Haywood Henry

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Frank Haywood Henry (born January 10, 1913 in Birmingham – died September 15, 1994 in the Bronx, New York) was a jazz saxophonist and clarinetist. Henry was a member of the Bama State Collegians at the Alabama State Teachers College and later toured with the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra. He continued his career as a session musician and collaborator well into the 1980s.

Henry's mother played piano and his older sister was a well-known music teacher who served as organist at 16th Street Baptist Church. He learned quickly to voice melodies by ear on a tin flute and picked up clarinet at Lincoln Junior High School where his sister taught. At Industrial High School he finally learned to read music. He and some friends formed a 10-piece dance band called the Moonlight Serenaders and Henry switched to tenor saxophone.

Soon after high school, Henry was recruited to join the Alabama State College band for a competition performance at the Elks Club convention in Detroit, Michigan. The band injected jazzy interpretations into their march program and won second place. As a member of that group he was awarded a scholarship to attend the Montgomery college, where he also played football and ran track. He joined the Bama State Collegians and was accepted into the all-star "Greater Bama State Collegians" which toured the midwest to promote the college and raise funds.

After college, Henry performed in a religious ensemble before Hawkins invited him to join his orchestra, which had a regular gig at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. After years of vibrant competition with other big-name orchestras like Ellington's, Lionel Hampton's and Bunny Berigan's, the craze for big-band sound eventually dwindled. After he left the Hawkins orchestra he worked with Tiny Grimes, Julian Dash and Fletcher Henderson through the 1950s and stood in a few times for Harry Carney in Duke Ellington's Orchestra.

Henry had a knack for improvising accompaniment for rhythm and blues tracks. His skill at sight-reading, transposing and doubling lead parts insured a high demand with record producers. As a session player he appeared on over 1,000 rock and roll records in the 1950s and 60s. He continued to perform as a collaborator with Wilbur DeParis, Max Kaminsky, Snub Mosley, Louis Metcalf, Earl Hines, Sy Oliver, and the New York Jazz Reportory Company. He performed in the Broadway orchestras for Ain't Misbehavin' and continued to play well into the 1980s, joining fellow Hawkin's alumni for reunion performances and recording in 1971.

As a band leader, Henry recorded three albums between 1957 and 1983. He was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in the inaugural class of 1978.

Henry recorded three albums as a leader: one for Davis Records in 1957, one for Strand early in the 1960s, and the last for Uptown in 1983. Henry died of heart failure at his Bronx, New York home in 1994. He was survived by his wife, Arvenell, and two children, Fabian and Diane.


  • Henry, Haywood (1957) "I Love You Truly", Davis Records JD-102
  • Henry, Haywood (196_) Strand Records
  • Henry, Haywood (1983) The Gentle Monster. Uptown Records


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