Bubber Miley
Bubber Miley

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Since "The Duke - Where and When" is very large, I moved some material to supporting webpages.

The primary purpose of this one is to discuss the date and place of birth of trumpeter Bubber Miley.
While I touch on matters related to his life and his influence on Ellington's band, this page is not an adequate study of the man and his musical importance. Much has been written about him, with some authors perhaps building on the work of their predecessors, and some with contradictions. I have not seriously tried to locate all such writings nor to reconcile their accounts of his life and music.
This webpage was created and is maintained by David Palmquist,
with considerable input from fellow researchers, in particular
Added to TDWAW 2012-10-10
updated 2019-03-17, 2019-09-07, 2021-01-22, 2022-12-03, 2023-04-05
Last updated 2023-09-23

James Wesley ("Bubber") Miley

April 3, 1903 (?) - May 20, 1932

supplement to
The Duke – Where and When
A Chronicle of Duke Ellington's Working Life and Travels

Bubber Miley
Bubber Miley
Bubber Miley
Bubber Miley
Bubber Miley
Bubber Miley

Duke Ellington:

'Our band changed its character when Bubber came in. He used to growl all night long, playing gutbucket on his horn. That was when we decided to forget all about playing sweet music.'

(quoted by Richard Ehrenzeller, Blue Light Vol.7 NO. 3, July/August/September 2000)

When was Bubber born?

Trumpeter Bubber Miley's birthdate and place of birth are not confirmed. Consensus seems to be that Bubber was born in 1903, but some sources suggest otherwise. The internet-based genealogical research services Ancestry.ca and Ancestry.com contain very little about James Miley, but do carry two entries related to James Westley [sic] Miley. This may or may not be James Wesley (Bubber) Miley. James Miley and his immediate family are also found in New York state and U.S. Federal censuses from 1910 to 1925.

As Mr. Hill notes, the place of residence in the 1915 NY Census for Bubber matches the naval documentation, 239 West 62nd Street, so it appears that is definitely our Bubber.

Potential birth dates:

Where was Bubber born?

Early life events:

Early musical life:

Professional beginnings:
Sources: Chilton (ibid) and Wallén (ibid), Wikipedia.

With Ellington:

After Ellington