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

Kentucky State Collegians

The Collegians were college dance bands, one of which was located at Kentucky State College [now Kentucky State University].

The Kentucky group, first called the Danny Williams Band of Chicago, had performed in 1938 for the Kentucky State Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, thanks to Mrs. Clarice J. Michaels, head of the school's music department. Michaels, a pianist and soprano, had been a member of the World Famous Williams Jubilee Singers, formed in 1904 by Charles P. Williams from Holly Springs, MS.

C. P. Williams, who had migrated to Chicago, was the father of Danny Williams. Kentucky State Dean John T. Williams (no relation) persuaded President Rufus Atwood to enroll the Danny Williams Band members and allow them to become the school band for student and faculty dances. The contract stipulated performance payments for the band members from which school fees would be paid. Harvey C. Russell, Jr. president of the student council, became the group’s business manager. They performed on campus and throughout the state, including at white fraternity parties and dances at the University of Kentucky and at functions given by then Governor Happy Chandler.

After a year, Kentucky State was no longer able to honor the contract because funding was tight, so  Danny Williams and several band members left school. New student members were added to the group that then became known as the Kentucky State College Collegians.

The band grew to include 16 members and continued performing until 1946, when the former Kentucky State College president, John T. Williams, left the school and became president of Maryland State College [now University of Maryland Eastern Shore]. The band members left to join him; they became the Maryland State Collegians. Mrs. Clarice J. Michaels would also eventually move on to Maryland State.

One of the band members, Newman Terrell, returned to Kentucky to complete his studies, and he organized and led the new Kentucky State College Collegians. Both the group and the music department prospered; in 1962, the group was the third-ranked jazz ensemble among small colleges.  President Carl M. Hill is credited with developing the school’s music department into an accredited program with 14 full-time music specialists.

In 1976, several members of the Collegians left to form the group Midnight Star.

For more see W. C. Swindell, "The Kentucky State Collegians," The Black Perspective in Music, vol. 15, issue 1 (Spring 1987), pp. 3-23; and Kentucky State University Archives. See photographs of the Kentucky State Collegians members in the Kentucky State University Thorobred yearbooks (most are online).

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Franklin County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Frankfort, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: Atwood, Rufus Ballard
NKAA Entry: Russell, Harvey C., Jr.
NKAA Entry: Hill, Carl McClellan
NKAA Entry: Midnight Star (musical group)
NKAA Source: The Black perspective in music (periodical)
NKAA Source: Kentucky State University yearbooks (online)

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry: Dixieland Gardens (Lexington, KY)

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Kentucky State Collegians,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 20, 2024,

Last modified: 2021-02-03 19:09:21