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Jon Hendricks

John Carl Hendricks

Vocalist, Lyricist, Composer, Screenwriter, Playwright, Educator, Actor

(1921 - )

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Jon Hendricks was a member of the unsurpassed vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. He is noted for expanding the art of vocalese to include multiple voices singing various instrumental parts.* The term
“vocalese” was first used by noted jazz critic Leonard Feather in a 1959 article in Jazz: A Quarterly of American Music to describe the art of melding new lyrics to the frame of classic jazz instrumentals.

He left law school for New York in 1951 to pursue music at the urging of Charlie Parker. There he met Dave Lambert, who, as Hendricks relates it, conceived the preposterous idea of writing lyrics to Count Basie’s music as a way of being remembered when they died of starvation, which seemed near at hand. “Dave dragged me kicking and screaming to stardom.”

They multi-tracked the songs with Annie Ross because the chorus couldn’t swing. Thus was formed LH&R in 1958. Their repertoire included Hendricks’ lyrics to three Horace Silver tunes, Randy Weston’s “Little Niles,” Cannonball Adderley’s “Sermonette,” Clifford Brown’s “Joy Spring,” and Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night in Tunisia” (on which Frank Paparelli collaborated).

When the group broke up in 1964 Hendricks moved to London, gaining recognition on the continent and appearing in a couple of films. He returned to California where he received Peabody and Emmy awards for his documentary, Somewhere to Lay My Weary Head, and his Evolution of the Blues had a five-year run at San Francisco’s Broadway Theater. In 1981 he toured with Hendricks & Company, which included wife, Judith and daughter Michelle, and in 1985 he wrote lyrics for the Manhattan Transfer’s Oscar-winning album, Vocalese, which featured Joe Zawinul’s “Birdland.”

His successful 1990 recording, Freddie the Freeloader, included several other fine jazz musicians. In the film White Men Can’t Jump (1992) he is featured in an a cappella group. He and Annie Ross paired up in the late ‘90s for a two-year tour. Currently Hendricks, known as the “James Joyce of Jive,” is teaching at the University of Toledo in his hometown.

- Sandra Burlingame

* Jazz Pianist Eric Scott Reed adds, “The art of vocalese can be traced back as far as 1929 with Bee Palmer singing a Ted Koehler lyric on solos by Bix Beiderbecke and Frank Trumbauer on the song ‘Singin’ the Blues’ {1927/Okeh}.”

Sing a Song of Basie

Lambert, Hendricks & Ross

Boppin' at the Blue Note

Jon Hendricks

The Hottest New Group in Jazz

Lambert, Hendricks & Ross

Evolution of the Blues Song

Jon Hendricks


Manhattan Transfer

A Good Git-Together

Jon Hendricks

Salud Joao Gilberto

Jon Hendricks


Karrin Allyson Contributed lyrics and vocals

Freddie Freeloader

Jon Hendricks & Friends
Reading and Viewing

At Amazon.com you can often buy used for a fraction of the new price


DownBeat - The Great Jazz Interviews (A 75th Anniversary Anthology) (Book)

Hal Leonard

Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, Rosie Perez, Tyra Ferrell, Cylk Cozart

White Men Can't Jump

20th Century Fox


Phil Woods/Jon Hendricks: Tribute to Charlie Parker


Al Pacino, Kim Basinger, Ryan O'Neal

People I Know


DVD Songwriter, Performer

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