Began playing early on in Rabbit Foot Minstrels, and swing bands. In 1938 he formed the Tympany Five which became one of the most prolific bands in music history until their break-up in 1951. The Tympany Five was groundbreaking for their success as a combo band instead of a big band format. As of 2020 they still have the record for most weeks at #1 on the R&B charts. They also helped to popularize early R&B, and rock sounds through what was known as genre called “jump blues” at the time.