The Troy Street Observer

May 14, 1951: A Homecoming for Johnny Hodges

The Johnny Hodges All-Stars opened for a week at Storyville on May 14, 1951, and it was a big step forward for both the star and the club.

Saxophonist Johnny Hodges, born in Cambridge, raised in Boston’s South End, inspired by Bechet, and a member of Duke Ellington’s Orchestra since early 1928, finally decided to go out on his own in early 1951. After 23 years with Ellington, he figured it was time, a move encouraged by the impresario Norman Granz.

Photo of Johnny Hodges
He wasn’t always an Ellingtonian: Johnny Hodges

The Boston date at Storyville was one of the first outside of New York for the All-Stars, a group formed shortly after Hodges declared his independence. In the band were the Count Basie veteran, trumpeter Emmett Berry, and five others with ties to the Ellington. Trombonist Lawrence Brown and drummer Sonny Greer left Ellington with Hodges. Tenor saxophonist Al Sears and bassist Lloyd Trotman had played with Ellington in the 1940s. Finally, pianist Billy Strayhorn was still Ellington’s closest musical collaborator.

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