Dardanelle (Marcia Marie Mullen) Hadley was born Dec. 27, 1917, and grew up in Avalon, Mississippi,where she studied with Gladys Bacon, a Greenwood music teacher. An internationally known singer and pianist, Dardanelle’s father Marcius Mosley “Buck” Mullen never studied music, never read it, but could play anything, particularly ragtime. Dardanelle once said she doesn’t practice practice. Her “perfect” execution on the piano is a gift from her father. Her sister Marie was also a marvelous pianist, but she died at the age of nineteen from the flu. Their grandmother closed up the piano for seven years at Marie’s death. The blue-eyed, talented performer was nicknamed “Peter” or “Pete” as a child because she was such a tomboy.
She majored in music at Louisiana State University and supported herself by working as a house pianist at a local radio station. Her name became “Dardanelle” from newspaper stories about the Second World War in the strait of the Dardanelles.
Musically Dardanelle had an intricate, improvisational style which has labeled her a “jazz musician.” Her career included many recordings and live performances from New York to London. In the 1940s, Dardanelle formed a trio which included herself on vibes and piano, guitarist Tal Farlow and Paul Edenfield on bass. After some successful touring, the group became resident at New York City’s famed Copacabana club.
In the 1950s, Dardanelle Hadley moved to Chicago where she raised her family and supported herself as a staff pianist for WGN-TV. She also worked on a highly regarded children’s television show called Lunchtime Little Theater where she was known as Aunt Dody.
Dardanelle moved to New Jersey in the 1970’s and formed a new trio with her son “Skip” Hadley on drums. She performed and recorded with Jazz stars Bucky Pizzarelli, George Duvivier, and Grady Tate.
She appeared at many festivals and concerts and worked on cruise ships and television programs. She played at the Cookery and Carnegie Hall in New York. She was also a popular performer in Tokyo, Japan, where she lived for some time. In 1984 Dardanelle returned to Mississippi where she was an active radio and TV personality, recording artist, and jazz performer (her second son, Brian Hadley, often played bass with her). From 1986-1988 she was Artist in Residence at Ole Miss (the University of Mississippi). Stories about her past were recorded during a radio show she did in Senabobia for WJNC. WKNO in Memphis then picked them up and in 1996 the vignettes ran on PRM. The cassette is entitled “Dardanelle Down Home: The Way Things Used to Be.” The jazz legend died August 8, 1997, at the age of 79 in Memphis, Tennessee, of complications following heart surgery.
- 1917, Dec. 27 –born in Avalon, MS
- 1986-1988–Artist in Residence at Ole Miss.
- 1994 – moved to Winona, Mississippi.
- 1997, May–Classic cabaret performance at Lamar King Music Hall in Confederate Memorial Building in Greenwood, Mississippi. She was joined for the performance by Dr. London Branch, a bassist, and Murray Kornfeld, a drummer.
- 1997 –Dardanelle died at age 79 from complications after heart surgery
- NPR Music: Dardanelle Hadley On Piano Jazz (March 2015)
- Dardanelle Collection at the University of Mississippi Libraries
- the Commonwealth (May 19, 1997), Greenwood, Mississippi