Celluloid Improvisations logo Jazz on Film Mark Cantor

Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra “Ride, Red, Ride”

In 1934 Lucky Millinder began fronting the Mills Blue Rhythm Band, a roll that he filled until the spring of 1938. The band was managed by Irving Mills, and was used by Mills for engagements when his other popular outfits, the Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway bands, for example, were unavailable. While the Mills Blue Rhythm Band may have lacked a distinctive style, it was a popular band, recording regularly for various labels throughout the 1930s, and appearing in a 1934 Vitaphone short. (The short is discussed in detail at https://www.jazz-on-film.com/millsblue.html#learn) Creative arrangements offered solos by such renowned artists as Henry “Red” Allen, Buster Bailey, Tab Smith, J. C. Higginbotham, Harry “Sweets” Edison and others.

After leaving the Mills organization Millinder took over the Bill Doggett orchestra, and while the band went unrecorded, we have film evidence of its existence: In the late fall or early winter of 1938 Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra appeared in the Nu-Atlas short (released by RKO) titled Readin’ ‘Ritin’ and Rhythm. The band’s performance of “Ride Red Ride” is the highlight of this ten minute short subject. Doggett’s nephew, Bill Doggett, Jr., noted, “The band was a fine one, and apparently they worked regularly. Still they couldn’t make it and the band folded in early 1939.” Among the soloists we see and hear are tenor sax Don Byas (his first screen appearance), trumpet Frankie Galbraith (not Frankie Newton, as erroneously reported over the years), and drummer Shadow Wilson.

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