when did duke ellington start his career

when did duke ellington start his career

The Career Of Duke Ellington

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington is an iconic jazz composer and pianist who’s career began in 1923 in Washington, DC. He emerged as a leader and composer of big bands, and went on to become one of the most important figures of 20th century music.

Early Years

Ellington’s early career began when he was just 16. He was captivated by the music of dance halls, theaters and nightclubs in Washington, DC and soon decided to pursue music as a profession.

Forming His Band

Ellington formed his first band, the “Washingtonians” in 1923. The original band had seven members: Ellington, Elmer Snowden on banjo, Arthur Whetsol on trumpet, Turner Layton on piano, Willie Ruffin and Sonny Greer on drums.

Signing His First Record Deal

In 1927 Ellington and The Washingtonians signed their first recording deal with the OKeh label. Their first recording was the song “Choo Choo”, and it went on to become a huge hit.

Success In The 1930’s

By the early 1930’s, Ellington’s band was gaining recognition and success as they toured around the United States and Europe. Ellington also wrote some of his most iconic works during this time, such as “Mood Indigo”, “Solitude”, and “Sophisticated Lady”.

Continued Influence

Ellington’s influence on jazz is still felt today. He composed over 1,000 works and he is often credited with creating the modern big band style. He was also the first jazz composer to compose extended works, and he pioneered the use of improvisation in jazz.


Duke Ellington is one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. He had a remarkable career that lasted for almost 50 years, and his influence on jazz is still felt today.

Key Points:

  • Ellington’s career started in 1923
  • Formed The Washingtonians in 1923
  • Signed their first record deal in 1927
  • Gained recognition and success in the 1930’s
  • Ellington composed over 1,000 works
  • Pioneered the use of improvisation in jazz

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