Can you believe that one of my favorite swing artists to DJ from was a bandleader who couldn’t read music or even play an instrument? Lucky Millinder — his real name was Lucius — was a big band leader popular in the 1940s. He began his career hanging around the theaters and dancehalls of Chicago, where he learned the basics of stagecraft, lighting and music. After leading several bands in New York City on the guidance of music publisher Irving Mills, he eventually formed his own band in late 1940: Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra. Lucky was lucky to have a variety of top vocal talent sing with his band at various times including gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, saxaphonist/vocalist Bullmoose Jackson as well as rockin’ R&B singer Wynonie Harris.
Apollo Jump, the 2-disc set on the Proper Label is a good compilation of Lucky’s work and is jam packed with songs that I love to DJ from as well as use in my lindy hop classes. Here are some of my favorite tracks:
- Big Fat Mama
- Shout, Sister Shout (featuring Sister Rosetta Tharpe)
- Apollo Jump (this one is on my list of DJ’s greatest hits…song that Lindy Hop DJs always play)
- Hey, Huss!
- Let Me Off Uptown
- I Want A Tall Skinny Papa (featuring Sister Rosetta Tharpe, seemingly an answer to Big Fat Mama?)
- Mason Flyer (this song is full of hard-hitting rhythm that will steamroll right over you)
- Savoy (a classic lindy hopper’s delight, featured song for the Frankie 95 worldwide choreography)
- Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well (featuring Wynonie Harris)
- Shorty’s Got to Go (I just love this one in a minor key)
- Let it Roll Again (the high energy horns will fool you into thinking this song is faster than it it…I love DJing this for my beginning lindy classes, when they’re just learning to swing out.