Born to Alexander and Blanche (Oakes) Eldridge in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on January 30, 1911, David Roy Eldridge showed an interest in music from an early age. His older brother, Joe, played the alto saxophone and violin, while Eldridge himself was first attracted to the drums. Before he was ten years old, he picked up the bugle and then the trumpet, which became his primary instrument. He also played the piano and flugelhorn. Able to pick up almost any tune and play it back by ear, the 16-year-old Eldridge was good enough on the trumpet to earn a spot with the touring carnival band the Nighthawk Syncopators after an impromptu audition. While he was still in his teens, Eldridge formed the first of several bands, Roy Elliott and His Palais Royal Orchestra. Prior to 1930 he also played brief stints with Horace Henderson's Dixie Stompers and other bands led by Zach White and drummer Laurence "Speed" Webb.
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