Ann DuPont

The weekend this post was originally written, I was in Houston performing at Lindyfest with the Brooks Prumo Orchestra. Since I didn’t have as much time to delve deep into my daily jazzwomen research project, I decided to take the opportunity to point out a couple of women who seem to have fallen through the cracks of jazz history even more than others.

So, here’s Ann DuPont, a clarinet player and swing bandleader from the 1940s. She was born in 1915 in Universal, Pennsylvania, raised in Florida, and began studying clarinet and violin when she was nine. Apparently, she performed with some all-women bands in Florida and Louisiana while “absorbing the best jazz ideas from old masters.” [1] She then declared in 1939 that she only wanted to play with men so she formed her own fourteen-piece big band in New York called “Ann DuPont and her Music Men.” She was billed as, you guessed it, “Queen of the Clarinet” as well as “the female Artie Shaw,” and was praised by Downbeat Magazine as a player with a “wild, uninhibited style.” [2] They go on to write that she was “a femme who plays good clarinet, and has looks to go with it… fronting a band that kicks.” Of course, they have to mention her physical appearance…a habit we have yet to kick even in the present day, e.g. introducing a woman in the band as, “The lovely and talented___” A well-meaning but unnecessary qualifier. But I digress.

In 1943, Billboard made note that she received an honorary “Doctorate of Solid Jive” from the College of the City of New York, “an honor matched only by Benny Goodman.” According to her nephew, Dennis Mackey, “Aunt Ann was a member of both the local musician’s union [where she and her husband settled in Fairport Harbor, Ohio] and New York’s famed American Federation of Musicians Union Local 802. Throughout the years, Ann played locally at various benefits, but she was quite a lady in other ways, too. She literally built two homes with her own hands and was a successful real estate salesperson.” [3]

I haven’t been able to find any recordings of her online. I know she recorded two sides with vocal group the Four Blues (The Things You Want the Most of All / Oh Daddy, Please Bring That Suitcase In) [1] and it appears there may have been a youtube video up at one time that is no longer available. If any readers find recordings of her, please let me know!

(Re)sources

[1] M. Cocosse. “Queen of the Clarinet: Ann DuPont and Her Music Men, 1915-98.” Le curieux Monsieur Cocosse | Journal. (http://monsieurcocosse.blogspot.com/2014/05/ann-dupont-and-her-music-men-female.html).

[2] Page “Ann Dupont”. In: Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Processing status: December 27, 2018, 08:15 UTC. URL: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ann_Dupont&oldid=184075888 (accessed: January 18, 2019, 07:18 UTC)

[3] The Great American Big Bands. Archive.Today. (http://archive.is/1KICa#selection-639.0-645.194).

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