|Andrew Dewey Kirk|
|Born||May 28, 1898|
|Origin||Newport, Kentucky, US|
December 11, 1992 (aged 94)|
New York City, New York, US
Kirk grew up in Denver, Colorado, where he was tutored by Wilberforce Whiteman, Paul Whiteman's father. Kirk started his musical career playing with George Morrison's band, but then went on to join Terrence Holder's Dark Clouds of Joy. In 1929 he was elected leader after Holder departed. Renaming the band Clouds of Joy, Kirk also relocated the band from Dallas, Texas, to Kansas City, Kansas. Although officially titled as the Clouds of Joy, the band has also been known to be called the Twelve Clouds of Joy due to the number of musicians in the band. They set up in the Pla-Mor Ballroom on the junction of 32nd and Main in Kansas City and made their first recording for Brunswick Records that same year. Mary Lou Williams came in as pianist at the last moment, but she impressed Brunswick's Dave Kapp, so she became a regular member of the band.
Kirk moved the band to Kansas City, and since their first recordings in 1929-1930, they grew highly popular as they epitomized the Kansas City jazz sound. In mid-1936, he was signed to Decca and made scores of popular records until 1946. He presumably disbanded and reformed his band during that 6-year recording layoff, as his 1929-1930 Brunswick appeared to have sold well enough to stay in the catalog through the period and 1933-34 pressings (with the mid-1930s label variations) have been seen.
In 1938, Kirk and band held the top spot of the Billboard chart for 12 weeks with "I Won't Tell a Soul (I Love You)", written by Hughie Charles and Ross Parker, featuring Pha Terrell on vocals. In 1942, Kirk and His Clouds of Joy recorded "Take It and Git", which on October 24, 1942, became the first single to hit number one on the Harlem Hit Parade, the predecessor to the Billboard R&B chart. In 1943, with June Richmond on vocals, he had a number 4 hit with "Hey Lawdy Mama".
The band at various times included Buddy Tate (tenor saxophone), Claude Williams (violin), Pha Terrell (vocals), Mary Lou's then husband, John Williams, Bill Coleman,Ken Kersey, Dick Wilson, Don Byas, "Shorty" Baker, Howard McGhee, Jimmy Forrest, Ben Smith, Fats Navarro, Charlie Parker (briefly),Reuben Phillips, Ben Thigpen, Henry Wells, Milt Robinson, Floyd Smith, Hank Jones, Johnny Lynch, Joe Williams, Big Jim Lawson, Gino Murray and Joe Evans.
Although the leader of the band, Kirk usually was not a soloist, utilizing the talent in his band for the spotlight instead. His genius lay in realizing how best to make use of his band members' skills
Their pianist, and the band's arranger, was Mary Lou Williams, who went on to become a prominent figure in her own right.
In 1948, Kirk disbanded the Clouds of Joy and continued to work as a musician, but eventually switched to hotel management and real estate. He also served as an official in the Musicians' Union.