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Lionel Hampton

Jazz Musician

Born: 20 April 1908
Died: 31 August 2002
Birthplace: Louisville, Kentucky
Best known as: Jazz legend who was "King of the Vibes"
Lionel Hampton was a 20th century jazz musician and composer, and the most famous player of the vibraphone in the world. Hampton grew up in Alabama, Illinois and Wisconsin. While in Catholic school in Wisconsin he learned to play the drums, and after high school he went to Los Angeles and started his professional career at the age of 16. The story goes that Hampton first played the vibraphone -- an amplified xylophone with vibrato -- with Louis Armstrong on "Memories of You" (1930) and the song became a hit. He stuck with the vibes and played during the 1930s with Benny Goodman, as well as on various recordings. Hampton organized his own big band in 1940 and became famous for his entertaining live shows and for his commitment to spreading jazz throughout the world. Always a crowd pleaser, Hampton played with smaller bands after 1965 with continued success, up until his health began to fail in the 1990s. Some of his most famous songs include "On The Sunny Side of the Street," "Hot Mallets" (with Dizzy Gillespie), "Flying Home" and "Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop."

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