Benford, “Tommy” Thomas (1905-1994)

Ace drummer who studied drums with Herbert and Stephen Wright, Jenkins Orphanage Band musicians; born in Charleston, West Virginia (passed away in Mt. Vernon, New York); enrolled in the Jenkins Orphanage in 1913 and toured with the Jenkins Orphanage Band when they performed at the Anglo-American Exposition in London in 1914; worked with the Green River Minstrel Show and in New York with Elmer Snowden, Noble Sissle, Duke Ellington, Will Marion Cook; Willie “The Lion” Smith, Fats Waller, Snub Mosley, Rex Stewart, Muggsy Spanier, Charlie Skeet, Eddie Durham, Doc Cheatham and the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band; joined the Marie Lucas Orchestra in Washington, DC; he recorded many classics with Jelly Roll Morton and Coleman Hawkins; on late 1920s recordings with Jelly Roll Morton, students of drumming often listen in wonder to Benford’s accents on the 2nd and 4th beats of a measure – a Gullah rhythm that was natural to him and one he maintained throughout his career; in Europe (1930s), he played Le Hot Club of France and recorded with Eddie South, Freddy Taylor, Garland Wilson, Willie Lewis, Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli, Coleman Hawkins, and Sidney Bechet; in the 1950s, he worked with Freddy Johnson and toured U.S. Army camps with Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle; toured Europe with Clyde Bernhardt’s Band and the “Jazz Train Revue” in the 1970s; often played at Central Plaza, Jimmy Ryan’s, the Savoy in Boston and did regular summer seasons on Cape Cod with Leroy Parkins and Bob Pillsbury.

Image Gallery

Selected Albums


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