Musician Leon “Chu” Berry was born in Wheeling on September 13, 1910. He became one of the most highly regarded saxophonists of the Swing Era, ranking alongside Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young.
At West Virginia State College (now University), Berry performed with the Edwards Collegians and other regional groups.
Through the 1930s, he performed and recorded with major artists like Fletcher Henderson, Bessie Smith, Benny Carter, Teddy Wilson, and Roy Eldridge. He spent his last four years in Cab Calloway’s big band alongside a young Dizzy Gillespie. After gigs, Berry and Gillespie joined late-night jammers who gave birth to the new bebop style.
Sadly, Chu Berry died in a car crash in Ohio in 1941 while touring with Cab Calloway’s band. He was only 31.