(December 31, 1908 – June 14, 1952), was a jazz double-bassist
who also played trombone
Kirby may have been born in Winchester, Virginia
, although other sources say he was born in Baltimore, Maryland
, orphaned, and adopted.
Bands and recording
Kirby joined Fletcher Henderson
's orchestra as a tuba player in 1929. In the early 1930s, he performed some amazingly complicated tuba work on a number of Henderson's recordings. Kirby picked up on the double-bass at the time when tuba was falling out a favor as jazz bands' primary bass instrument.
About 1933 Kirby left Henderson and played with Chick Webb
(twice), back with Henderson, and with Lucky Millinder
. He briefly led a quartet in 1935 but generally kept busy as bassist in others' groups.
Securing a gig at the Onyx Club
on 52nd Street
, Kirby really got going as a bandleader in 1937, although in the first Onyx Club lineup, singer-drummer Leo Watson
got featured billing. Soon Kirby's sextet was known as the Onyx Club Boys, and it took the shape it would basically hold until World War II, usually with