Maceo Jefferson

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Maceo Jefferson was one of the very few American jazz musicians who was imprisoned in a concentration camp by the Nazis, a fact that may have been of personal interest to dictator Adolf Hitler, hardly…
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Maceo Jefferson was one of the very few American jazz musicians who was imprisoned in a concentration camp by the Nazis, a fact that may have been of personal interest to dictator Adolf Hitler, hardly a jazz fan. Jefferson got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, despite what his generation of jazz expatriates might have thought about expanded opportunities on the European continent. Jefferson is said to have suffered quite a stretch of Nazi hospitality, having been captured in the late '30s and not released until late 1944. Some of this time was spent at the concentration camp in Compiegne, France.

These types of details are not typical to most jazz biographies, but Jefferson's career also has plenty of developments standard to performers of his era. He began as a banjoist in the early '20s on the Carolina coast, working his way up to Norfolk, VA, and a collaboration with pianist Frank Clarke. Jefferson was next in New York City, gigging in a variety of bands, before shipping overseas with the Plantation Orchestra in 1926. He stayed put in Europe in the '30s, gigging with Arthur Briggs and Louis Armstrong, among others, and switching to the guitar as it began to overwhelm the banjo in the rhythm-section turf battles. By the mid-'40s Jefferson was repatriated back to United States. He was associated with the New York scene, then moved to Bridgeport, CT, in the '60s. In his later years he concentrated mostly on composing. "Chiquita" is one of his best-known songs.