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Mary Lou Williams

Mary Lou Williams (1910 1981) was an American jazz pianist, composer, and arranger. She was born Mary Elfrieda Scruggs in Atlanta, Georgia and grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a very young child she taught herself to play the piano (her first public performance was at the age of six). She became a professional musician in her teens.

In 1930, she joined Andy Kirk's Twelve Clouds of Joy, of which her husband John Williams was already a member, and became the band's leading soloist, composer, and arranger. In 1942 she formed her own group with her second husband Harold Baker and then worked briefly with Duke Ellington before working as a solo act into the 1970s, incorporating modern ideas into her playing. She also taught at Duke University as an Artist-in-Residence from 1977 until her death in 1981. In 1983, Duke University established the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture.

Her compositions include Benny Goodman's hit "Roll 'Em".

External Link: The Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture