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Artist biography Sidney "Big Sid" Catlett
Jazz drummer Big Sid Catlett was born as Sidney Catlett in 1910 in Evansville, IN.
Catlett started at piano, but switched to drums and entered formal study when his family moved to Chicago. His career began in Chicago in 1928 with Darnell Howard. In adulthood he moved to New York City and worked with Sarah Vaughan, Benny Carter, Fletcher Henderson, Elmer Snowden, and others.
In 1941 he joined Benny Goodman's band and after that joined Teddy Wilson's Sextet. In 1944 he did an album with pianist Harry Gibson. He also had his own band and played for Louis Armstrong's All Stars from 1947 to 1949 and became his drummer of choice. He played bop, dixieland, and other styles.
Sid Catlett worked with Darnell Howard, Benny Carter, McKinney's Cotton Pickers, Sarah Vaughan, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and Duke Ellington among others.
Big Sid Catlett began to suffer from pneumonia in early 1951. While visiting friends backstage at an Oran Page benefit concert on March 25, 1951 in Chicago, IL, Sidney Catlett died after a heart attack.
In 1996 he was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame.
Although a brilliant technician, Catlett chose to play in a deceptively simple style. With the fleet, smoothly-swinging Wilson sextet he was discreet and self-effacing; with Goodman he rolled the band remorselessly onward, with Armstrong he gave each of his fellow musicians an individualized accompaniment that defied them not to swing. Instantly identifiable, especially through his thundercrack rimshots, Catlett always swung mightily. On stage, he was a spectacular showman, clothing his massive frame in green plaid suits, tossing his sticks high in the air during solos and generally enjoying himself.