Bill Benford

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Like his brother, the legendary jazz drummer Tommy Benford, fellow rhythm section man Bill Benford was a graduate, so to speak, of the Jenkins Orphanage's musical training in South Carolina. The latter…
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Like his brother, the legendary jazz drummer Tommy Benford, fellow rhythm section man Bill Benford was a graduate, so to speak, of the Jenkins Orphanage's musical training in South Carolina. The latter Benford brothers went on tour with the institution's traveling musical talent show in 1915. Bill Benford was active as a combo player during an era when jazz instrumentation evolved from the tuba to the bass and recorded on both instruments during his career, including sessions with powerful vocalist Ethel Waters and powerhouse pianist Willie "The Lion" Smith. Like his brother, he also worked regularly with the bands of Jelly Roll Morton and appears on a small stack of reissue sides by that important early jazz artist.

The Benford brothers got a taste of the continental lifestyle early on, when the orphanage undertook European tours, one of which went kaput midway through by the outbreak of the First World War. While his brother spent a good part of next two decades as an expatriate jazzman working out of Europe, Bill Benford held down the bass position in a variety of American classic jazz outfits, such as Bubber Miley & His Mileage Makers, the Gulf Coast Seven, the Plantation Orchestra, and Thomas Morris & His Seven Hot Babies. But when his brother was still going strong abroad, Bill Benford seems to have started downplaying his professional musical activities. He winds up with a total of only ten recording session entries between 1925 and 1930, according to The Jazz Discography by Tom Lord -- and nothing much thereafter.