Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

DYETT, Walter

(1901--69) Musician, teacher; Chicago institution. Began on violin; played banjo and guitar in Erskine Tate's Vendome Theatre Orchestra; conducted an all- black US Army band; became bandmaster at Wendell Phillips High School '31 (taught Nat Cole); according to Dempsey J. Travis the name of the school was changed to DuSable High School in '36. He directed five high school bands, annual spring Hi-Jinks show (proceeds went to buy musical instruments; the Board of Education wouldn't pay for them), alumni jazz band in local clubs, annual summer entertainments for Shriners Conventions, etc. In a 150-piece concert band he could tell who had made a mistake: 'He could hear a mosquito urinate on a bale of cotton,' wrote Travis. Bassist Richard Davis said, 'Maybe you weren't afraid of the cops, but you were afraid of Captain Dyett.' His students incl. John Young, Dorothy Donegan, Joseph Jarman, Johnny Griffin, Bo Diddley (on violin), Gene Ammons, Eddie Harris, Dinah Washington, comedian Redd Foxx, Fred Hopkins, Julian Priester, John Gilmore (star of the Sun Ra band for three decades), Wilbur Campbell, Von Freeman and his brothers, about 20,000 more, many of whom went straight into jobs with Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, many others. One of the most important of the unsung heroes of 20th-century music: the teachers.