Frank Galbreath

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A trumpeter and vocalist with the word "breath" located inside his surname can't go wrong, so it is no surprise that the career of Frank Galbreath spans minstel shows, classic jazz, rhythm and blues and…
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Artist Biography by

A trumpeter and vocalist with the word "breath" located inside his surname can't go wrong, so it is no surprise that the career of Frank Galbreath spans minstel shows, classic jazz, rhythm and blues and vocal music. Along the way he worked with some of the biggest names, gigging in the '30s with the likes of Jelly Roll Morton and Fletcher Henderson, joining the orchestra of Louis Armstrong the following decade and in the '60s proving that he still had plenty of air as he blasted away in the show bands of artists such as Ray Charles, Fats Domino and Sammy Davis, Jr.

When Galbreath headed out on the road from his rural North Carolina home it was in the company of groups whose obscurity is about equal to the fame of all the aforementioned artists combined. By 15 he was gigging around the tiny village of Washington, North Carolina with a group called the Domino Five and at 17 had moved to Fayetteville to work with Kelly's Jazz Hounds. Roving assignments with the Florida Blossoms Minstrel Show and the Kinston Nighthawks followed in due course. In the spring of 1933 he played at the Chicago World's Fair as a member of Smiling Billy Steward's Floridians.

From the mid '30s the trumpeter was active in New York City, gigging with Henderson and Morton as well as others including Willie Bryant and Edgar Hayes. By 1937 Galbreath had drifted south to Philadelphia, joining up with Lonnie Slappey's Swingers. Enterprising bandleader Lucky Millinder got him back up to New York City, eventually leading to the orchestral Armstrong project which finally imploded in the fall of 1943. The trumpeter was in the Charlie Barnet outfit for only a few weeks before joining the army. Following the second World War he worked with Luis Russell, Tab Smith, Billy Eckstine and Sy Oliver. Starting in 1948 he tried his luck with Millinder almost exclusively for about four years. After a USO tour organized by Snub Mosley in 1952, Galbreath became a mainstay of this organization, going on regular overseas tours over the next decade.

While Galbreath dabbled with his own band in the '50s, he continued to work in the brass sections of a variety of leaders with styles that seemed to persevere through the oncome of rock and roll. This included the superb balladeer Arthur Prysock as well as fussy swing maestro Benny Goodman, who in a fit of pique one night busted Galbreath's music stand light so that the resulting flubs could serve as an excuse for dismissal. Charles and Domino both hired him in 1960 and 1961 respectively. Up until 1963 Galbreath was part of Sammy Davis's entourage, after which he settled in Atlantic City and continued playing until health problems developed in 1969.