Conservatory Special Collections > Doc Cheatham Audio Collection, 1923-1997 and undated

Doc Cheatham Audio Collection, 1923-1997 and undated

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Overview | Inventory | History | Using The Collection


Adolphus "Doc" Cheatham (1905-1997) was an American jazz trumpeter, vocalist, and bandleader, professionally active from the 1920s through the 1990s. The collection consists of 165 audio cassette tapes related to Cheatham. The material was donated to Oberlin College in 2011 by the Doc Cheatham Estate.

The tapes feature content dating back to 1923, though most of the early material comprises duplications of commercially-available recordings. There are a number of home-made compilations that also draw upon commercially-available content from multiple decades. The collection includes concert recordings featuring Cheatham in bands led by Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, and others, along with concert recordings from tours Cheatham was a part of in Europe. There are also unreleased studio recording sessions with Butch Thompson and others. Finally, there are a number of recordings of Cheatham being interviewed by Phil Schaap, Frank Driggs, Ed Berger, and others.


A complete inventory of the collection is available as a pdf. The collection was inventoried in November 2014.


Doc Cheatham was born in Nashville, TN on June 13, 1905. He began playing cornet in 1919 and initially also performed on saxophone, primarily in vaudeville settings. He also accompanied a number of blues bands and singers during this time. He moved to Chicago, where he worked with King Oliver and Louis Armstrong, and then spent a brief period of time in Philadelphia in the 1920s. He then moved to New York where he worked with Chick Webb, Sam Wooding, and others. For the next fifty years, Cheatham performed primarily in large ensembles, including those led by Cab Calloway, Teddy Wilson, Benny Carter, and Benny Goodman. Beginning in 1981, he led a big band at a weekly appearance at New York's Sweet Basil. He also regularly appeared with smaller ensembles, allowing him greater opportunities to improvise than he often had in big band seetings. He continued to perform and record into the 1990s, winning a Grammy Award for an eponymous LP he recorded as a co-leader with Nicholas Payton in 1996. Cheatham died in Washington, DC, on June 2, 1997.

Cheatham long maintained a respected technique on trumpet and was often cited for his striking articulation and clarity of tone. In the 1970s, he conducted an extensive review of his technique and made a number of changes, resulting in some of his best work being produced towards the end of his career. His singing career began in 1977 during a recording session in Paris. In the context of a microphone check, Cheatham sang and scatted through the tune "What Can I Say Dear After I Say I'm Sorry". His performance went on to be featured on the resulting LP, and he incorporated singing into his performances regularly from that point on.

Using the Collection

Restrictions: All original audiocassettes are CLOSED to patron listening. Unless otherwise noted, use copies must be made for access to audio content.

Rights: The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Oberlin College.

Preferred Citation: [Identification of item], Doc Cheatham Audio Collection, Oberlin Conservatory Library

Last updated:
February 16, 2017