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Identifier: IJS-0020

Howard McGhee papers, music, and audiovisual recordings



  • 1947 - 1988

Scope and Contents

The Howard McGhee papers, music, and audiovisual recordings document McGhee's music and professional activities and, to a lesser degree, his personal life from the mid-1940s until his death in 1987. The bulk of the collection is comprised of music manuscripts, scores and parts from his big band; published sheet music, arrangements, song and method books, and lyric sheets; audio and videocassette tapes of McGhee's original music, and a listing of commercial recordings (which are not retained in the collection). Documenting his performing and recording career and educational programs are resumes; flyers and handbills; set lists; awards; business and financial correspondence; tax and wage statements; expense records for his big band, transportation, housing and hotels, telephone, musical instrument repair, publicity photos, bar tabs and medical care; passports, foreign work permits and identification cards; financial transactions and contracts with the American Federation of Musicians, Local #802 and jazz promoter George Wein's Festival Productions; record royalties and record company payments; memberships in the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, the American Guild of Authors and Composers, the National Jazz Service Organization, The Duke Ellington Society and Saint Peter's Church; telephone and address books and business cards; and grant applications for performance and educational programs; newspaper clippings, record reviews, adds and catalogs, and publications; and publicity, performance, recording session and candid photographs. Items covering McGhee's personal life include personal correspondence from family and friends, photographs, greeting cards, and materials related to McGhee's death in July 1987.


15 Cubic Feet (32 boxes)

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use. Some audiovisual media in the collection is currently open for visual inspection only. Access copies for listening and/or viewing may be created on request, if possible. Contact the Institute for details or to make a request.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Howard McGhee papers, music, and audiovisual recordings were donated by his widow, Tina Teahan McGhee.

Language of Materials



The Howard McGhee papers, music, and audiovisual recordings contain published and unpublished music, audiovisual materials, photographs, business records, and personal papers documenting his career as a jazz trumpeter and band leader.

Biographical / Historical

Howard McGhee, briefly one of the most influential bebop trumpeters of the late 1940s, was born March 6, 1918 in Tulsa, Oklahoma and raised in Detroit. He received his first formal musical education in a marching band in a boy's school in the historically-African American town of Boley, Oklahoma when, after learning how to play the cornet, his teacher gave him a clarinet. McGhee later said that learning to play the clarinet added to his agility on the trumpet. Beginning in 1935, he began playing the trumpet exclusively, which was also around the time he left school to play in small traveling carnival bands in Oklahoma. McGhee joined a seven-piece band led by the young pianist Jay McShann, who soon found fame in Kansas City. Over the next few years McGhee played in a handful of Midwestern territory bands and, like many other trumpeters of his generation, was influenced by trumpeter Roy Eldridge. Around this time, McGhee began booking musicians for a Detroit nightclub, a job that put him in contact with nationally famous musicians and helped build his reputation as a talented performer, composer and arranger. Beginning in 1941, he worked as a trumpeter and arranger for a succession of bands, including those of Lionel Hampton, Andy Kirk (where he succeeded Mary Lou Williams as the band's arranger and with whom he first recorded his signature number, "McGhee Special" for Decca Records), Charlie Barnet, Count Basie, Georgie Auld, and Billie Eckstine. He joined Coleman Hawkins' quintet in late 1944, traveled to Los Angeles the following year, where he first met Dizzy Gillespie, and remained there for two years. In Los Angeles until late 1947, McGhee formed groups with saxophonist Teddy Edwards and also recorded with Charlie Parker, including Parker's famous recording of "Lover Man." Also in 1947, he joined impresario Norman Granz's popular Jazz at the Philharmonic concert tours before making a series of recordings with musicians including Ray Brown, J. C. Heard, Milt Jackson, Hank Jones and James Moody. McGhee played at the Festival International de Jazz in Paris in 1948, and was named top trumpeter by Down Beat the following year. He briefly accompanied Parker and also played intermittently in a group with pianist Horace Silver and guitarist Tal Farlow in the 1950s, but his career was substantially sidelined by heroin addiction during this decade. However by the early sixties, "Maggie," as he was known by fellow musicians and fans, began playing more frequently, performing with the Woody Herman and Duke Ellington orchestras in 1960 and 1961, respectively. In the mid-1960s, McGhee formed his own big band and began a long association with Saint Peter's Church, New York's jazz church, where Reverend John Gensel initiated a jazz ministry around 1965. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, McGhee worked regularly for Newport Jazz Festival producer George Wein, toured Europe and continued to record. McGhee's 1963 Newport Jazz Festival was particularly well received. McGhee died in New York on July 17, 1987. He was married three times, first to dancer Dorothy Schnell, with whom he had three children, Howard Jr. ("Boots"), Dru Ann, and David; Sandy Spencer; and Tina Teahan, who survived him.


Howard McGhee papers, music, and audiovisual recordings are divided into ten series:

  • Series 1: Music manuscripts, parts, scores, and lead sheets, circa 1939-1941, 1958, 1961-1969, 1979, and undated
  • Series 2: Published sheet music, arrangements,song books, and method books, 1888-1985 and undated
  • Series 3: Audio and videocassette tapes, 1965-1989 and undated
  • Series 4: Performances and recordings, educational programs, and awards and citations 1962-1987
  • Series 5: Business, financial, and legal papers and correspondences, 1951-1987
  • Series 6: Clippings and publications, 1946-1989
  • Series 7: Photographs, circa 1947-83, undated
  • Series 8: Death of Howard McGhee, 1987 July-November
  • Series 9: Personal and Family Correspondence and Papers, 1962-1987, 1991, 1993 and undated
  • Series 10: Mutes and mouth pieces, undated

Separated Materials

Fifteen commercial cassette tape recordings were separated from the collection: Count Basie and His Orchestra, Basie’s Best, Columbia, undated; Count Basie, Basie’s Basement, RCA, undated;Swing Back with Count Basie, BC Records, undated; Miles Davis in Concert: My Funny Valentine, Columbia, undated;Basie, Bird, Dinah, undated; Duke Ellington, undated; The Legendary Guitar Shorty, undated;Erskine Hawkins, Tuxedo Junction, Bluebird, undated; Herbie Hancock Quartet with Wynton Marsalis, 1982; Johnny Hartman, undated; Billie Holiday, undated; Roger Kellaway, Kenny Werner, Barry Harris, undated;Nat Pierce, undated; Roland Quintet (last part recorded from radio, Birdland 1952); Nate Turner, Windy City Blues Band, undated


The collection was previously named "Howard McGhee Collection (MC 020)". The title was changed to "Howard McGhee papers, music, and audiovisual recordings (IJS-0020)" in 2021.

Tad Hershorn
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Part of the Institute of Jazz Studies Repository

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