Joseph Luke Joe Guy

Jazz Trumpet Thelonious Monk, Billie Holiday

Born: Sept. 20, 1920 Birmingham, AL

Died: Dec. 1961

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame



Guy, Joe [Joseph Luke] (Birmingham, AL, 20 Sept 1920 - Birmingham, 1962)


He joined Teddy Hill's orchestra in the late 1930s, and from 1939 to 1940 was a principal soloist with Coleman Hawkins's big band. In 1941 he worked at Minton's Playhouse as leader of the house band, which included Thelonious Monk and Kenny Clarke; a number of private recordings of this group's performances were made. Guy joined Cootie Williams in 1942, and brought several tunes by Monk to the band's repertory, including 'Round about Midnight and Epistrophy (composed with Clarke and recorded by Williams as Fly Right). From 1945 to 1947 he was Billie Holiday's lover and manager and performed on some of her recordings, but thereafter he ceased to be prominent in New York's musical life. Guy was an agile trumpeter whose full tone was influenced by the playing of Roy Eldridge; he is best remembered for his role in the creation of the bop style.

Scott DeVeaux

The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, © Macmillan Reference Ltd 1988




Joe Guy had a brief and rather odd career. A promising trumpeter who was heavily influenced by Roy Eldridge, Guy's style looked ahead towards bop. However due to his heroin use, he never developed beyond a certain intermediate level and the results, although fiery, consistently sounded uncomfortable. Guy played briefly with Teddy Hill's Orchestra in 1938 (succeeding Dizzy Gillespie) and was a key soloist with the short-lived Coleman Hawkins big band of 1940. During 1940-42 Guy played regularly at Minton's Playhouse and he appeared on many privately recorded (and later released) jam sessions. His long solos, heard next to Charlie Christian, Thelonious Monk, Hot Lips Page and Roy Eldridge, usually failed to hold their own since he was not on their level; but then again he was just in his very early twenties. Guy worked with the big bands of Lucky Millinder, Charlie Barnet and Cootie Williams (in 1942 he encouraged Williams to use some of Monk's compositions). During 1945-46 was closely associated (both musically and personally) with Billie Holiday. However Joe Guy was eventually busted for drug possession and after 1947 very little was heard from him. He died in obscurity in his home town of Birmingham at the age of 41. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi






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