Historical marker #2075 in Flemingsburg recounts the accomplishments of legendary pianist Herman Chittison, whose contributions to the evolution of jazz left an indelible mark on American music.
Herman Chittison was born in Flemingsburg, KY, on October 15, 1908, to Charles and Sarah Jame Chittison. Chittison began playing the piano at age 8 and would often play hymns at Strawberry Methodist Church. He and his family left Kentucky for him to attend school in Tennessee when he was 13-years-old. After completing high school, Chittison enrolled at Kentucky State College (now Kentucky State University) in 1925. However, he soon left school to pursue a professional career in music. His music career began when he joined Zack Whyte’s band, Chocolate Beau Brummels, in Ohio in 1928.
In the early 1930s, Chittison moved to New York and found work as an accompanist to Ethel Waters, Adelaide Hall, and Clarence Williams. He would go on to travel and play in Europe and Egypt and tour with Louis Armstrong and comedian Stepin Fetchit. He and Bill Coleman, a jazz trumpeter, led the Harlem Rhythm Makers, but left the band in 1938 to form a band that worked extensively in Cairo, Egypt. Chittison played “Ernie” in the radio series Crime Photographer.
In October 1959, Chittison returned to the United States and was employed as the resident pianist at the Red Garter bar in the Lenox Hotel in Boston. He then went on to the Mayfair Lounge in Bay Village. He played several prominent clubs in New York during the 1950s and 1960s. Chittison died on March 8, 1967, and is buried in Cleveland, Ohio.
This marker was dedicated on April 24, 2002. It reads:
Born in Flemingsburg, October 15, 1908, to Charles and Sarah Jane Chittison. He played hymns at Strawberry Methodist Church as a child. Attended Walden College in Nashville, 1924; later Ky. State Industrial College for Colored Persons in Frankfort. Began his musical career with Zach Whyte's Chocolate Beau Brummels, 1928. Presented by Fleming Co. Bicentennial Com.
(Reverse) Herman Chittison recorded on both American and French labels as a soloist and accompanist for Ethel Waters and Mildred Bailey. Toured with comedian Stepin Fetchit and trumpeter Louis Armstrong. Played "Ernie" in radio series Casey, Crime Photographer (1942-51). Played several prominent clubs in New York during 50s and 60s. Died 1967 and buried in Cleveland, Ohio.