King Curtis is one of the best rock-and-roll musicians of all time. His specialty was the tenor sax. He was born Curtis Ousley in 1934 in Fort Worth and began working in his home town in the 40's. In 1950 he began working with Lionel Hampton and moved to New York City in 1953. In New York he had the opportunity to work with a variety of musicians in pop, soul, and jazz.
After doing some session work he struck out on his own, first as King Curtis and The Noble Knights and later as The Kingpins. He managed to put three songs in the top forty in the 60's, but all were instrumentals at a time when instrumentals were not popular with the record buying public [when you hear Sam Cooke say "Play that one called Soul Twist" in his 1962 hit Having A Party, he is referring to the King Curtis song]. He had 15 top 100 songs from 1962 to 1971.
King Curtis was very much in demand as a sax player by nearly every musician in the business. One of his memorable sax solos can be heard on the Coasters' Yakety Yak. The list of people that he worked with is in the hundreds and reads like a who's who of musicians in the early days of rock-and-roll. A partial list would include: Lionel Hampton, Buck Clayton, Nat King Cole, Joe Turner, The McGuire Sisters, Andy Williams, Chuck Willis, The Coasters, Buddy Holly, LaVern Baker, Bobby Darin, Brook Benton, Neil Sedaka, The Drifters, Sam Cooke, The Isley Brothers, Solomon Burke, The Shirelles, Nina Simone, The Beatles, Aretha Franklin, Herbie Mann, Wilson Pickett, Duane Allman, Eric Clapton and John Lennon.
The music world lost one of its top musicians when King Curtis was murdered in New York City on August 13, 1971. He was stabbed to death outside his apartment.
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