Edward Kennedy ‘Duke’ Ellington was born on April the 29th 1899 in Washington, D.C. The nickname ‘Duke’ was given to Ellington by a childhood friend, who noticed his impeccable taste in everything and that he carried himself with a sophisticated air at all times.
Both his parents played the piano and Ellington himself first began lessons at the age of 7. At this time however, his talent for drawing and painting was apparently stronger than that for music. He attended the Armstrong Manual Training School, where he studied commercial art.
During some time in Philadelphia he looked up Harvey Brooks, from who he learnt some piano tricks. This prompted Ellington to start learning again and he also began doing small gigs at local clubs and cafes. Three months before his graduation Ellington dropped out of school, so as to concentrate on a career in music.