Mr. B. The Music and Life of Billy Eckstine

Posted: Aug. 28, 2013

Mr. B: The Music and Life of Billy Eckstine(Book). In 1950, Billy Eckstine was the most popular singer in America. Movie-star handsome with an elegant pencil-thin mustache and a wide vibrato, Eckstine possessed one of the most magnificent voices in popular music history. Born in Pittsburgh, Eckstine won a talent contest by imitating Cab Calloway and started leading jazz orchestras under the name Baron Billy. In 1939, he joined Earl Hines' orchestra, composing and performing the hits "Jelly, Jelly" and "Stormy Monday Blues." In 1944, he formed what is now considered the first bebop orchestra that included, during its brief three-year run, legendary figures such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Sarah Vaughan. Signing with MGM, he rose to superstar status, sold millions of records, marketed his own line of "Mr. B." shirt collars, and inspired an army of female admirers, known as "Billy-soxers." Eckstine fought all his life for recognition and respect in his quest to become America's first black romantic singing idol, but he faced hardships in the segregated music world of the '40s and '50s. Despite this, he went on to influence many singers who followed, including Arthur Prysock, Johnny Hartman, Johnny Mathis, Kevin Mahogany, Barry White, and even Elvis Presley. In this book, Cary Ginell traces, for the first time, the life of one of the twentieth century's most amazing success stories, the man known simply as "Mr. B."


An excellent about his life. I came across him when i was reading other jazz books and they would have Miles,Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Art Blakley, just to name a few that started in his band. Now that would have been one great band to have seen or even listen to. But during this time there was some type of strike going on so most of the records being made were by whites or if they new the song could sell for sure. Once the strike was over 4 years later of course he had new people with him and it still took time for him to get the right sound he was looking for.During most of his life he was called the vibrato but some say he was the voice before Sinatra. It seemed he was just on the out side looking in .When movies came they wanted him to sing like (old man river) and then an white singer who nobody knew would sing a song that he made popular at a club so he would walk off. He did stand up for what he thought was right. During the late 40's and early 50's he was one of the highest paid club acts in the U.S. and records with him ans Sarah Vaughan were top sellers. By 1956 it was starting to end but he would still keep at it up into the 1970;s. A very good book about his life and music.

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