Wendell Phillip Culley in Count Basie Orchestra

    The journey to find pictures of my Grand Uncle Wendell Culley has truly become fruitful.  I have searched the World Wide Web, searched e-bay, looked at online photo’s of band’s Wendell played in, traveled to Worcester, MA and Washington D.C to search libraries and archives, and even made requests from family members to search their personal photo collections.  I was met with some success and some disappointments.  My greatest success came when I connected with Armin Büttner, the writer and researcher for CROWNPROPELLER’S Blog. (Click Link to see blog)
     I came across a post featuring Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra.  In the photo that was posted, Wendell Culley was situated in the back with the Trumpet section.  When I inquired about the photo, I was granted permission to share on my blog for my family history.  I was so thrilled with this, and with much surprise was sent another photo of a close-up with Wendell.  Check out this post Wendell Culley: Treasure Chest Thursday.
    When I thought Christmas was over, I received another email with a photo attachment of Wendell Culley from the “Otto Flueckiger Collection.”
Wendell P. Culley
photo by Ernest Zwonicek via the Flueckiger Collection
Photo possibly taken in Geneva, Switzerland, 1956

Wendell Culley played trumpet with the Count Basie Orchestra from 1951-1959.

Other photo’s and story of Wendell and the Count Basie Orchestra on the Crownpropeller Blog (Link)

     Here are a couple more photo’s of Wendell Culley by Ernest Zwonicek via the Flueckiger Collection”

Benny Powell (???), Wendell Culley, Marshall Royal
Count Basie, Wendell Culley, and others.
Joe Williams
At the train station
Others may or may not be band members.
(If you can identify anyone please contact Crownpropeller’s Blog)

In regular and on-going research, I came across one of the passenger lists of 1956 of Count Basie’s Orchestra. I was hoping that it was the travel record of the Basie Orchestra to Geneva Switzerland in 1956, but the one below is to Prestwick, Scotland.  I hope that eventually the passenger lists will be posted on ancestry.com.

Travel Record of Count Basie Orchestra
Prestwick, Scotland
Driggs Collection

I have another blog: The Cully Family-An African American Legacy that will include a detailed history of Wendell Culley and all of his siblings.  This blog is currently being worked on, so check back often.

The material, both written and photographic on these pages is the copyright of Yvette Porter Moore unless stated. Material on this site may be used for personal reference only. If you wish to use any of the material on this site for other means, please seek the written permission of Yvette Porter Moore
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Wendell Phillip Culley in Count Basie Orchestra — 8 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed reading about your Uncle Wendell. The Count Basie Orchestra use to play at the El Morocco restaurant in Worcester periodically. “The El” is no longer in business but was around for years. It was quite the entertainment spot back in the day. I actually saw the Count Basie Orchestra there maybe twenty years ago. Did you have any luck with your research in Worcester?

  2. Wow Cynthia! How wonderful to see Basie play. I never had that opportunity. When I visited Worcester, I did have some luck. I was able to get copies of Wendell's pictures from the Commerce High School Yearbook. I met “Bunny” Price who's father played with my Uncle in Worcester. I had the opportunity to visit houses my Cully family lived in, attended church at the family church, and visited the cemetery.

    Many of the pictures I took were lost when my phone was damaged, but I intend on going back.

    Are you from Worcester?

  3. Yvette – I grew up in Worcester and lived most of my life there. What year did your uncle graduate from Commerce? My mom graduated from there in 1940. It was a huge school. What are the street addresses, church, and cemetery? Sorry to hear about your phone. If I get by those places I'd be glad to take some photos for you. I'm happy to have found your blog and to connect with someone who has Worcester roots.

  4. Cynthia-Thank you for your interest. Wendell graduated in 1925. The church is now in a new location in Worcester, but its name is Belmont AME Zion. The Cemetery is Hope Cemetery. The address to the home that I took pictures of was 4 Pelham. I am also interested in John Street Baptist Church on 43 John Street. My family lived various houses in Worcester, but most have been torn down and there are just intersections now and other houses built where there's were. MY family also lived on Bowdoin Street.

    If you could take any photo's that would be wonderful.

  5. Hi,

    I am a big fan of Count Basie and of course all his musicians who playde with him. Wendell was an important player in the “Atomic Band”. The musician to the left in the picture with Wendell and Marshall Royal is, I beleive, Basies guitarist Freddie Green. Probably the best rhythm guitarist in the world of Big bands!

    • Thank you for reading my blog Ove. It is good to hear that there are people out there that love this type of music.

      Best wishes.


  6. Worcester playing experience: Performed regularly at the Zion AME Church in Worcester. As a teenager young Wendell played in the Commerce High School band and orchestra (cornet and trumpet), with working groups with his brother Ray (a drummer and singer), and occasionally would fill-in with Miriam “Mamie” Moffitt’s and Her Five Jazz Hounds, a group that featured Jaki Byard’s father John on trombone. He also played in Boots Ward’s Nitehawks.

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