Herman Walder

Biography by

A well-regarded saxophonist during the 1930s heyday of Kansas City jazz, Walder was a contemporary and peer of such better-known K.C. musicians as Lester Young, Herschel Evans, and Mary Lou Williams.…
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography by

A well-regarded saxophonist during the 1930s heyday of Kansas City jazz, Walder was a contemporary and peer of such better-known K.C. musicians as Lester Young, Herschel Evans, and Mary Lou Williams. He also worked for many of the city's most prominent bandleaders, including Benny Moten. According to historian John Chilton, Walder was originally a trumpeter, playing with a band led by Jerry Westbrook, but an accident compelled him to switch to saxophone. He went on to work with pianist/singer Laura Rucker, then with Terrence Holder, George E. Lee, and others, including Harlan Leonard's Kansas City Rockets. After the latter band broke up, Walder formed the Rockette Swing Unit with his brother, saxophonist Woodie Walder; other bandmembers included legendary boogie-woogie pianist Pete Johnson (a schoolboy friend of Walder), trumpeter Booker Washington, bassist Jack Johnson, and drummer Baby Lovett. The group was in residence at the famous K.C. club The Spinning Wheel from the late '30s. Walder was active on the Kansas City scene for another 30-plus years, during which time he led a band at Mr. A's Bar for an extended period. During the '70s Walder worked in Art Smith's Kansas City Jazz Band. Walder also co-wrote (with Mary Lou Williams) the song "A Mellow Bit of Rhythm," which was recorded by such bands as the Lionel Hampton Orchestra and Andy Kirk's 12 Clouds of Joy.