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Jazz Performers in the White House

1961 - 1992 by Administration

Even though jazz was highly popular in the 1920's and 1930's in the U. Street area, the earliest performance of jazz in the White House did not occur until November 19, 1962. (To understand this lag in the establishment's acceptance of jazz, click here.) This first performance was during a children's program in the East Room by the Paul Winter Jazz Sextet. Since the Kennedy administration, most Presidents have increasingly used jazz as a White House entertainment staple. During the Johnson administration, Pearl Bailey became the first jazz performer in the White House to appear before an adult audience. Later, President Gerald Ford established jazz performances as a unique form of American entertainment for state dignitaries. Jimmy Carter's administration was responsible for creating the first large-scale jazz production on the White House's South Lawn. This event, which marked the 25th Anniversary of the Newport Jazz festival, included 800 guests and over 50 jazz musicians. Although jazz had been an important American art form for more than half a century, President Carter's public identification of jazz was deeply significant. Below is a list of jazz artists who appeared at the White House.

John F. Kennedy 1961-1963

  • Paul Winter Jazz Sextet

Lyndon B. Johnson 1963-1969

  • Sarah Vaughan

Richard Nixon 1969-1974

  • Pearl Bailey
  • Duke Ellington

Gerald Ford 1974-1977

  • Pearl Bailey
  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • Dizzy Gillespie
  • Earl Hines
  • Harry James
  • New England Conservatory Ragtime Ensemble, Gunther Schuller, Director
  • George Shearing
  • Billy Taylor
  • The World's Greates Jazz Band with Yank Lawson and Bob Haggart

James Carter 1977-1981

Invited to the 25th anniversary celebration of the Newport Jazz Festival , 6/18/78

*Indicates performers at the Anniversary Festival Celebration

  • Eubie Blake *
  • Ornette Coleman*
  • Mary Lou Williams*
  • Stan Getz*
  • Dizzy Gillespie*
  • Lionel Hampton*
  • Herbie Hancock*
  • Papa Joe Jones*
  • Katherine Handy Lewis*
  • Max Roach*
  • Sonny Rollins*
  • Cecil Taylor*
  • Cecil Taylor*
  • Clark Terry*
  • Ray Brown
  • Benny Carter
  • 'Lil Jazz Eldridge
  • Dexter Gordon
  • Milt Hinton
  • John Lewis
  • Charles Mingus
  • Gerry Mulligan
  • George Russell
  • Billy Taylor
  • McCoy Tyner
  • Teddy Wilson

Ronald Reagan 1981-1989

  • Art Blakie
  • Chick Corea
  • Stan Getz
  • Dizzy Gillespie
  • Lionel Hampton
  • Roy Haynes
  • George Shearing

George Bush 1989-1993

[none known]

William J. Clinton 1993-

  • Betty Carter
  • Wynton Marsalis

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