Earl Kenneth “Fatha” Hines was born on December 28, 1903, in Duquesne, Pennsylvania, to Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Hines. His mother died when he was only three-years-old. Hines was raised by his father and stepmother, Mary. His father worked as a foreman at the coal docks, played the cornet, and led the Eureka Brass Band. His stepmother worked as a church organist. He lived with his extended family consisting of his half-sister, half-brother, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins, many of whom were musically inclined. Hines was briefly married to singer Laura Badge in the early 1920s and then had a common-law wife, singer Kathryn Perry, for many years after. He never had any children from either of them. In 1947 Hines married Janie Moses and had two daughters, Tosca and Janear. They later divorced in 1980.
First wanting to follow in the footsteps of his father the cornetist, Hines changed his focus to the piano instead when he realized that playing the cornet hurt his ears from blowing air into the instrument. His stepmother gave him his first piano lessons, and he learned to read music really well. When he was 14, Hines moved to Pittsburgh to live with his opera-singing aunt and attend Schenley High School in pursuit of majoring in music with the hope of becoming a classical pianist. Here he was exposed to a greater variety of music, including jazz which instantly became his new love. Hines shifted his focus from classical piano to jazz piano. He took private lessons from several teachers who were unable to keep up with his inherent ability to read and play music. At age 15, he created a musical trio with a violinist and a drummer. They played at many school functions, nightclubs, and church socials. His schedule became so busy by the age of 16 that his teachers advised him to drop out of school to better pursue his musical career.
In 1922, at the start of his career, Earl Hines joined the band of Lois B. Deppe, a prominent singer and bandleader in the Pittsburgh area, in his first steady job, earning $15 per week. They were the first black orchestra to have their music played on the radio. While playing with this band, Hines developed his trademark “trumpet-style” piano playing technique. He said the major influence behind his innovative style was trumpeter Joe Smith, a popular musician of the time. Hines’ unique and unmatchable style permitted him to have a long, successful career. This extensive career began when he was only 17 where he made his first recordings with Deppe, which included one original composition. At age 18, Hines left Deppe and created his own band with Benny Carter, a saxophonist. During this year, a well-known pianist of the time, Eubie Blake, encouraged Hines to move to Chicago, which was the hot-spot for jazz talent.
To learn more about this person visit your local library.