October 24, 1902: Alphonso Trent was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Summer of 1923: Trent organized his own group. They played their first engagement at the Basin Park Hotel in Eureka Springs, AR. When the job ended in September, he went to Little Rock to attend Shorter College.
In Little Rock, he began working with Eugene Crooke to form Synco Six: Edwin Swayzee, trumpet; Eugene Crooke, banjo; Trent, piano; Harry Jones, drums; James Jeter, alto saxophone; and John Fielding, vocals.
While watching a parade, Trent and Crooke spotted a young trombonist who played a solo "swing" style. They offered him a position, and fifteen-year-old Leo "Snub" Mosely became a member of the ensemble.
Shortly thereafter the band departed Little Rock for an extended engagement at a drugstore in Helena, Arkansas.
Sometime in 1924: It's possible that vocalist John Fielding joined the band as early as 1924, possibly the first appearance of a "band-singer" in a jazz orchestra.
Summer of 1924: Snub's mother allowed him to accompany the group for a summer job at the Stem Beach Resort in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
In Muskogee, Trent added William Holloway to the reed section. Fort Smith native A. G. Godley replaced Trent's cousin on drums.
Spring of 1925: The band, now called the Alphonso Trent Orchestra, traveled toward Texas. On their way, they performed on street corners to earn enough money for food and gas.
The band was offered a two-week contract to perform in the Adolphus Hotel ballroom but ended up playing for 18 months, setting a record never to be equaled.
1925: Their evening performances were also broadcast over 50,000 watt radio station WFAA, the first programs in the Southwest to feature a black orchestra.
Shortly after the band arrived in Dallas, T. Holder replaced Swayzee on trumpet and became the business agent.
Paul Whiteman visited the band in Dallas.
Summer of 1926: After the Adolphus engagement ended, the band played at the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio.
Leroy "Stuff" Smith
Next was a tour of Texas cities - the Waco Hotel (where they met Harry James), the Austin Hotel, the Fort Worth Hotel, the Galvez Hotel in Galveston and the Rice Hotel in Houston. They opened the new Plaza hotel in San Antonio (returning several times for month-long,engagements).
They performed for the inaugural ball of Texas governor Miriam A. Ferguson.
While they were at the Adolphus, the band consisted of Wendall Heyman, Willam Holloway, and James Jeter, saxophones; Leo Moseley, trombone; Gene Crooke, banjo: Chester Clark and Ewen Brigham, trumpet; Brent Sparks, tuba; A. G. Godley, drums; John Fielding, entertainer; and Al Trent, piano. That spring Lee Hilliard replaced Heyman, and Edwin Swayzee returned to replace Brigham.
Until 1927: The group continued to work the territory of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.
October 1927: The band set out for an eastern tour.
Early months of 1928: The band had an extended engagement at the Roseland Ballroom in Louisville. Leo "Snub" Moseley composed "Gilded Kisses."
The band continued with long engagements at the Greystone Ballroom in Cincinnati and Buffalo's Arcadia Ballroom. This was when Leroy "Stuff" Smith, violinist, joined the band, who ended up acting as the "front man" for the band along with vocalist John Fielding.
Summer of 1928: Bandleader Fate Marable contacted Trent about an engagement aboard the Mississippi River steamer St. Paul, for which the musicians received $70/ week, double the salary paid to many other bands. They engaged in a number of band battles.
Labor Day 1928: The riverrboat job ended, and the band vacationed n Chicago.
October 11 1928: The Alphonso Trent Orchestra recorded the first of only four records for the Gennett Company of Richmond, IN. The tunes "Louder and Funnier" and Mosley's "Gilded Kisses" were recorded that day, and a second session in December yielded "Black and Blue Rhapsody" and "Nightmare." The personnel at the time consisted of Chester Clark, Irving "Mouse" Randolph (who replaced Swayzee), and Peanuts Holland, trumpets; Mosley, trombone; Jeters, Pillars, and Hilliard, saxophones; Crooke, banjo; Trent, piano; Eppie Jackson, tuba; and A. G. Godley, drums.
Savoy Ballroom, NYC
1928: Between the two recording sessions of 1928, the group returned to Texas and Arkansas before accepting an engagement at the Greystone in Cincinnati. During the spring of 1929, the band worked hotels ballrooms, and college dances throughout Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and upstate New York. While playing the Arcadia in Buffalo, the superb trumpeter Herbert "Peanuts" Holland joined the band.
1929: Following a summer engagement at a resort in Port Stanley, Ontario, the Alphonso Trent Orchestra played its one and only job in New York City - a week at the Savoy Ballroom. At weeks' end, Meyer Davis, head of a small but soon to be well-known booking agency, offered the band a two-week contract at the Arcadia Ballroom. At the time the Arcadia was the number two ballroom in New York and, evidently, was not known for high salaries paid to musicians.
December 1929: Instead of staying in New York and playing the Arcadia, the band opened at the more lucrative Plantation Club in Cleveland, playing dance sets and a musical show, titles "Seamstress," which had been imported from New York.
Early 1930: A fire destroyed the Plantation Club.
Onset of the Great Depression: The band played a few jobs around Cleveland and Columbus before returning to what they hoped would be better opportunities in Texas.
Trent received an offer to play a dance hall in Syracuse NY, which was almost deserted, after which they played a few dances in upstate New York.
Sy Oliver, Arrangements
End of summer 1930: The band regrouped in Cincinnati, and Trent hired Sy Oliver to rewrite their book of musical arrangements.
December 31, 1930: The bookings had increased, and the band closed out 1930 with a New Year's Eve Engagement in Cleveland.
1931 & 1932: Throughout most of 1931 and into 1932, the band established Fort Smith as its home base and worked jobs in the surrounding states of Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and Missouri. Texas and Oklahoma provided the best opportunity for bookings. They played a few ballrooms such as the Ritz in Oklahoma City, but most work was for private parties and country clubs.
Latter months of 1932: Trent left the band, ostensibly to rend ailing parents.
On December 30, 1932, the band played a dance at the Ritz in Oklahoma City. The next evening, New Year's Eve, they were scheduled to play in Memphis, a distance of 470 miles over very poor highways. Following a breakdown in Cabot, Arkansas, the band arrived after midnight. They did perform a few numbers, but received no pay. A booking the next night in Nashville was canceled due to the weather as were several other engagements.
Despite this misfortune the band managed to reach Indianapolis and secured employment at a ballroom playing three nights a week.
March 24, 1933: While based in Indianapolis, the Alphonso Trent Orchestra made its final recording. The two selections, "Clementine" and "I've Found a New Baby" were recorded without Trent.
Spring of 1933: Under the leadership of violinist Anderson Lacy (who replaced Stuff Smith), the band toured New England for booking agent Earl Roberts, but the jobs paid poorly. The end finally came in Albany, New York, at the Kenmore Hotel. As saxophonist Hayes Pillars said, "Alphonso Trent's band couldn't go any farther."
Trent was soon back on the road leading a small band, usually five or six pieces. They toured the Dakotas, Wyoming, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
September 2, 1945: After World War II, Trent settled in Fort Smith to manage his real estate holdings and the city's first housing project. He remained active in the music business, but restricted his performances to local nightclubs.
October 4, 1959: Alphonso Trent died. He was fifty-four.