Buster Moten

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Ira E. "Buster" Moten, often credited as Bus Moten, was related to Kansas City-based bandleader and pianist Bennie Moten -- most sources identify him as a brother, though some say he was Bennie's…
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Ira E. "Buster" Moten, often credited as Bus Moten, was related to Kansas City-based bandleader and pianist Bennie Moten -- most sources identify him as a brother, though some say he was Bennie's uncle, cousin, or nephew. Proficient on keyboards like his more famous sibling, he played the piano but favored the accordion, though the instrument that he played has been described as "souped up," and made a range of sounds closer to the modern electric organ. His earliest recordings date from the end of the '20s, and he served as the manager and conductor of Bennie Moten's band, as well as composing material, until Bennie's death in 1935 from a botched operation. After that he took over what was left of the band for a time; but their resident pianist, Count Basie, didn't like working for Bus Moten, and it didn't take long for the other musicians to simply switch allegiance and become Basie's band. Buster Moten continued on in the business, however, and got Hot Lips Page to join him for a time. Other members of the early Bus Moten band included Jesse Price on drums; Billy Hadnott playing bass; Orville DeMoss on alto sax, Robert Hibbler and Dee Stewart on trumpet, and Odell West on tenor sax. Moten apparently had a volatile personality that worked against him, especially after he started losing players like Page, who took off for better gigs in places like New York. He kept bands together, working as Bus Moten & His Men, into the late '40s and early '50s, and recorded after various points under that name. Although records are sketchy, he seems to have passed away in 1956, outliving his more famous relation by 21 years without making a huge impact in music, this despite some considerable talent on his instrument and a lot of personal drive. Moten was one of a relative handful of memorable jazz accordionists of his era, and was impressive as a musician, and his singing resembled that of Louis Jordan, which may also account, in part, for his lack of success, Jordan being a ubiquitous and inimitable personality on the postwar music scene. The sound of Bus Moten & His Men was heavily rooted in Kansas City jazz which, as was often the case with music in that genre in the postwar era, is just as easily (and frequently) classified as blues.