Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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HOPKINS, Claude

(b 24 Aug. '03, Alexandria VA; d 19 Feb. '84, NYC) Pianist, arranger, bandleader. Led excellent bands in the Swing Era that employed such people as Jabbo Smith, Vic Dickenson, Edmond Hall. Obtained degree at Howard U.; joined Wilbur Sweatman as pianist mid-'20s, led band accompanying Josephine Baker in Europe '25; led bands in Asbury Park NJ, NYC, Wash. DC; took over Charlie Skeet band '30 and had long runs at Savoy and Roseland ballrooms, Cotton Club. Band appeared in films Dance Team '31, Wayward '32, Barber Shop Blues '33, Broadway Highlights '35. Abundant airtime ensured success; record of "Trees' sung by Orlando Robertson was big seller '35. Disbanded '40, went to West Coast, sometimes leading, sometimes arr. for others. Mid- '40s formed band to play Zanzibar club NYC; led combo in Boston and NYC, Zanzibar again '50-1. Worked as sideman from mid-'50s, with groups led by Red Allen, Wild Bill Davidson, others; active into '70s. Compilations of the big band tracks '32-40 on Classics. Excellent musician never received fame he deserved, but made solo piano LPs Crazy Fingers on Chiaroscuro and Soliloquy on Sackville early '70s.