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Book: Song for Someone: The Musical Life of Kenny Wheeler

Chapter: A Long Time Ago: (1930-1952)

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.25555


Kenny was one of eight children born to a musical family in Toronto, Canada. His father, Wilfred Wheeler, was a semi-professional trombonist who one day brought home a cornet for his adolescent son. Following several moves around Ontario, the Wheelers finally settled in St. Catharines. While in high school, Kenny met a group of like-minded musicians who were enthusiastic about bebop. His father took him on a memorable trip to see Duke Ellington, and he even managed to get into the United States to see Charlie Parker twice. After a brief period of study at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music, he had a series of unsuccessful attempts at holding down “day” jobs, all the while seeking musical work with an uncharacteristic determination. On the advice of his great friend, and later eminent jazz writer, Gene Lees, he abruptly decided to move to England, in the hopes of procuring work as a brass player.

Chapter Contributors

  • Brian Shaw ( - brianshaw) 'Louisiana State University'
  • Nick Smart ( - nsmart) 'Royal Academy of Music'