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Doc Cheatham Mastered New Skills All His Life – Phantom Dancer 9 February 2021

Doc Cheatham, born Adolphus Anthony Cheatham, is this week’s Phantom Dancer feature artist, requested by a regular listener. Doc Cheatham was an American jazz trumpeter, singer and bandleader. You’ll hear a set of bands he played in from live radio broadcasts, and a set of 1930s Cab Calloway in which band Cheatham played 1st trumpet.

The Phantom Dancer is your non-stop mix of swing and jazz from live 1920s-60s radio and TV hosted by me, Greg Poppleton. Hear past Phantom Dancer online now at

This show will be online after 2pm AEST, Tuesday 9 February at


His trumpet playing career began with jazz bands in the 1920s. When he started, he was influenced by the jazz that was around him and that had developed in the late 1910s. His early trumpet influences included Henry Busse and Johnny Dunn. He moved to Chicago in 1924 and heard King Oliver. Oliver’s playing was a revelation to Cheatham. Cheatham followed the Jazz King around and Oliver gave him a trumpet mute which Cheatham treasured and performed with for the rest of his career.

A further revelation came in 1925 when he met, and sometimes depped for Louis Armstrong. Armstrong became a lifelong influence on Cheatham.

So began a professional career playing in famous bands, and eventually leading his own, which involved constant experimentation with technique and musical form. A listener asked that I do a Phantom Dancer with Doc Cheatham as feature artist. When I read his story I connected immediately with his lifelong study of performance technique. I do it myself, currently experimenting with a different breathing technique for singing, and new camera techniques for acting.


After touring Europe with the  Sam Wooding band in 1929-30, Cheatham returned to the US in 1930 and played with McKinney’s Cotton Pickers before joining the Cab Calloway Ork. Cheatham was Calloway’s lead trumpeter from 1932 to 1939.

He studied with Max Schlossberg for 6 months in 1931. 

Doc Cheatham in Cab Calloway's Orchestra

Doc Cheatham in Cab Calloway’s Orchestra



As a swing trumpeter during WW2 Cheatham played in the orchestras Benny Carter, Teddy Wilson, Fletcher Henderson and Claude Hopkins.

After 1945, he moved to Latin music, joining the bands of Perez Prado, Marcelino Guerra and Ricardo Ray. 

He was fired the first time he joined Machito’s band. He couldn’t handle clave rhythm. Cheatham eventually mastered it.

1950 – 60s

Doc Cheatham singing

Doc Cheatham singing

While continuing with Latin bands into the 1950s, Cheatham also played with Wilbur de Paris (in whose band he had played in 1927) and Sammy Price.

He was part of a tour of Africa for the US State Department in 1959 and led his own band on Broadway from 1960-65 before touring with Benny Goodman.

1970 – 90s

In his sixties during the 1970s, Doc Cheatham made a vigorous self-assessment of his trumpet playing. He taped himself, listening critically to the results. The discipline paid off with greater positive critical attention.

He even began singing. His singing career started by accident in a Paris recording studio on 2 May 1977. During a sound check at the start of a recording session with Sammy Price’s band, Cheatham sang and scatted his way through a couple of choruses of ‘What Can I Say Dear After I Say I’m Sorry’. The miking happened to be good from the start and the tape machine was already rolling. The track was included on the LP ‘Doc Cheatham: Good for What Ails You’. His singing was so well received, Cheatham continued to sing as well as play trumpet for the rest of his career.

In 1998, Doc received a posthumous Grammy for Best Jazz Solo on ‘Stardust’, a track on his CD, Doc Cheatham and Nicholas Payton (see video near the top of this article). His wife Amanda and daughter Alicia accepted the award on his behalf.

Watch Doc Cheatham on TV in Antwerp, 1958,


Play List – The Phantom Dancer
107.3 2SER-FM Sydney

Community Radio Network Show CRN #474

107.3 2SER Tuesday 9 February 2021
12:04 – 2:00pm (+11 hours GMT) and Saturdays 5 – 5:55pm
National Program
5GTR Mt Gambier Monday 2:30 – 3:30am
3MBR Murrayville Monday 3 – 4am
4NAG Keppel FM Monday 3 – 4am
2SEA Eden Monday 3 – 4am
2MIA Griffith Monday 3 – 4pm
2BAR Edge FM Bega Monday 3 – 4pm
3VKV Alpine Radio Monday 6 – 7pm
7MID Oatlands Tuesday 8 – 9pm
1ART ArtsoundFM Canberra Friday 10 – 11am
2ARM Armidale Friday 12 – 1pm
5LCM Lofty FM Adelaide Friday 1 – 2pm
4RPH Brisbane Sunday 3 – 4am
7LTN Launceston Sunday 5 – 6am
3MGB Mallacoota Sunday 5 – 6am
6GME Radio Goolarri Broome Sunday 5 – 6am
3BBR West Gippsland Sunday 5 – 6pm

Set 1
Mickey Mouse Bands 
Oh You Beautiful Doll (theme) + Lullaby of Broadway
Frank Foster Orchestra (voc) Frank Foster
‘One Night Stand’
Terrace Room
Hotel New Yorker NYC
AFRS Re-broadcast
13 Aug 1945
The Ol’ Piano Roll Blues
Paul Neighbours Orchestra
Biltmore Bowl
Biltmore Hotel LA
via KGHL NBC Billings Montana
Early in the Morning + Close
Freddy Martin Orchestra (voc) The Martin Men
‘One Night Stand’
Cocoanut Grove
Ambassador Hotel
Los Angeles
AFRS Re-broadcast
12 Aug 1944
Set 2
Women Singers on 1945-46 Radio 
Open + Look For the Silver Lining
Dinah Shore
AFRS Re-broadcast
I Can See It My Way
Doris Day
‘Barry Gray’s Nightclub’
WOR Mutual NY
5 Feb 1946
If a Nightinggale Could Sing Like You + I Surrender Dear + Close
Ginny Simms
‘Ginny Simms Show’
11 Jan 1946
Set 3
Club Hangover 
Open + Royal Garden Blues
Kid Ory
Club Hangover
KCBS San Francisco
5 Feb 1955
I Found a New Baby
Ralph Sutton
Club Hangover
KCBS San Francisco
7 Sep 1954
After Hours + When The Saints Come Marching In
Red Richards (piano) Muggsy Spanier Band
Club Hangover
KCBS San Francisco
20 Nov 1954
Set 4
Doc Cheatham with Cab Calloway’s Ork 
Hot Water
Doc Cheatham (tp) Cab Calloway Orchestra
Comm Rec
New York City
7 Dec 1932
A Minor Breakdown
Doc Cheatham (tp) Cab Calloway Orchestra
Comm Rec
New York City
10 Dec 1937
Mississippi Mud + Minnie the Moocher
Doc Cheatham (tp) Cab Calloway Orchestra (voc) Cab Calloway
KTSP Studios
St Paul-Minneapolis
28 May 1938
Set 5
Bands Doc Cheatham Played In 
Rocky Road
McKinney’s Cotton Pickers (tp is Rex Stewart, not Doc C) (voc) Don Redman
Comm Rec
3 Nov 1930
Cao, Cao
Machito (voc) Graciela
‘Symphony Sid Show’
Whatever Lola Wants + Close
Perez Prado
‘All Star Parade of Bands’
24 Jul 1953
Set 6
Let’s Dance 1934-35 
Let’s Dance (theme) + The Object of My Affection
Benny Goodman Orchestra (voc) Buddy Clark
Let’s Dance
1 Dec 1934
Benny Goodman Orchestra (voc) Helen Ward
Let’s Dance
9 Mar 1935
Benny Goodman Orchestra
Let’s Dance
1 Dec 1934
Set 7
 Harry James 1950s Radio 
Cirribirribin (Theme) + Stealin’ Apples
Harry James Orchestra
Aragon Ballroom
WMAQ NBC Chicago
18 Jun 1954
Honeysuckle Rose
Harry James Octet
c 1950
Palladium Party
Harry James Orchestra
Hotel Astor Roof
25 May 1953
Honeysuckle Rose
Harry James Octet
c 1950
Set 8
Women Radio Singers 
Lee Wiley
‘Guest Star’
Radio Transcription
New York City
Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen
Kay Starr (voc) Charlie Barnett Orchestra
‘For the Record’
11 Sep 1944
Robin Hood
Mildred Bailey
‘Music Till Midnight’
12 Feb 1945
I Miss Your Kiss
Joya Sherill (voc) Duke Ellington Orchestra
‘A Date with the Duke’
12 May 1945

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