Andy Kirk Musician
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Andy Kirk Musician

Andy Kirk
Maud Cuney Hare-154-Andy Kirk.jpg
Background information
Andrew Dewey Kirk
Born (1898-05-28)May 28, 1898
Origin Newport, Kentucky, US
Died December 11, 1992(1992-12-11) (aged 94)
New York City, New York, US
Genres Jazz
Instruments Saxophone, tuba
Labels Brunswick

Andrew Dewey Kirk (May 28, 1898 - December 11, 1992) was a jazz saxophonist and tubist best known as a bandleader of the "Twelve Clouds of Joy", popular during the swing era.

Kirk grew up in Denver, Colorado, where he was tutored by Wilberforce Whiteman, Paul Whiteman's father.[1] 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.[2] 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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[2] 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.[4] 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".

Clouds of Joy

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,[5]Ken Kersey, Dick Wilson, Don Byas, "Shorty" Baker, Howard McGhee, Jimmy Forrest, Ben Smith, Fats Navarro, Charlie Parker (briefly),[3]Reuben Phillips, Ben Thigpen, Henry Wells, Milt Robinson, Floyd Smith, Hank Jones, Johnny Lynch, Joe Williams, Big Jim Lawson, Gino Murray and Joe Evans.[6]

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[7]

Their pianist, and the band's arranger, was Mary Lou Williams, who went on to become a prominent figure in her own right.[8]

In 1948, Kirk disbanded the Clouds of Joy and continued to work as a musician, but eventually switched to hotel management and real estate.[9] He also served as an official in the Musicians' Union.[3]

Selected LP/CD discography

  • Andy Kirk And His Clouds Of Joy: Souvenir Album, Vol. 1 (recorded 1936-1941) (Coral #56019 [10" LP], 1951)
  • A Mellow Bit Of Rhythm (recorded 1956; re-recordings of 12 of his hits; album reissued as Clouds From The Southwest) (RCA Victor #1302 [LP], 1956; reissue: RCA France #42418 [LP], 1979)
  • Clouds Of Joy (recorded 1930) (Ace Of Hearts #105 [LP], 1966)
  • Twelve Clouds Of Joy (recorded 193?) (Ace Of Hearts #160 [LP], 1967)
  • Instrumentally Speaking (1936-1942) [Andy Kirk & His Clouds Of Joy #1/Jazz Heritage Series #16] (Decca #79232 [LP], 1968; MCA France #510033 [LP] 197?; reissue: MCA #1308 [LP], 1980)
  • Andy Kirk & His 12 Clouds Of Joy: March 1936 (Mainstream #399 [LP], 1973)
  • The Lady Who Swings The Band (1936-1938) [Andy Kirk & His Clouds Of Joy #2/Jazz Heritage Series #70] (MCA France #510121 [LP], 1975; reissue: MCA #1343 [LP], 1982)
  • Clouds At Sundown (1938-1942) [Andy Kirk & His Clouds Of Joy #3/Jazz Heritage Series #74] (MCA France #510133 [LP], 1975)
  • The Best Of Andy Kirk (recorded 1936-1954) (MCA #4105 [2-LP set], 1976)
  • Walkin' & Swingin' (recorded 1936-1941) (Affinity #1011 [LP], 1983)
  • Cloudy (recorded 1929-1930) (Hep #1002 [LP], 1984)
  • All Out For Hicksville (recorded 1930-1931) (Hep #1007 [LP], 1985)
  • The Uncollected Andy Kirk And The Clouds Of Joy: 1944 (Hindsight #227 [LP], 1986)
  • Kansas City Bounce 1936-1940 (Black & Blue #59.240, 1991)
  • The Chronological Andy Kirk And His 12 Clouds Of Joy 1929-1931 (Classics #655, 1992)
  • The Chronological Andy Kirk And His 12 Clouds Of Joy 1936-1937 (Classics #573, 1991)
  • The Chronological Andy Kirk And His 12 Clouds Of Joy 1937-1938 (Classics #581, 1991)
  • The Chronological Andy Kirk And His 12 Clouds Of Joy 1938 (Classics #598, 1991)
  • The Chronological Andy Kirk And His 12 Clouds Of Joy 1939-1940 (Classics #640, 1992)
  • The Chronological Andy Kirk And His Clouds Of Joy 1940-1942 (Classics #681, 1993)
  • The Chronological Andy Kirk And His Orchestra 1943-1949 (Classics #1075, 2000)
  • Andy Kirk & Mary Lou Williams: Mary's Idea (recorded 1936-1937, and 1939-1941) (GRP #622, 1993)
  • Andy Kirk: The 12 Clouds Of Joy With Mary Lou Williams (recorded 1929-1940) (ASV Living Era #5108, 1993)
  • An Introduction To Andy Kirk: His Best Recordings 1929-1946 (Best Of Jazz #4053, 1996)
  • Jukebox Hits 1936-1949 (Acrobat #4077, 2005)


See also


  • Andy Kirk, Twenty Years on Wheels. As Told to Amy Lee. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1989.
  • Frank Driggs & Chuck Haddix, Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop - A History. Oxford: Oxford University, Oxford 2005; ISBN 978-0-19-530712-2

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