The Troy Street Observer

May 25, 1923: Bassist Lloyd Trotman Born in Boston

Bassist Lloyd Trotman, born this day in 1923, was the youngest son of Lambert and Lillian Trotman of Shawmut Street—Ernie was born in 1920, Stanley in 1921, and Lloyd in 1923. Lambert was himself a musician, and he organized the Music Lover’s Club, a social club that sponsored concerts and dances in the South End. Lambert taught all three sons how to read music and play the piano. All played classical as well as popular music, and they all loved jazz. Ernie and Stanley stayed with the piano, but Lloyd switched to bass.

Photo of Lloyd Trotman
Lloyd Trotman in 1946 and 2003

By 1937, Ernie and Lloyd were with Tasker Crosson’s orchestra, and both advanced to what was probably Boston’s best band then, the Alabama Aces of Joe Nevils, and toured with Blanche Calloway in 1940. Nevils broke up his large band to form a sextet, and Ernie and Lloyd were in that band too. The brothers finally split up when Ernie joined Pete Brown in New York in 1942 and was drafted in 1943. Lloyd failed his army physical and remained in Boston until 1946, when he moved to New York.

That same year, Trotman got the job of a lifetime when Duke Ellington picked him to replace Junior Raglin. Trotman remained with Ellington for only four  months, but he often said he owed everything to that stint with Ellington. It opened many doors. He was an Esquire New Star of 1947 nominee, and spent time with Stuff Smith, Hazel Scott, Billy Taylor, Boyd Raeburn, and Billie Holiday. He recorded with Ellington on the small-group Mercer sessions, and toured and recorded with the Johnny Hodges All Stars; recording “Castle Rock” with Hodges in 1951 likely got him into the studios.

In the fifties and early sixties, Trotman was a constant presence on the recording scene. He knew how to handle an acoustic bass in a recording studio, and he became a top session man with King and Atlantic. He told me, “The people who made recordings listened to the bass players, got to know their sound. Not all of them played the right way for recording. The sound of the bass floats around, it isn’t stable, and the bass player had to guide the sound for the microphone, and I knew how to do that. The engineers used to love me for that.”

And then the hits just kept on coming: “Mess Around,” by Ray Charles. “My Prayer,” by the Platters. “Sincerely,” by the Moonglows. “Yakety Yak,” by the Coasters. “Shake, Rattle and Roll” by Joe Turner. “Save the Last Dance for Me” by the Drifters. “Lonely Teardrops,” by Jackie Wilson. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” by the Tokens. “What a Difference a Day Makes,” by Dinah Washington. “Shout” by the Isley Brothers. “Chain Gang,” by Sam Cooke. Dozens of hits, and none bigger than Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me,” with the bass line that everybody knows.

Eventually the studio work ended. Perhaps it was because Trotman never played electric bass, or his style went out of fashion, or he just got tired of the commute in from Long Island. In the mid-seventies, he formed a duo with pianist Billy Rowland, and when Rowland died in 1985, Trotman retired from music.

Lloyd Trotman, who had been living in Huntington, Long Island, since 1962, died there of  pneumonia on Oct 3, 2007 at age 84.

Trotman’s one record under his own name, with two original compositions, “Trottin’ In” and “Take Five” (Brunswick 45 55147), was released in 1959 a few months before that other “Take Five.” Here’s “Trottin’ In.”

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