Aiken, Gus (1901 or 1902 -1973)

(AKA) Aiken [Aitken and Aikin], “Gus” or “Rice” Augustine

Born in Charleston and resident of the Jenkins Orphanage; known as “Spec” at the orphanage and played in its bands from 1912, then left to work in traveling shows; brother Eugene “Buddy,” also a resident of the orphanage, played trombone and trumpet; an early jazz trumpeter, Aiken taught orphanage musicians how to growl and flutter-tongue on the trumpet; his earliest associations were with songwriter and pianist, Perry Bradford and classic blues singer, Mamie Smith; on the Okeh label, Aiken played with Bradford on many hits, and with Smith, recorded “Got to Cool My Doggies Now,” and “It’s Right Here for You (If You Don’t Get It Ain’t No Fault o’ Mine)”; throughout the 1920s, Aiken recorded with many singers including Mary Jackson, Eliza Christmas Lee, Daisy Martin, Lavinia Turner, Louis Vant, Essie Whitman, Lena Wilson, Ethel Waters, Clara Smith and Cindy Smith; in 1925 with Perry Bradford’s Jazz Phools, Aiken played alongside Louis Armstrong; toured with Fletcher Henderson in 1921 and in the late 1920s, he joined Louis Armstrong and Luis Russell when the latter two joined – the outfit employed some of the best New Orleans musicians – this association with Armstrong gained great notoriety for Aiken; later, he played and recorded with Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Charlie Johnson at Small’s Paradise in Harlem (1920s-1930s), Lucky Millinder, Buddy Johnson, Henry “Red” Allen, and Elmer Snowden and the Washingtonians (1931-33) alongside drummer, Big Sid Catlett, trumpeter, Roy Eldridge, trombonist, Dicky Wells and pianist, Duke Ellington; he led his own band during the 1940s-1960s but made no records under his name; remained in New York City during the first few years of the 1970s until his death in 1973.

Image Gallery

Selected Albums


HOME | ABOUT | MUSICIANS | COLLECTION | EVENTS | NEWS | PROJECTS | SHOP | CONTACT        all images © CJI /CofC unless noted

Charleston Jazz Initiative
c/o Arts Management Program
School of the Arts, College of Charleston
66 George Street, Charleston, SC 29424
843-953-5474 (phone)
843-953-7068 (fax)
email »