Webb's health began to decline in 1938 he refused to give up touring so that his band could remain employed. In 1939 he had a major operation at Johns Hopkins Hospital but could not be saved, finally succumbing to spinal tuberculosis in his early 30s leaving a musical legacy that would live on for generations.