An excellent section trumpeter who unfortunately seldom had possibilities to solo, Hemphill was an integral part of many major orchestras. In early stages Hemphill toured with Bessie Smith within Fred Longshaw’s music group (1924). After participating in Wilberforce University, he caused Horace Henderson’s Collegians. Hemphill was with Benny Carter (1928-29), Chick Webb (1930-31), the Mills Blue Tempo Music group (1931-37), Louis Armstrong’s Orchestra (1937-44) and Duke Ellington (1944-49). After departing Ellington, Shelton Hemphill (who under no circumstances led his very own record time) freelanced for a while but ultimately retired from playing because of ill health.