Skip to main content
Identifier: IJS-0050

Leonard Feather papers



  • 1954 - 1992

Scope and Contents

The Leonard Feather Papers consist of 1.5 linear ft. of questionnaires and correspondence housed in three manuscript document boxes. The collection is divided into three series. Series I includes four hundred and five (405) original artist biographical questionnaires that Feather used to compile his various encyclopedias of jazz. However, they consist mostly of questionnaires used for the first reference work, The Encyclopedia of Jazz (1st edition,1955). It is possible that Series I contains gaps and does not represent all of the questionnaires that were originally completed by musicians or used by Feather for his encyclopedias.

Series II consists of two-hundred forty six (246) letters, post cards, greeting cards, and notes received by Feather from 1941-1985. In addition to letters there are also "favorite records" questionnaires. Although these questionnaires are not dated or identified, they were probably used for an article in Keyboard Magazine, ca. 1982-83.

Series III contains one folder with 3 photographs.

The letters concern various personal and professional topics and are primarily written by musicians, critics, entertainers and persons in affiliated professions. Most of the letters relate to Feather's role as critic and jazz aficionado. Some letters are merely short notes regarding Feather's writings or achievements, but many others include detailed commentary on the particular correspondent's career and personal life.

The collection also contains unprocessed audio recordings (open reels). These materials are fragile and not currently accessible.


1.5 Linear Feet (4 boxes)

Conditions Governing Access

Use and photocopying of the original Encyclopedia of Jazz questionnaires is permitted only when a copy is not available in the IJS biographical files. Use and photocopying of any item in Series II Letters requires the permission of an IJS staff member determined on a case-by-case basis. The unprocessed audiovisual materials in the collection are 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 Encyclopedia of Jazz biographical questionnaires, which form Series I were given to Marshall Stearns by Leonard Feather in 1960, when he moved to Los Angeles, and subsequently have become the property of the Institute of Jazz Studies. They comprise a separate accession from Series II and III which were a gift to the Institute by Feather in the 1980s. Although authorship cannot be attributed to Feather exclusively, he is responsible for their creation.

Language of Materials



The Leonard Feather papers (circa 1954-1985) consist of 1.5 linear ft. of questionnaires and correspondence which is housed in four manuscript document boxes. The collection includes four hundred and five (405) original artist biographical questionnaires that Feather used to compile his various encyclopedias of jazz. It also includes two-hundred forty six (246) letters, "favorite records" questionnaires, post cards, greeting cards, photographs and notes received by Feather from 1941-1985.

Biographical / Historical

Leonard Feather (b. London September 13, 1914) attended University College in London (1920-1932) and later moved to New York City in 1939. A writer, composer, and arranger, he was best known as an author of scholarly works on Jazz including Inside Be-Bop (1949), Encyclopedia Yearbook of Jazz (1955) and its revisions (1966,1976) and the Encyclopedia of Jazz (1956). Feather was a regular columnist for many publications including the Los Angeles Times and Down Beat and wrote jazz reviews and articles which appeared in numerous jazz and popular periodicals such as Melody Maker, Metronome, Esquire, Playboy, and Jazz Times.

In addition to his prolific writing career, Feather produced, composed and arranged for musicians including Benny Carter and George Chisholm in London and, after moving to the United States, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. He produced the first recordings of Dinah Washington, George Shearing, and Sarah Vaughan. Feather wrote blues songs and ballads as well as jazz compositions. Feather crossed-over into other formats as well; he worked as a producer, commentator and writer for radio and TV programs on jazz. He died in Los Angeles on September 22, 1994.


The Leonard Feather Papers are separated into three distinct series whose relationship is merely one of provenance. Series I consists of questionnaires used for the Encyclopedia of Jazz and, for the most part, have been photocopied and placed in the Institute's biographical files. However, many original questionnaires had been left with the copies in the vertical file. In processing, the archivist removed those originals which were then integrated with the pre-existing questionnaire series. The original order of the questionnaires was roughly alphabetical. The collection also contains unprocessed audio recordings (open reels). These materials are fragile and not currently accessible.

The three series are:

Series I. Encyclopedia of Jazz Questionnaires, circa 1953-circa 1960

Series II. Letters, 1941-1985 (bulk 1965-1985)

Series III. Photographs


The following is a list of abbreviations used in this finding aid:

ALS = autograph letter(s) signed

TL = typed letter lacking signature

TLS = typed letter(s) signed

mss = handwritten manuscript(s)

typescript = typewritten manuscript(s)

n.d. = date information incomplete

Appendix A: Questionnaires D, E, F, and Unidentified. These questionnaires have been alphabetically re-integrated with the rest but may not have been copied for the people files: Bean, Floyd (?); Ford, Jimmie; Di Pippo, Angelo; Fournier, Vernel; Distel, Sacha; Francis, David Albert; Dixon, Joe; Franzella, Sal Jr.; Dolney, Bill; Rohde, Bryck Benno; Dolphy, Eric; Waldron, Malcolm Earl; Donahue, Sam Koontz; Dorham, Kenny; Dorough, Bob; Draper, Ray; Drasin, Bob; Drew, John Derek; Duncan, Hank; Dunlop, Frankie; Duran, Eddie; Eager, Allen; Eaton, John Charles; Edwards, Arthur; Edwards, Paul; Edwards, Theodore Marcus; Ellis, Don; Elman, Ziggy; Enevoldsen, Robert Martin; Errair, Ken; Ervin, Booker; Euell, Julian; Evans, Bill; Ewell, Donald; Exner, Billy; Farmer, Addison Gerald; Farnon, Dennis; Feathersonhaugh, Buddy; Feld, Morey; Feldman, Victor; Ferguson, Allyn

Leonard Feather papers
Tad Hershorn, Robert Nahory and Caryn Radick
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Part of the Institute of Jazz Studies Repository

185 University Avenue
John Cotton Dana Library
4th Floor
Newark New Jersey 07102 United States