Signature songs are a long-time tradition in the world of music. Almost every musician or group that has ever managed to attain a measure of fame can point to one special song that became their best known and most loved by fans. But in at least one instance, a song became the signature for two stars — Lionel Hampton And Illinois Jacquet.
Vibes master Hampton had been around for a number of years when he was ‘discovered’ by Benny Goodman in the late 1930s, but he quickly became a crowd-pleasing star. And even though he continued to appear with Benny for a number of years, he was soon spending some of his time leading his own groups too.
One of his stars was tenor saxophonist Jean-Baptiste Illinois Jacquet, a Louisiana-born creole who’d grown up in Texas as part of a musical family. By the time he joined Hampton’s outfit he was still in his teens but was already making his name on the Southern California jazz scene, and when he blew lead sax on the band’s unforgettable 1942 hit, “Flying Home,” his fame was assured.
Although Jacquet soon moved on to continue building a long career that even included leading his own band, the song became Hampton’s theme song — and subsequent saxophonists stuck pretty close to the original. But the piece would also be forever attached to Jacquet, whose solo is considered to be one of the first to feature the R&B sound that would become a vital part of jazz.
Lionel Hampton & Orchestra w/ Illinois Jacquet (1942) – “Flying Home”