List of Famous Bandleaders

List of famous bandleaders, with photos, bios, and other information when available. Who are the top bandleaders in the world? This includes the most prominent bandleaders, living and dead, both in America and abroad. This list of notable bandleaders is ordered by their level of prominence, and can be sorted for various bits of information, such as where these historic bandleaders were born and what their nationality is. The people on this list are from different countries, but what they all have in common is that they're all renowned bandleaders.

These people, like James Brown and Ray Charles include images when available.

From reputable, prominent, and well known bandleaders to the lesser known bandleaders of today, these are some of the best professionals in the bandleader field. If you want to answer the questions, "Who are the most famous bandleaders ever?" and "What are the names of famous bandleaders?" then you're in the right place. {#nodes}
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  • James Joseph Brown (May 3, 1933 – December 25, 2006) was an American singer, songwriter, dancer, musician, record producer and bandleader. A progenitor of funk music and a major figure of 20th-century music and dance, he is often referred to as the "Godfather of Soul". In a career that lasted 50 years, he influenced the development of several music genres.Brown began his career as a gospel singer in Toccoa, Georgia. He joined an R&B vocal group, the Gospel Starlighters (which later evolved into the Famous Flames) founded by Bobby Byrd, in which he was the lead singer. First coming to national public attention in the late 1950s as a member of the singing group The Famous Flames with the hit ballads "Please, Please, Please" and "Try Me", Brown built a reputation as a tireless live performer with the Famous Flames and his backing band, sometimes known as the James Brown Band or the James Brown Orchestra. His success peaked in the 1960s with the live album Live at the Apollo and hit singles such as "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag", "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "It's a Man's Man's Man's World". During the late 1960s, Brown moved from a continuum of blues and gospel-based forms and styles to a profoundly "Africanized" approach to music-making that influenced the development of funk music. By the early 1970s, Brown had fully established the funk sound after the formation of the J.B.s with records such as "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine" and "The Payback". He also became noted for songs of social commentary, including the 1968 hit "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud". Brown continued to perform and record until his death from pneumonia in 2006. Brown was inducted into 1st class of the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame in 2013 as an artist and then in 2017 as a songwriter. Brown recorded 17 singles that reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B charts. He also holds the record for the most singles listed on the Billboard Hot 100 chart which did not reach No. 1. Brown has received honors from many institutions, including inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame. In Joel Whitburn's analysis of the Billboard R&B charts from 1942 to 2010, Brown is ranked No. 1 in The Top 500 Artists. He is ranked No. 7 on Rolling Stone's list of its 100 greatest artists of all time. Rolling Stone has also cited Brown as the most sampled artist of all time.
  • Emmylou Harris (born April 2, 1947) is an American singer, songwriter, and musician. She has released dozens of albums and singles over the course of her career and won 14 Grammys, the Polar Music Prize, and numerous other honors, including induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2018 she was presented the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.Her work and recordings include work as a solo artist, a bandleader, an interpreter of other composers' works, a singer-songwriter, and a backing vocalist and duet partner. She has worked with numerous artists.
  • Paul Frederic Simon (born October 13, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter and actor. Simon's musical career has spanned seven decades with his fame and commercial success beginning as half of the duo Simon & Garfunkel (originally known as Tom & Jerry), formed in 1956 with Art Garfunkel. Simon was responsible for writing nearly all of the pair's songs including three that reached number one on the U.S. singles charts: "The Sound of Silence", "Mrs. Robinson", and "Bridge over Troubled Water".The duo split up in 1970 at the height of their popularity, and Simon began a successful solo career, recording three acclaimed albums over the next five years. In 1986, he released Graceland, an album inspired by South African township music, which sold 14 million copies worldwide on its release and remains his most popular solo work. Simon also wrote and starred in the film One-Trick Pony (1980) and co-wrote the Broadway musical The Capeman (1998) with the poet Derek Walcott. On June 3, 2016, Simon released his 13th solo album, Stranger to Stranger, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Album Chart and the UK charts. Simon has earned sixteen Grammys for his solo and collaborative work, including three for Album of the Year (Bridge Over Troubled Water, Still Crazy After All These Years, and Graceland), and a Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2001, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2006 was selected as one of the "100 People Who Shaped the World" by Time. In 2011, Rolling Stone named Simon one of the 100 greatest guitarists. In 2015, he was named one of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time by Rolling Stone. Among many other honors, Simon was the first recipient of the Library of Congress's Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2007. In 1986, he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Music degree from Berklee College of Music, where he currently serves on the Board of Trustees.
  • William James "Count" Basie (; August 21, 1904 – April 26, 1984) was an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer. In 1935, Basie formed his own jazz orchestra, the Count Basie Orchestra, and in 1936 took them to Chicago for a long engagement and their first recording. He led the group for almost 50 years, creating innovations like the use of two "split" tenor saxophones, emphasizing the rhythm section, riffing with a big band, using arrangers to broaden their sound, and others. Many musicians came to prominence under his direction, including the tenor saxophonists Lester Young and Herschel Evans, the guitarist Freddie Green, trumpeters Buck Clayton and Harry "Sweets" Edison and singers Jimmy Rushing, Helen Humes, Thelma Carpenter, and Joe Williams.
  • Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974) was an American composer, pianist, and leader of a jazz orchestra, which he led from 1923 until his death over a career spanning more than fifty years.Born in Washington, D.C., Ellington was based in New York City from the mid-1920s onward and gained a national profile through his orchestra's appearances at the Cotton Club in Harlem. In the 1930s, his orchestra toured in Europe. Although widely considered to have been a pivotal figure in the history of jazz, Ellington embraced the phrase "beyond category" as a liberating principle and referred to his music as part of the more general category of American Music rather than to a musical genre such as jazz.Some of the jazz musicians who were members of Ellington's orchestra, such as saxophonist Johnny Hodges, are considered to be among the best players in the idiom. Ellington melded them into the best-known orchestral unit in the history of jazz. Some members stayed with the orchestra for several decades. A master at writing miniatures for the three-minute 78 rpm recording format, Ellington wrote more than one thousand compositions; his extensive body of work is the largest recorded personal jazz legacy, with many of his pieces having become standards. Ellington also recorded songs written by his bandsmen, for example Juan Tizol's "Caravan", and "Perdido", which brought a Spanish tinge to big band jazz. In the early 1940s, Ellington began a nearly thirty-year collaboration with composer-arranger-pianist Billy Strayhorn, whom he called his writing and arranging companion. With Strayhorn, he composed many extended compositions, or suites, as well as additional short pieces. Following an appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival, in July 1956, Ellington and his orchestra enjoyed a major revival and embarked on world tours. Ellington recorded for most American record companies of his era, performed in several films, scored several, and composed a handful of stage musicals. Ellington was noted for his inventive use of the orchestra, or big band, and for his eloquence and charisma. His reputation continued to rise after he died, and he was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize Special Award for music in 1999.
  • Lawrence Welk (March 11, 1903 – May 17, 1992) was an American musician, accordionist, bandleader, and television impresario, who hosted the television program The Lawrence Welk Show from 1951 to 1982. His style came to be known to his large audience of radio, television, and live-performance fans (and critics) as "champagne music".