At the age of 17 Sidney Catlett played his first professional gig, with Darnell Howard's Band at the Club Arlington in Chicago. He developed his talents in a number of bands with various styles before making it to New York and the Benny Carter band in 1931. The Catlett drumming style in the early days helped form the hot tempo of such recordings as Fletcher Henderson's, "Jangled Nerves," and "Stealin' Apples," as well as Louis Armstrong's, "Jeepers Creepers."
After leaving Armstrong, Bid Sid was immediately hired by Benny Goodman, where he really 'sparked' Goodman's great 1941 orchestra. (Peggy Lee and Art Lund, Vocs; Mel Powell on piano; Sid Weiss on bass; Vito Musso, Clint Neagley, Julie Schwartz, George Berg and Chuck Gentry on Saxes; Lou McGarity and Cutty Cutshall on trombones; Billy Butterfield, Jimmy Maxwell and Al Davis on trumpets; Catlett on drums; and Guitarist Tommy Morgan.) He worked with Don Redman, Armstrong, Roy Eldridge and Eddie Condon before he formed his own band in 1944. The quartet played from coast to coast and recorded a handful of sides while in Los Angeles.
Catlett teamed up with Armstrong as a member of the All-Stars from 1946 to the end of 1949. A year later he had a number of solo's during John Kirby's Carnegie Hall Concert. In March 1951 he played at the Chicago Opera House. It was during a performance, while he was talking with Slam Stewart, that Catlett collapsed and died of a heart attack.