Swing-era bandleader noted for his theme songs One O'Clock Jump from 1937 and April in Paris from 1932.
He originally wanted to be a drummer, but he grew up near Sonny Greer, who would become Duke Ellington's legendary drummer in 1919. He thought he could never outmatch Greer's talent, so he took up piano at 15.
His group, Count Basie and his Cherry Blossoms, was an outgrowth of Bennie Moten's band in Kansas City. He eventually relocated the Cherry Blossoms to Chicago, then to New York City.
His father was a student of the mellophone, and his mother was a pianist. His mother paid 25 cents per piano lesson for him when he was young. He married Catherine Morgan on August 21, 1942, with whom he had one child.
He and Chick Webb engaged in a much-publicized battle of the bands at the Savoy in 1938.