Eddie Durham and the Texas Contribution
to Jazz History
It is scandalous that not one American history
textbook, on any level, that I know of, has any-
thing to tell our children about the greatest and
most original music this country has created,
and about the creators of that music.
-Dan Morgenstern, New Perspectives on Jazz
THE TEXAS MUSICIAN WHO PROBABLY CONTRIBUTED TO MORE HISTOR-
ical developments in jazz history than any other was Eddie Durham
of San Marcos (1906-1987). Durham's career spanned some seven
decades, beginning, according to his own account, in i 916, when he was
ten years of age.' During the 192os and 193os, Durham figured promi-
nently in a number of territorial bands in Texas; in the rise of the
Kansas City bands of Bennie Moten and Count Basie; in the success of
the Swing Era orchestras of Jimmie Lunceford and Glenn Miller; and,
through his association with Lester Young and Charlie Christian, in the
creation of the cool and bop styles of the 1940os and 1950s. As a trom-
bonist, guitarist, arranger, and composer, Durham demonstrates the
truth of Frank Driggs's assertion that "the Southwestern musician tend-
ed to be well educated musically, which enabled him to meet the chal-
lenge of constantly developing styles."2 Indeed, Durham contributed
greatly to a number of the important changes that took place during the
1930s and affected the entire future of jazz music. Of the major groups
active during the Swing Era, only the orchestras of Duke Ellington, Ben-
* Dave Oliphant is the editor of The Library Chronicle at the Harry Ransom Humanities Re-
search Center of The University of Texas at Austin and a part-time English instructor at Austin
Community College. He has taught a course on jazz and literature for the university's Humani-
ties Program and has published Austzn (1985), a booklength poem on the city and the man, and
Maria's Poem (1987), winner of an Austin Book Award.
1 George Hoefer, "Held Notes: Eddie Durham," Down Beat, XXIX (July 19, 1962), 57.
2 Frank S. Driggs, "Kansas City and the Southwest," m Nat Hentoff and Albert J McCarthy
(eds.), Jazz: New Perspectves on the History ofJazz ... (New York: Rinehart & Co., 1959), 192.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101215/. Accessed June 30, 2015.