McKinney's Cotton Pickers

McKinney's Cotton Pickers were an African American jazz band, in Detroit, Michigan in 1926 led by William McKinney, who expanded his Synco Septet to ten pieces. Cuba Austin took over for McKinney on drums. Between 1927 and 1931, they were one of the most popular African-American bands. Many of their records for Victor were bestsellers.

In 1927, Fletcher Henderson's arranger and saxophone player Don Redman was invited to become the Cotton Pickers' musical director[1] and he assembled a band. John Nesbitt helped Redman with arrangements and rehearsals. The band in 1928 included Cuba Austin (drums and vocals), Langston Curl (trumpet), Ralph Escudero (tuba), Claude Jones, Redman (clarinet, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, vocals), Todd Rhodes (piano, celeste), Prince Robinson (clarinet, tenor saxophone), Milton Senior (trombone), George Thomas (clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, vocals) and Dave Wilborn (banjo, vocals).[2]

Other band members included George Bias (vocals), Benny Carter (clarinet, alto saxophone), Doc Cheatham (trumpet), Bill Coti (vocals), Ed Cuffee (trombone), Lois Deppe (vocals), Jimmy Dudley (clarinet, tenor saxophone), Robert Inge (clarinet, (alto saxophone), Quentin Jackson (trombone), Moxey-Hilton Jefferson (clarinet, alto saxophone), James P. Johnson (piano), Buddy Lee (trumpet), Donald King (vocals), Frank Marvin (vocals), Theodore McCord (clarinet, tenor saxophone), Jim Napier (vocals), Rex Stewart (cornet), and Billy Taylor (tuba). Towards the end of 1929, a number of soloists who were not regular members of the band sat in for a series of recordings. These included Leonard Davis (trumpet), Sidney de Paris (trumpet), Coleman Hawkins (clarinet, tenor saxophone), Fats Waller (piano, celeste),[3] Joe "Fox" Smith (trumpet, cornet) ,[4] and Kaiser Marshall (drums).

In 1931 Redman left to form a band and was replaced by Benny Carter. The Cotton Pickers disbanded in 1934, unable to make money during the Depression. Manager of the band was Jean Goldkette who arranged for the group to record "Birmingham Bertha" for him in July 1929.

A New McKinney's Cotton Pickers was organized in the early 1970s by David Hutson using the arrangements by Don Redman. The band recorded several albums and featured banjoist Dave Wilborn, who was the only surviving original member.


  1. Yanow, Scott. "McKinney's Cotton Pickers". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  2. "McKinney's Cotton Pickers - (Photo)". Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  3. "McKinney's Cotton Pickers". Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  4. Yanow, Scott. "Joe "Fox" Smith". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
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