The eventual musical matriarch of her family, Edythe Payne originally hailed from Topeka, Kansas, where she'd begun learning piano at age three. Arriving in Spokane in 1900 at around age ten, she married Floyd Turnham, a waiter, in 1907. Together with her sister Maggie, & about four other family members, they created a minstrel show that scuffled for work around the Eastern Washington & Idaho area. In time, new members were added & the ensemble morphed into the Edythe Turnham Orchestra, and then, the Edythe Turnham and Her Knights of Syncopation, which featured her husband & his namesake son, and Maggie (as a dancer). As the band gelled they began to get bookings in rooms including Spokane’s fine Silver Grill – where young Spokane/Tekoa, Washington native, Mildred Bailey, also began her eventual big-time jazz career. In 1920 the family moved to Tacoma, scorings gigs in rooms including the Tacoma Hotel. Then in 1922, they moved to Seattle where they joined AFM-493, & played gigs in venues including the Alhambra, the Bungalow Cabaret, the Coon Chicken Inn, & the Copper Kettle. The Knights did quite nicely, apparently, with the Turnhams purchasing a home (707 22nd Avenue) in 1926. Then, in 1928, the expanded and renamed Black Hawks nine-piece band scored what would be a successful audition with John Considine’s giant Seattle-based Orpheum Theater circuit. That led to a week-long feature gig in Seattle, & they also set out on the road playing those huge rooms in cities ranging from Winnipeg, Canada, all down through the states, winding up in Los Angeles where they floundered a bit before recasting themselves with a few new players & reemerged as the Dixie Aces. For his part, Floyd Turnham Jr. went on to enjoy quite a solid jazz career in California – but that’s a whole ‘nother story….
THE BLACK HAWKS: SEATTLE's LEGENDARY ROARING '20s JAZZ BAND (1928)
THE BLACK HAWKS are among the very earliest Seattle-based African-American jazz bands – and members of the "Negro Musicians' Union" (American Federation of Musicians' Local-493) – whose photograph has survived all these decades. Recently unearthed from the institutional archives of AFM Local 76-493, it represents a whole lotta significant history. Seen standing here in 1928 are (left-to-right): Joe Bailey (bass & tuba), Crawford Brown, Ray Williams, Floyd Turnham Sr. (drums), Floyd Turnham, Jr. (alto sax & fish horn), Robert Taylor, Floyd Wilson, Creon Thomas (drums, violin, banjo, & piano) – & bandleader/pianist/vocalist, Edythe Turnham, seated at center.