Claude Hopkins Biography

Claude Driskett Hopkins, 24 August 1903, Alexandria, Virginia, USA, d. 19 February 1984, New York City, New York, USA. Hopkins was born into a well-educated, middle-class family, both parents being members of the faculty of Howard University. He studied formally at Howard before starting a career as a dance band pianist. In the mid-20s he visited Europe as leader of a band accompanying Joséphine Baker. Later in the decade and into the early 30s he worked in and around New York, leading bands at many prestigious dancehalls, including the Savoy and Roseland. In 1934 he began a residency at the Cotton Club, sharing headline space with the Jimmie Lunceford band, which lasted until the club closed its Harlem premises in February 1936. In the late 30s and early 40s Hopkins toured extensively but folded the band in 1942. He regularly employed first-class musicians such as Hilton Jefferson, Edmond Hall, Vic Dickenson and Jabbo Smith. After a spell outside music he returned to the scene, fronting a band in New York in 1948, and continued to appear in the city and other east coast centres, with large and small groups, into the 70s. Among the musicians with whom he performed during these years were Henry ‘Red’ Allen, Wild Bill Davison and Roy Eldridge. The bands which Hopkins led always had a relaxed, lightly swinging sound, eschewing powerhouse bravura performances.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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