Eddie Heywood Biography

4 December 1915, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, d. 2 January 1989, North Miami, Florida, USA. Heywood received his first piano lessons from his father, also named Eddie, who was a well-known band leader in the 20s. Heywood joined his father, playing piano in the pit band at an Atlanta theatre. He also accompanied singers, including Bessie Smith, and thereafter worked in various small jazz groups, including those led by Wayman Carver, Benny Carter and Don Redman. His gift for accompanying singers was displayed by his recordings with Billie Holiday and Alberta Hunter. In 1943 he took a sextet into the Cafe Society Downtown, being billed as the ‘Biggest Little Band in the Land’. The type of music they played, and their billing, placed them in direct competition with John Kirby but, thanks to the presence of Doc Cheatham and Vic Dickenson, they held their own.

Heywood had a hit record in 1944 with an unusual arrangement of ‘Begin The Beguine’ but his career was soon plagued by ill health. Suffering partial paralysis in his hands, he worked less yet continued to write and had successes in the mid-50s with ‘Canadian Sunset’, ‘Soft Summer Breeze’ and other delightful songs. Further paralysis developed in the 60s; however he persevered and was still writing and occasionally performing throughout the 70s and into the early 80s. By this time he was working in the field of light music rather than jazz; indeed, close examination of his work, even from early in his career, shows him to have been a skilled musician with jazz associations and associates rather than a committed jazzman in his own right.

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

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