He played with Walter Page's Blue Devils and the orchestras of Bennie Moten, Jimmie Lunceford and Count Basie. He was one of the first musicians to adopt the electric guitar (just invented in 1931) after using instruments with a resonator.
He experimented with proto-amplifiers as early as 1929, for example in the solo of Band Box Shuffle (with Bennie Moten's Kansas City Orchestra, in October 1929), and recorded one of the first amplified guitar tracks in 1935 (on Jimmie Lunceford's cover of Hittin' The Bottle).
From 1936 to 1938, Durham arranged and composed many pieces for Count Basie's groups and orchestras: John's Idea (July 1937), Time Out (August 1937), Topsy (August 1937), Out The Window (October 1937), Sent For You Yesterday (February 1938), Swinging The Blues (february 1938), Every Tub (February 1938).
In the 1940's, Durham became musical director of the International Sweethearts Of Rhythm, an all-female jazz band. At the same time, he was leading his own combo, which included some Kansas City swing veterans such as Buster Smith and Hot Lips Page.
Durham maintained his activity as arranger through the 1960's, and was playing guitar and touring until the 1980's. He appears playing a trombone solo in the documentary film The last of the Blue Devils, directed by Bruce Ricker in 1980.
- 156 Instruments & Performance
- 732 Writing & Arrangement
- 2 Featuring & Presenting
- 1 Conducting & Leading