By Litchfield Performing Arts, a not-for-profit educational charity.

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Bill Henderson Quartet

“One of Jazz’s greatest living male vocalist”

Photo by Scott Mitchell

Born in Chicago in 1926, Bill Henderson made his show-business debut as a singer and dancer at age four. Following two years in the Army, serving in Europe with a Special Services orchestra, he returned to Chicago’s South Side and a steady gig at the Stelzer Lounge with the then-little-known Ramsey Lewis Trio.

In 1956, determined to break into big time jazz, Bill took off for New York. His break came the following year when Horace Silver hired him to record a vocal on his popular instrumental “Senor Blues” for Blue Note. It became one of the biggest selling singles in the label’s history. Henderson recorded for the Vee-Jay label between 1958 and 1961, with support from Ramsey Lewis, Tommy Flanagan, Eddie Higgins, Eddie Harris, Jimmy Jones and Thad Jones. He toured Japan with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and in 1963 recorded with Oscar Peterson. Two years later he joined the Count Basie Orchestra.

Henderson’s voice is rich and room filling…see this guy in concert.”

After a two year stint with Basie, he moved to Hollywood and launched an acting career which included a string of TV shows: Happy Days, The Jeffersons, MacGyver, NYPD Blue, ER, My Name Is Earl and countless others. His films credits include Fletch, City Slickers, White Men Can’t Jump, Maverick and Conspiracy Theory.

With all his film success, Henderson never stopped singing. He had two Grammy- nominated albums on Discovery and split vocal duties with Shirley Horn on Charlie Haden’s Verve CD The Art of the Song. Now, to the delight of his old fans, Henderson has resumed touring and has appeared at the John F. Kennedy Center, the Algonquin’s famed Oak Room and Rose Hall at Lincoln Center.

Bill’s most recent album, Beautiful Memory, was recorded live in 2008. This is his second appearance at The Litchfield Jazz Festival; he appeared in 2007 as a guest with Matt Wilson’s Arts & Crafts. He is joined by Avery Sharpe on bass, Dena DeRose on piano and Winard Harper on drums.

July, 2009: Read feature on Bill Henderson in All About Jazz-New York.

Artist Website


Bill Henderson will be giving a master class open to festival ticket holders and Litchfield Jazz Camp students free of charge.  Saturday, August 1, 4:30PM – 5:30PM, Mattison Auditorium, Kent School, Kent, CT.