Ovie Alston

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The engaging trumpeter and vocalist Ovie Alston was active from the late '20s up until the '50s, and is best known for his work with the Claude Hopkins band. He was born Overton Alston, and first played…
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The engaging trumpeter and vocalist Ovie Alston was active from the late '20s up until the '50s, and is best known for his work with the Claude Hopkins band. He was born Overton Alston, and first played professionally with Bill Brown & His Brownies in New York City, beginning in 1928. This group made a few recordings for Brunswick, including the intense tune "Zonky" written by Andy Razaf and Fats Waller. Alston teamed up with Hopkins in 1931 for a good five years; he then felt the time was right to put together his own combo, which premiered at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. In 1937 this new group worked the Plantation club, followed by the Ubangi club the following year and the Roseland Ballroom from 1939 through 1941.

Alston's band did tours for the armed forces during the Second World War, the ensemble pushed up to new levels of showmanship through the special added presence of performers Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake in the front line. Following the war, the band continued to hold forth at Roseland, finally switching to Murraine's Club in 1947. Through the early '50s, Alston led the group at New York's Baby Grand Cafe, with summers at Long Beach's Nassau Hotel. Before he finally retired from full-time music, Alston's outfit worked mostly private engagements. The lion's share of his discography consists of appearances with Hopkins. He was one of the main vocalists with the group, as well as an important soloist. Other instrumental stars from the Hopkins outfits included the fine tenor player Bobby Sands, clarinetist Edmond Hall, and trombonist Fernando Arbelo. In the early '30s the Vitaphone film short subject entitled Barbershop Blues featured the entire Hopkins crew in action.