The Troy Street Observer

Mar 29, 1914: Pianist/Vocalist Mabel Robinson Simms Born

Pianist, vocalist, and bandleader Mabel Robinson Simms, recognized as a Boston Jazz Pioneer by the New England Jazz Alliance in 2004, was born on March 29, 1914.

Photo of Mabel Robinson Simms
Mabel Robinson Simms, date unknown

Born Mabel Brown in Cape Charles, Va, she was raised in nearby Norfolk, and moved to Boston at age 17. In Boston she took up the piano seriously. In 1937, while waitressing by day at Slade’s, she started working as a single at the Monterrey Cafe on Columbus Avenue.

By January 1939 she was leading her own group at the Swanee Grill (better known as Johnny Wilson’s; Wilson owned the club) on Tremont Street, where she worked regularly until spring 1943. Then she moved around the corner to Little Dixie on Mass Ave, leading a group called the Four Rhythm Aces, until December. In January 1944 she joined the Phil Edmunds Orchestra at the same club.

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