► Jon Hendricks (born September 16, 1921) is an American jazz lyricist and singer. He is considered one of the originators of vocalese, which adds lyrics to existing instrumental songs and replaces many instruments with vocalists such as the big-band arrangements of Duke Ellington and Count Basie. Furthermore, he is considered one of the best practitioners of scat singing, which involves vocal jazz soloing. For his work as a lyricist, jazz critic and historian Leonard Feather called him the “Poet Laureate of Jazz” while Time dubbed him the “James Joyce of Jive.” Al Jarreau has called him “pound-for-pound the best jazz singer on the planet—maybe that’s ever been”.
Born in 1921 in Newark, Ohio, Hendricks and his 14 siblings were moved many times, following their father’s assignments as an A.M.E. pastor, before settling permanently in Toledo. There, Hendricks began his singing career at the age of 7. He has said: “By the time I was 10, I was a local celebrity in Toledo. I had offers to go with Fats Waller when I was 12, and offers to go with Ted Lewis and be his shadow when I was 13. He had that song ‘Me and My Shadow’. And he had this little Negro boy who was his shadow, that did everything he did. That was his act.” As a teenager, Jon’s first interest was in the drums, but before long he was singing on the radio regularly with another Toledo native, pianist Art Tatum. — avec Loek Hopstaken.