Duke Ellington's early years in his hometown, Washington, D.C. are revisited and remembered through the lens of his son, Edward K. Ellington and daughter, April Ellington aka Savoy Ellington, "Heirs to the Jazz Throne" who remember him best.
Born on April 29, 1899, Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was raised by two talented, musical parents in middle-class neighborhoods in Washington D.C. At the age of 7, he began studying piano and at age of 14, in 1913, Ellington took a job as a soda jerk at the Poodle Dog Cafe on 2000 Georgia Avenue, N.W. When the piano player there was too drunk to play, Ellington's boss would put him behind the piano thus bringing about his first composition, "Soda Fountain Rag." Ellington followed his passion for ragtime and began to play professionally at age 17 when his combo, "Duke's Serenaders," played their first gig at True Reformers Hall on U Street. Before he moved to New York in 1923 and became a major figure in the history of American music, he spent the first 24 years of his life as a mainstay on the culturally thriving “Black Broadway” along D.C.’s U Street/Shaw Corridors, playing its vibrant dance halls, grand theaters and smoky after-hours clubs.
The Duke’s staggering number of musical compositions (over 3,000) into multi-disciplinary theatrical presentations and educational programs, to be performed in many different types of venues all over the globe. His musical legacy and the term 'beyond category’ personify his excellence as America's most prolific composer of the 20th century in both volume and variety.
DISCOVER: The history and cultural legacy of D.C.'s Black Broadway on U at: blackbroadwayonu.com