Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Panama Francis Dies at 82

Panama Francis, a drummer who played with the greatest bands of the swing era, lent his incisive rhythms to many studio recordings, and managed to last long enough to lead the swing revival in the 1980s, died Nov. 11 at a hospital in Orlando, near his home in Altamont, Fla. He was 82.

Born on Dec. 21, 1918 in Miami, Francis first performed on the drums at age eight and got his first night club gig at the age of 13; his mom waited backstage to take him home. His father separated from his mother while he was a teenager; at age 19, Francis wired his father for a ticket to New York City, where he got a job within four days, playing without maternal supervision for saxophonist Tab Smith. Francis went on to play in the bands of Billy Hicks, Roy Eldridge, Lucky Millinder and Cab Calloway. He often worked at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom, the fabled “Home of Happy Feet.”

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published