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McKinney, William "Bill"
Birth Year : 1895
Death Year : 1969
McKinney, who was born and died in Cynthiana, KY, was a drummer. He served in the U.S. Army during WWI, then played with a circus band before settling in Springfield, OH, where he formed the Synco Jazz Band around 1921. McKinney ceased being a drummer around 1923 and became the group's manager. The band would be renamed McKinney's Cotton Pickers around 1926 and they performed regularly at the Graystone Ballroom in Detroit, MI. The band also had comedy routines incorporated into their performances; they were considered the best of the rival bands of Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson. They were one of the first African American bands to play on national radio. Up until the early 1940s, the group continued performing with various musicians, and in various locations, including Harlem. Their recordings include songs such as Gee, Ain't I Good to You?, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight, and Shim-Me-Sha-Wabble. McKinney did not secure any wealth from his many years as a musician, band leader and manager. Before returning to Cynthiana, KY, he worked as a hotel bellhop and other low wage paying jobs in Detroit. For more see "William (Bill) McKinney" in v.5 of African American National Biography edited by H. L. Gates, Jr. and E. B. Higginbotham; see McKinney's Cotton Pickers, a redhotjazz.com website; and in Oxford Music Online (database); and see photo images of the group and listen to the recording of Shim-Me-Sha-Wabble (1928) on YouTube.
Subjects: Migration North, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers
Geographic Region: Cynthiana, Harrison County, Kentucky / Springfield, Ohio