Black History Month – Lionel Hampton and Robinson Auditorium

lionelhampton2Bandleader Lionel Hampton made several stops at Robinson Center throughout his career.

Born in 1908 in Louisville, he and his mother bounced around to Alabama and Wisconsin before settling in Chicago in 1916.  Originally a drummer, he started playing around with the vibraphone. In 1930, Louis Armstrong asked him to play the vibes on a couple of tracks for an album – and a new career was born.

In 1936, he started playing with Benny Goodman in an integrated trio and quartet.  In 1940, he left Goodman to form his own big band.  It was with this group that he would appear at Robinson Auditorium.  He continued to tour from the 1950s up until the 1980s.  Though he had to curtail his performance schedule after suffering a stroke onstage in 1991, he would perform from time to time in the 1990s.  His last performance was in 2001 not long before his death.

In his career, he received the 1992 Kennedy Center Honors, 1996 National Medal of the Arts, and numerous honorary degrees.


1 thought on “Black History Month – Lionel Hampton and Robinson Auditorium

  1. I knew Mr. Hampton. We became friends when I interviewed him for a radio program. He proved to be so personable, we exchanged home telephone numbers and he would dial me up or I would catch him at home for a fun conversation. Mr. H.’s stories regarding touring, bands, famous and historic people he had met, behind the scenes happenings in the recording studio, on stage and in concert… Oh my, he was fascinating and a font of priceless tales. He simply dedicated his entire life to music. If Lionel Hampton wasn’t ‘making music’ he ws talking and thinking and planning music. As his health faded, he struggled to continue presenting concerts. Alas, the now elderly gentleman suffered a huge fire – a conflagration – in his New York City apartment. So much was lost — just cinders and fading memories… Photos of the gigantic golden orange flames billowing from his high-rise apt bldg window (which were in newspapers at the time) almost shouted ‘The End’. Lionel Hampton died not too long afterwards. I like to think, the man may be gone and his tangible keepsakes may be few, but the music echoes…

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