born on 10/6/1907 in Centerville, TN, United States
died on 12/11/1985 in New York City, NY, United States
Dickie Wells was born in Centerville, Tennessee; his brother was trombonist Henry Wells. He moved to New York City in 1926, and became a member of the Lloyd Scott band.
In his later years, Wells suffered a severe beating that affected his memory, but he recovered and continued to perform. He played frequently at the West End jazz club at 116th and Broadway, most often with a band called The Countsmen, led by alto saxophonist Earle Warren, his colleague from Count Basie days. A trademark was Wells's "pepper pot" mute which he made himself.
He died on November 12, 1985, in New York City. Shortly after his death, Wells's family donated his trombone to Rutgers University.
- Dicky Wells and His Orchestra in Paris (1937)
- Bones for the King (Felsted, 1958)
- Chatter Jazz (RCA Victor, 1959) with Rex Stewart
- Trombone Four-in-Hand (Felsted, 1959)
- Lonesome Road (Uptown, 1981)
With Count Basie
- The Original American Decca Recordings (GRP, 1937-39 )
- With Buck Clayton
- Songs for Swingers (Columbia, 1958)
- Copenhagen Concert (SteepleChase, 1959 )
- Goin' to Kansas City (Riverside, 1960) with Tommy Gwaltney's Kansas City 9
- One for Buck (Columbia, 1961)
With Dizzy Gillespie
- The Complete RCA Victor Recordings (Bluebird, 1937-1949, )
- With Buddy Tate
- Swinging Like Tate (Felsted, 1958)
Wells had two stints with Basie - 1937-42 and again after the war. His playing during the first was brilliant and established him as a major trombonist and influence on other trombonists. After he rejoined Basie his playing was insipid and uninspired, probably due to alcohol abuse. This same change in his playing is also evident in later recordings as a studio musician for Jimmy Rushing in the late 'fifties.