King Curtis

February 7 1934-August 13 1971 Curtis Ousley was better known to the public as King Curtis. Growing up in the Fort Worth/Dallas area of Texas, Curtis started his musical career at the age of twelve learning the play the saxophone.  His musical interests leaned towards Jazz and R&B. Turning down scholarships for college Curtis joined up with the Lionel Hampton Band where he learned how to write and  arrange music and play the guitar.  1952 found Curtis relocating to New York to become a powerful and versatile performer with a percussive style. From the late 1950’s through the mid 1960’s Curtis played as a session musician recording under his own name. The Coasters only No. 1 hit “Yakety-Yak” featured Curtis on tenor sax. Buddy Holly gave the song writing credits from “Reminiscing” to Curtis when he flew down to play on the recording. “Soul Serenade”  and “Soul Twist were two of his best known singles from this era. In 1965 Curtis moved over to Atlantic records were he recorded such hits as “Ode To Billy Joe” and “Memphis Soul Stew”.  He led the Kingpins which was the back-up band for Aretha Franklin and opened for the Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965. Curtis produced records with Jerry Wexler and produced and recorded “Games People Play” with the great Duane Allman during this time. Throughout his career King Curtis played with such artists as Clyde McPhatter “A Lover’s Question”, Wilson Pickett, Bobby Darin, Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole, and Nina Simone to name a few. King Curtis also co-produced or produced for Roberta Flack, Bonnie and Delaney, Freddie King, and Sam Moore of the Sam & Dave fame. Rock icons such as Eric Clapton, The Allman Brothers Band, John Lennon, and Robbie Robertson have all cited King Curtis as a major influence on them.

Curtis Ousley [King Curtis] lived at 50 West 86th Street in NYC and on or about mid-night of August 13th 1971 was carrying an air conditioner to his brownstone apartment when an argu


started with two junkies sitting on his steps. A fight ensued and 26-year-old Juan Montanez pulled a knife and stabbed Curtis in the chest. Reports say that Curtis was able to wrestle the knife away and stab his assailant four times before he collapsed. Juan fled the scene before police arrived and Curtis was taken to Roosevelt hospital where he died from his wounds less than an hour later. While at the hospital police learned another man was being admitted for stabbing wounds and connected the two together. Juan Montanez was later tried and sent to prison. Curtis is buried in a red granite wall crypt in the “West Gallery of Forsythia Court” mausoleum at Pinelawn Memorial Park in Farmingdale, New Jersey. This same ceme

tery holds jazz greats Count Basie and John Coltrane.

If you have never listened to the fabulous music of King Curtis you have been missing out on some of the most serene sounds to ever come out of a saxophone. I encourage you to go to YouTube or anywhere you can find his music and take a listen. I’m sure that you will find it enjoyable. I wrote this for the simple fact that I was listening to his music tonight and got inspired.

references-Wikipedia, New York Daily News archive, Rock&Roll Hall of Fame. photos-bing

until next time, peace beibe


~ by beibejones on March 14, 2013.

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