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This Day in Georgia History

December 18, 1897

Fletcher “Smack” Henderson Born

Jazz pianist, arranger, and conductor Fletcher “Smack” Hamilton Henderson, Jr. was born in Cuthbert, Georgia. He traveled to New York, where he played piano and served as musical director for W.C. Handy’s music publishing business. Henderson soon was accompanying Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters on records, and by 1923 he had his own orchestra. His innovative jazz arrangements led to the birth of swing music, and he is considered one of the most influential pioneers in big band jazz music. Henderson died in New York City on Dec. 28, 1952.