The Troy Street Observer

January 4, 1906: Frankie Newton Born in Emory, VA

Trumpeter William Frank “Frankie” Newton was born in Emory, Va. Newton was already a star when he arrived in Boston in January 1942, and stayed for almost two years. He’d played with Cecil Scott, Charlie Barnet, John Kirby, and Teddy Hill; played on Bessie Smith’s “Gimme a Pigfoot” session in 1933 (her last), and on Billie Holiday’s recording of “Strange Fruit” in 1939. He was a founding member of John Kirby’s swing sextet, and often played at Barney Josephson’s Cafe Society nightclub.

His engagement at the Savoy, with trombonist Vic Dickenson alongside, turned Boston jazz on its ear, and his professionalism raised the level of play on bandstands all across town. Wrote one reporter that year: “There’s only one word for Frankie Newton: magnificent.”


After the war, Newton returned to Boston often, even living in Boston for year-long stretches at least twice. He mentored many musicians, and befriended both George Wein and Nat Hentoff. He met and married his wife, Ethel, in Boston. Boston friends helped him when an apartment fire destroyed his horns in 1948. His last Boston gig was at Storyville in 1953, and he died the following year at age 48.

Here he is, playing an exquisite blues:

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