Billy Davenport

Drummer Billy Davenport was born April 23, 1931, in Chicago. His parents were sharecroppers from rural Alabama who migrated to Chicago in 1928. He began learning drums at the age of six, after finding an old pair of drumsticks in an alley behind the Twin Door Lounge on the southside of Chicago. A natural musician, his parents soon recognized his gift and encouraged him. He started out playing on tin cans after seeing a movie about Gene Krupa. He also admired Sid Catlett. He took drum lessons while in the Boy Scouts and went on to play jazz in high school, in the R.O.T.C., in swing bands, and various venues in the Chicago area. In 1949, he studied music for one year at Midwestern School of Music in Chicago. He played with Bob Hadley, Leo Parker, Slam Stewart, Neal Anderson, Tampa Red, Sonny Stitt, and others. He got to hear everyone live -- Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Billy Eckstine, Gene Ammons -- all the greats. His drum influences included Art Blakey, Louis Bellson, and Max Roach.