Billy Strayhorn, circa 1947.
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A head and shoulders portrait of William Strayhorn reviewing sheet music.

Credit: Photo by William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress

Pittsburgh's Billy Strayhorn was only twenty-two when he joined Duke Ellington's band in 1939. For the next twenty-eight years he would be Ellington's arranger, collaborator, and right-hand man. A brilliant orchestrator– he received the Esquire Silver Award for outstanding arranger in 1946–Strayhorn was also the arranger for recordings by some of Ellington's great sidemen. After Strayhorn died of cancer in 1967, Ellington recorded an album of his compositions, And His Mother Called Him Bill, in his memory.

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