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Jesse Stone
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Don Rouse

Jesse Stone died in April. He was 97.

   In 1927 his midwestern territory band (out of St. Louis) recorded classic jazz sides for the Okeh label, among them such collector’s items as “Starvation Blues” and “Boot to Boot (Tiger Rag)”. Stone was arranger and pianist. That same year he recorded as the pianist and arranger with the George E. Lee Orchestra from Kansas City, which laid down the classic “Meritt Stomp”, and again in 1929 when the Lee band recorded “Ruff Scufflin” and “St. James Infirmary”, among others. The ’29 band also accompanied Julia Lee on her recording of “Won’t You Come Over To My House?” That title would become identified with her in a hit recording of the ’50’s.

   Stone’s grandparents were born in slavery in Tennessee. Born in Atchison, Kansas, as a child he performed in the family traveling minstrel show. Beginning in 1920, he organized and led bands in St. Joseph, Missouri, Kansas City, and Dallas, Texas. At one point in the 1920’s, Stone had Coleman Hawkins in his band, but Hawkins did not record with him. Stone also worked with territory bandleaders Terrance Holder and Thamon Hayes.

   In the 1930’s he led a band in Chicago, and continued to lead bands into the 1940’s. He also continued to arrange for other bands, and recorded once more in 1939 with his own band. In the 1940’s he wrote the pop hit song, “Idaho”.

   In the 50’s, Stone served as an A and R man for Atlantic Records, working for Ahmet Ertegun (from DC), signing Ruth Brown (who was also from DC) and the Clovers (another DC group). He was also an arranger for most of that label’s artists, including Ray Charles and LaVern Baker. One source credits Stone as the composer of “Shake Rattle and Roll”. While the strains of this blues tune probably predate him, it is certain that Stone was instrumental in turning it into a hit for Atlantic Records vocalists, such as blues great Joe Turner, leading to the successful cover version by Bill Haley and the Comets. (From various sources, including Chilton’s Who’s Who of Jazz) -Ed.
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