William Alonzo Anderson was born in 1916 in Greenville, South Carolina. The tragic death of his parents saw him moved to a Charleston orphanage at the age of four. While growing up there, he learned to play the trumpet and picked up his nickname of “Cat,” which was given to him by friends because of his fighting style. He played with a number of smaller groups throughout the Thirties and early Forties, eventually landing a spot in Lionel Hampton’s band. But his career really began in 1944, when he joined Duke Ellington’s orchestra. Ellington—who was unusually willing to share the spotlight with his sidemen—saw a lot of potential in this young man with a five octave range and delighted in writing songs that showed off Anderson’s ability to play higher than anyone else could. In 1944, Benny Goodman’s or Glenn Miller’s Orchestras might have sold more tickets, but Ellington’s band was the place to be if you wanted to musically shine.
So it might seem surprising that Cat left the band in 1947 to pursue his own interests. We’re lucky he did, because “Gotta Go Baby,” the one song I was able to find from this EP, swings hard and well. Check it out.
That was fellow trumpeter Joe Straud on vocals. Anderson employed a full orchestra, but the spare arrangement brings to mind the work of Louis Jordan and the Tympany Five, to these ears, anyway. Continue reading