b. Milton Larkin, 10 October 1910, Navaseta, Houston, Texas, USA, d. 31 August 1996, Houston, Texas, USA. After teaching himself to play trumpet, Larkin worked with various minor territory bands, including those led by Chester Boone and Giles Mitchell. In 1936 he formed a band for an engagement at his home town’s popular Aragon Ballroom. The rest of the 30s, Larkin toured the band through the Midwest and south-western states, appearing to acclaim in major venues such as Kansas City and Chicago in the early 40s. The band was also briefly in New York City where it appeared at the Apollo theatre. Reportedly, Larkin was offered the opportunity to record but declined; this was a decision that haunted later jazz fans because of the many young musicians who played in the band before going on to individual success in the jazz world. The sidemen from those years include Arnett Cobb, Wild Bill Davis, Illinois Jacquet and Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson.
During military service in World War II, Larkin played in a service band led by Sy Oliver, at this time also playing valve trombone. In the post-war years, Larkin again led a band, mainly in Chicago, with which he made his first recordings. Of these dozen sides, scattered over half as many labels, most had him singing. He also recorded in 1947 in a small band led by Cobb. Larkin appears also to have made one album, again singing and also playing valve trombone; the set was released by Copasetic Records and sank without trace. During the 50s and later, Larkin also formed occasional small bands for club dates in New York where he had settled. In 1970 he was again in a recording studio, playing trumpet in a band accompanying singer Marion Williams on six gospel numbers for Cotillion Records.
Later in the 70s, Larkin retired from music and returned to Houston. Because of the absence of recordings, the qualities of the pre-war Larkin band depend entirely upon reminiscences of former sidemen. While these tales might be suspect because of the speakers’ nostalgic yearnings, they have all been unreservedly fulsome in their praise.