"Speedy" Huggins, a versatile performer
L. C. "Speedy" Huggins, an African American dancer and musician, was born on this date in 1913.
Huggins was born in Ft. Smith, AR. His family later moved to Kansas City, Kansas, where he attended Northeast Junior High School. A self-taught tap dancer, by the time he graduated from the eighth grade in 1928, he was dancing in nightclubs throughout the 18th and Vine district. In 1933, he performed on the opening night of the Cherry Blossom Club, one of the area’s premier nightclubs. Huggins performed throughout Europe while serving in the Army during World War II.
After the war, he returned to Kansas City and enrolled in the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, in drum and percussion classes. He danced primarily with the Three Clouds of Rhythm and played drums with other bands, including the Willie Rice Big Band. He played with Ella Fitzgerald and was featured in the documentary film "The Last of the Blue Devils." Huggins remained active in the business until the end of his life.
In the 1980s, he added singing to his talents and performed at many local nightclubs, jazz events, and jam sessions in Kansas City. His booking agent gave him the nickname "Speedy" for his slow, soft-shoe dance style, and his relaxed pace. Huggins was one of the most beloved musicians in the Midwest.
Before his death at the age of 85, he was one of the few jazzmen still working whose musical roots reached back to the heyday of Kansas City jazz, when the 18th and Vine district showed off one of the liveliest music and nightclub scenes in the country. He died in 1999.
Reference Library of Black America, Volumes 1 through 5
Edited by Mpho Mabunda
Copyright 1998, Gale Research, Detroit, MI
Today in American History