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Mary Lou Williams

Played piano professionally from a very early age. Known throughout Pittsburgh as "the little piano girl," was often heard at private parties including those of the Mellons and the Olivers, well before she was ten years old. Was exposed to some of the greats, taken by her family to the theater to hear and see musicians at work.

In 1925, joined a group led by John Williams, whom she married. In 1930 became a regular member of Andy Kirk's band, of which John too was a member. The fame of Kirk's band in the 1930s was due largely to her distinctive arrangements, compositions, and solo performances on piano. Later rovided noteworthy swing-band scores for Benny Goodman, Earl Hines, Tommy Dorsey, and others. A swinging, percussive player, she was a major force in the development of Kansas City swing and the bebop revolution. Achieved and maintained unwavering respect from her male colleagues and treatment as a musical equal.