Simmons, “Lonnie” Samuel

A native of Charleston; began playing at age 10 as a member of the Jenkins Orphanage Band; as early as age 15, Simmons was gigging in Charleston with the Night Hawks – later, he left Charleston for New York City and landed a job with Fats Waller’s combo; a multi-instrumentalist doubling on tenor saxophone and clarinet, he recorded on several early Fats Waller sides including “The Joint Is Jumpin’”; in 1939, he gigged with Hot Lips Page and the Savoy Sultans, the Savoy Ballroom’s house band; he accompanied Ella Fitzgerald up through the early 1940s, then moved to Chicago; there he soloed, led groups up to ten pieces performing in the Pershing Lounge and Club Silhouette; he became a busy lounge and cabaret organist/pianist, crime scene photographer and restaurant manager; his busy lifestyle was described in a headline – “The Man Who Never Sleeps” of a mid-50s article about him; Simmons was known for dashing off-stage to get a picture of a fire or crime scene — they have been used in cases by the Chicago police department and have been published in Ebony, The Chicago Defender, and The Pittsburgh Courier; Simmons remained busy with his musical life and business affairs right until the end of his life (he played a gig on New Year’s Eve and suffered a stroke in the midst of the set list).

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Selected Albums

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