From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

McKinney, William "Bill"

(born: 1895  -  died: 1969) 

Drummer William B. McKinney was born and died in Cynthiana, KY. He served in the U.S. Army during World War I, then played with a circus band before settling in Springfield, OH, where he formed the Synco Jazz Band around 1921.

McKinney quit drumming around 1923 and became the group's manager. The band was renamed McKinney's Cotton Pickers around 1926, performing regularly at the Graystone Ballroom in Detroit, MI. The band also had comedy routines incorporated into its performances. 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  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 he worked as a hotel bellhop and  at other low-wage jobs in Detroit.

For more see "William (Bill) McKinney" in vol. 5 of African American National Biography, edited by H. L. Gates, Jr. and E. B. Higginbotham; McKinney's Cotton Pickers in the Synchopated Times Red Hot Jazz Archive; and the band's entry in Oxford Music Online (database).

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Harrison County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Cynthiana, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Gee, ain't I good to you (song)
NKAA Source: If I could be with you one hour tonight (song)
NKAA Source: Shim-me-sha-wabble (song)
NKAA Source: The African American national biography
NKAA Source: Oxford Music Online (database)

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry: Rhodes, Todd Washington

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“McKinney, William "Bill",” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 21, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-06-19 16:37:01