Eddie South, born on November 27, 1904 in Louisiana, Missouri, a child prodigy, South graduated from the Chicago Music College.
At the time, classical positions were not open to Black violinists in the 1920s, so South learned to play jazz (helped out by Darnell Howard). Rarely mentioned now, the violin was an important part of Jazz during its formative years! It was heard in the earliest New Orleans bands and was present in most all the new 'Dance' bands at the start of the 20th Century. In fact, violin sections continued to be a part of the jazz music scene right on up to the Swing Era.
In the early to mid-1920s, he worked in Chicago with Jimmy Wade's Syncopators, Charles Elgar and Erskine Tate.
In 1928, a visit to Europe (where he studied at the Paris Conservatoire) made a deep impression on the violinist, particularly Budapest; later on, he would often utilize gypsy melodies as a basis for jazz improvising.
In 1931, South returned to Chicago, where his regular band included bassist Milt Hinton. In 1937, while in Paris he recorded with Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. South never had a major breakthrough commercially in his American career. Classically trained, fluent in several styles including swing, gypsy and Latin; he favored a warm, lyrical sound; popular in Europe, where racial discrimination did not hinder his style.
He did work on radio and television but spent most of his life in relative obscurity, playing in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. In later years, he recorded for Chess and Mercury, including a final set released by Trip. South's other early recordings (covering 1927-41) have been reissued on a pair of Classics CDs. One of the top violinists of the pre-bop era South was a brilliant technician who, were it not for the universal racism of the time, would probably have been a top classical violinist.
Eddie South died on April 25, 1962 in Chicago, Illinois.