History of the Collection
Milton John "Milt" Hinton (June 23, 1910–December 19, 2000) was an American double bassist and photographer. Hinton was born in Vicksburg, MS but moved with his extended family to Chicago, IL in 1919.
He graduated from Wendell Phillips High School, where he played violin in the school orchestra and peck horn in the school’s ROTC marching band that was directed by Major N. Clark Smith. Hinton began his professional career playing tuba and double bass for Tiny Parham, Eddie South, and other Chicago-based musicians, and he joined the Cab Calloway Orchestra in 1936, where he played an integral role for the next fifteen years.
In the early 1950s, after a brief stint in the Louis Armstrong All-Stars, Hinton transitioned to studio work in New York City, which would remain his focus through the early 1970s. He would regularly play three-hour studio sessions three times per day, recording with musicians from across the stylistic spectrum. In the late 1960s, Hinton went back on the road as a sideman for musicians including Paul Anka, Barbra Streisand, Pearl Bailey, and Bing Crosby. Beginning in the early 1970s, he also taught for nearly twenty years as a visiting professor of jazz studies at Hunter College and Baruch College.
Hinton was broadly regarded as a consummate sideman, possessing a sensitivity for appropriately applying his formidable technique along with his extensive harmonic knowledge to the performance at hand. He was equally adept at bowing, pizzicato, and "slapping," a technique for which he first became famous while playing with the Cab Calloway Orchestra early in his career. He was also an accomplished sight-reader, a skill which he developed on the road with Calloway and honed during his several decades of studio work.
In addition to his musical career, Hinton was an accomplished photographer, taking approximately 60,000 photographs between 1935 and the 1990s. His photography depicts an extensive range of jazz artists and popular performers in varied settings—on the road, in recording studios, at parties, and at home. By the 1990s Hinton was revered as an elder statesman in jazz, and he received dozens of awards, including eight honorary doctorates and, in 1993, the highly prestigious National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Fellowship. By 1996, Hinton ceased performing on bass, due to a number of physical ailments, and he died in 2000.
A more detailed biography is available on Milt Hinton’s Wikipedia page.
Edmonia "Mona" Caesar Clayton Hinton (April 23, 1919–May 3, 2008) was an educator, music contractor, and bookkeeper, as well as a business partner and advisor for her husband Milt Hinton.
Hinton completed high school in Sandusky, OH, after which she moved to Chicago, IL to attend Poro Beauty School, a cosmetology school run by pioneering African American entrepreneur Madam Annie Malone. After graduating, and while working as a bookkeeper for Malone, Hinton sang in a church choir directed by Milt Hinton’s mother, Hilda Robinson. Milt and Mona met at Milt’s grandmother’s funeral in 1939, and they were together for the next sixty-one years.
In the early 1940s Mona began traveling with Milt on tours of the Cab Calloway Orchestra, where she helped arrange logistics for the musicians and provided a variety of financial and relational advice. Shortly after their only child Charlotte was born (February 28, 1947), the Hintons bought a house in Queens, NY, which allowed Mona to stop traveling with the band.
In addition to caring for their daughter, Mona handled all of the family’s finances. When Milt left the Calloway Orchestra in the early 1950s and began freelance work as a musician in New York, Mona kept track of Milt’s work, scheduled interviews, coordinated public relations events, and often drove him back and forth to gigs (Milt never drove as an adult, due in part to a major car accident he was involved in as a teenager in Chicago). She completed both a bachelor’s and a master's degree from Queens College in the 1960s, after which she taught remedial reading at two Queens elementary schools for eight years. She retired from teaching in 1977 to begin traveling with Milt again. At the same time, she was active as a music contractor for Lena Horne, Quincy Jones, Sammy Davis Jr., the Mills Brothers, and others.
Hinton was consistently involved in charity work, often with her close friend and neighbor Catherine Basie, wife of William “Count” Basie. In addition to their work founding the Rinkeydinks, a social and civic club active in the 1950s and 1960s that was made up primarily of the wives of New York musicians, Hinton and Basie were active in the Urban League as well as the local chapter of the NAACP. Along with Milt, Mona was also active in Queens-based community organizations, notably the St. Albans Congregational Church. She served for more than a decade as co-director of the New York Musician’s Fund (a forerunner of the Jazz Foundation of America), an emergency fund established by George Wein which lends money to musicians who are in need. Hinton died in 2008 after a long illness.
A more detailed biography is available on Mona Hinton’s Wikipedia page.