With a long and winding career that stretched throughout a total of seven decades, drummer David "Panama" Francis has been featured both in top Harlem nightclubs and legendary rock songs over the years. Born in Miami, Francis began playing his instrument with the drum and bugle corps around the area by the age of eight. This led to a full-time gig with George Kelly's Cavaliers as a teenager, before relocating to New York City (Francis was given his nickname by trumpeter Roy Eldridge, due to his fondness for a certain Panama hat). Francis first rose to prominence in the late '30s, when he was a member of the Savoy Sultans, a Harlem-based group that was once crowned the Best Big Band by the New York Jazz Society, received a pair of Grammy nominations and was praised by Dizzy Gillespie as "the swingingest band there ever was."
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