Walter Page Helped Build KC’s Jazz Tradition

Redevelopment of Kansas City’s rich jazz heritage is evident at 18th and Vine. You might be surprised, however, to learn that one of the bass players who helped build this tradition was originally from Gallatin, MO. Walter Page (1900-1957) called Gallatin home.

Redevelopment of Kansas City’s rich jazz heritage is evident at 18th and Vine. You might be surprised, however, to learn that one of the bass players who helped build this tradition was originally from Gallatin, MO. Walter Page (1900-1957) called Gallatin home.

He received musical training from Major N. Clark Smith at Lincoln High School and at the University of Kansas before leading the Blue Devils band during a time when its muscians included Count (then just “Bill”) Basie, Eddie Durham and Lester Young.

Bandleader Bennie Moten began hiring away talented members of the Blue Devils, and eventually Page himself went over to the Moten Band. When Moten died, Page stayed with a core of musicians who metamorphosed into the band led by Basie at the Reno Club. Page was a key member of Basie’s all-important rhythm section. Drummer Jo Jones often credited Page as a major influence and pragmatic music instructor.

Bennie Moten (1894-1935) might be considered the Godfather of Kansas City Jazz. The bandleader is remembered less for the recordings under his own name than for the roster of future jazz stars he employed and influenced. These include Count Basie, Harlan Leonard, “Hot Lips” Page, Eddie Durham, and Ben Webster among others.

Written by David Stark, Gallatin