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List of Famous Bandleaders

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Updated June 8, 2017 16.3k views 629 items

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. (629 items)
James Brown is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
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 ...more

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Emmylou Harris is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
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 ...more

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Paul Simon is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
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 ...more

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Count Basie is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
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 ...more

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Duke Ellington is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
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 ...more

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Lawrence Welk is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
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 ...more
Chrissie Hynde is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
Christine Ellen Hynde (born September 7, 1951) is an American singer-songwriter and musician. She is a founding member and the guitarist, lead vocalist, and primary songwriter of the rock band ...more

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Wynton Marsalis is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
Wynton Learson Marsalis (born October 18, 1961) is an American virtuoso trumpeter, composer, teacher, and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. He has promoted classical and jazz music, ...more

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Lionel Hampton is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
Lionel Leo Hampton (April 20, 1908 – August 31, 2002) was an American jazz vibraphonist, pianist, percussionist, and bandleader. Hampton worked with jazz musicians from Teddy Wilson, Benny ...more

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Herbie Hancock is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
Herbert Jeffrey Hancock (born April 12, 1940) is an American pianist, keyboardist, bandleader, composer and actor. Hancock started his career with Donald Byrd. He shortly thereafter joined the ...more

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Miles Davis is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
Miles Dewey Davis III (May 26, 1926 – September 28, 1991) was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. He is among the most influential and acclaimed figures in the history of jazz ...more

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Little Richard is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
Richard Wayne Penniman (December 5, 1932 – May 9, 2020), known as Little Richard, was an American musician, singer and songwriter. Penniman influenced numerous singers and musicians across ...more

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Glenn Miller is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
Alton Glenn Miller (March 1, 1904 – disappeared December 15, 1944) was an American big-band trombonist, arranger, composer, and bandleader in the swing era. He was the best-selling recording ...more

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Jeff Tweedy is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
Jeffrey Scot Tweedy (born August 25, 1967) is an American songwriter, musician, and record producer best known as the singer and guitarist of the band Wilco. Tweedy, originally from Belleville, ...more

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Rick James is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
Rick James (born James Ambrose Johnson Jr. February 1, 1948 – August 6, 2004) was an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer. Born and raised in Buffalo, New York, James ...more

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Charles Mingus is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
Charles Mingus Jr. (April 22, 1922 – January 5, 1979) was an American jazz double bassist, pianist, composer and bandleader. A major proponent of collective improvisation, he is considered to be ...more

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John Coltrane is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
John William Coltrane (September 23, 1926 – July 17, 1967) was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Working in the bebop and hard bop idioms early in his career, Coltrane helped pioneer ...more

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George Clinton is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
George Edward Clinton (born July 22, 1941) is an American singer, songwriter, bandleader, and record producer. His Parliament-Funkadelic collective (which primarily recorded under the distinct ...more

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Paul Shaffer is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
Paul Allen Wood Shaffer, CM (born November 28, 1949) is a Canadian singer, composer, actor, author, comedian and multi-instrumentalist who served as David Letterman's musical director, band ...more

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Bill Wyman is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
Bill Wyman (born William George Perks Jr., 24 October 1936) is an English musician, record producer, songwriter and singer. He was the bass guitarist for the English rock and roll band the ...more

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Benny Goodman is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
Benjamin David Goodman (May 30, 1909 – June 13, 1986) was an American jazz clarinetist and bandleader known as the "King of Swing".In the mid-1930s, Goodman led one of the most popular ...more

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Tommy Dorsey is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
Thomas Francis Dorsey Jr. (November 19, 1905 – November 26, 1956) was an American jazz trombonist, composer, conductor and bandleader of the big band era. He was known as the "Sentimental ...more

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Ricky Skaggs is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
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Sun Ra is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
Le Sony'r Ra (born Herman Poole Blount, May 22, 1914 – May 30, 1993), better known as Sun Ra, was an American jazz composer, bandleader, piano and synthesizer player, and poet known for his ...more

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Ben Folds is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list List of Famous Bandleaders
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