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

Walter Fuller Dies

Walter Fuller, a jazz trumpeter of the swing school who worked in Earl Hines’ band in the 1930s, died April 20 in San Diego. He was 93.

Born in Dyersburg, Tenn., Fuller began playing mellophone at an early age. Under the spell of Louis Armstrong recordings, Fuller switched to trumpet and began playing professionally—in a medicine show—at 14. After moving to Chicago in 1925 and playing with pianist Sammy Stewart, Fuller joined Hines’ band. He was with Hines on and off throughout the ’30s, helping to define the group’s sound and even singing on its 1933 hit “Rosetta.”

When Hines disbanded his group in 1940, Fuller began working as a leader with a Chicago-based band. The most notable musician to claim membership in Fuller’s group is tenor player Gene Ammons. In 1946 Fuller moved to San Diego where he not only continued leading a band, but became a voice for civil liberty, protesting the local Club Royal’s policy of only letting black customers stand at the rear of the club. He was told he’d be fired for doing so, but the club managers eventually saw it his way and began letting customers of any color sit anywhere. Fuller is also credited with integrating the listings for the local musicians union chapter, which had separated blacks and whites, and he was also the first black director on the union’s local board.

Fuller is survived by a daughter, two grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.