Wilson Myers

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One of the great bassists in New Orleans jazz and other classic jazz styles from the '20s and '30s, Wilson Myers' adoration of classical music earned him a seriously amusing nickname, but they might have…
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One of the great bassists in New Orleans jazz and other classic jazz styles from the '20s and '30s, Wilson Myers' adoration of classical music earned him a seriously amusing nickname, but they might have just as easily called him "Serious" for becoming something of a one-man church during his later years in Philadelphia. Myers was born in Pennsylvania as well, but his musical story begins much farther down the coast as well as nowhere at all. The latter expression evokes not only the alienated nothingness of being "on the road" but the mystery of '20s revues undocumented by press junkets, biographical memorabilia, and tour diaries.

Myers first shows up on the other side of the rhythm section wall, playing drums in the touring band of classic blues singer Bessie Smith. No type of barrier between instrument families intimidated Myers, who like legendary classical music teachers mastered or at least learned his way around a variety of axes: clarinet and trombone, then guitar and banjo professionally from the mid-'20s into the early next decade. From 1931 he was working with some of the finest New Orleans jazz bands, switching to bass while with King Oliver. Myers was a regular with the Bechet-Ladnier New Orleans Footwarmers, toured Europe with Lucky Millinder, and became part of the expatriate jazz crowd, swinging from one baguette to the next in France with Willie Lewis and others.

Arranging and bandleading became part of Myers' expanded activities upon returning to America and the jazz scenes in New York City and Philadelphia. The Nick's venue in the former city became the locale for an ongoing swing fest with bandleaders Sidney Bechet and Mezz Mezzrow. Myers was also back in the Spirits of Rhythm, a group he had worked with in the previous decade. He wrote arrangements for Jimmy Dorsey and in 1944 plopped into the trio Plink, Plank, Plunk with pianist Bob Mosley and drummer Tiger Haynes. Several years later it was as if Myers were immersing himself anew in Ellingtonia, going in and out of the rhythm section in trumpeter Rex Stewart's groups as well as actually becoming Ellington's bassist -- for two months. Myers kept a group of his own working, largely in the Philly area, the demand for this enterprise perhaps dwindling as the leader's religious passions became inflamed. "Serious" was an informal preacher, but was apparently keeping up a steady tirade of his dogma well into the '70s.