b. Howard Joyner, 20 June 1906, Newton, Massachusetts, USA, d. 3 December 1986, Mount Kisco, New York, USA. Howard had begun playing piano and singing in his home state but, at the end of his teenage years, he decided to move to New York where he quickly embarked on a successful career as a hotel and nightclub act and as a recording artist. He was briefly in Europe but the mid-30s found him consolidating his popularity in New York where he added a regular radio series to his roster of achievements (no mean thing for a black musician in these years). He continued to work throughout the 40s and into the 50s, by which time he was sufficiently popular to move into television. Although he favoured New York, Howard did occasionally travel to other parts of the USA, playing residencies in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
Howard’s popularity with the general public came largely as a result of his following in the footsteps of Fats Waller, his lack of originality being cloaked in skilled musicianship and easygoing rapport with audiences. From time to time Howard played and sometimes recorded with jazzmen but it is as a jazz-tinged popular singer and player that he made his mark. His singing voice varied according to material and mood, ranging from tenor to baritone, from robustness to coy meanderings. During a period when he led a band that emulated Cab Calloway’s, Howard employed good musicians but habitually yelled encouragement at inappropriate moments, his exhortations getting in the way of their solos. This band is best remembered for Benny Carter’s arrangements.