Tuesday, February 7, 2012

KING CURTIS (February 7, 1934–August 13, 1971)

 (February 7, 1934–August 13, 1971)

      Curtis Ousley, better known as "King Curtis," saxophonist and guitarist, was born in Fort Worth, Texas on February 7, 1934.  Curtis's parents gave him a saxophone when he was twelve. He honed his skills playing with his high school band and with a pop band he formed.

As soon as he turned 18 years old he moved to New York City...
That was in 1952. In New York he got gigs playing sax with Chuck Willis, Clyde McPhatter, The Coasters, the Alan Freed Band, and other groups.

   Throughout the 1950s and into the early 1960s he toured the United States and Europe with Lionel Hampton's band. It was also during that time that he He played backup for numerous singers, including Bobby Darin, Andy Williams, Sam Cooke, Connie Francis, Nat King Cole, the Coasters, and Buddy Holly; mastered the guitar and learned to arrange music.

 He stopped touring in the early 1960s, moved back to New York, and soon became one of the best-known saxophone players of the 1960s.

Curtis formed his own group, the Noble Knights, in the early 1960s. He later changed their name to the King Pins. The group signed with Enjoy Records and recorded a Number 1 R&B single, "Soul Twist," in 1962.

In the 1960s, fifteen of Curtis's recordings made the pop charts. He recorded for Prestige and Capitol Records and signed with the Atco label in 1965. He stayed with that label for the remainder of his career, making numerous records, including King Curtis Plays the Great Memphis Hits, That Lovin' Feeling, and King Size Soul.
 A couple of his songs, "Memphis Soul Stew" and "Ode to Billie Joe," recorded in 1967, were huge hits.

As soul music became even more popular in the late 60s, Curtis had even more success.. His record sales soared, and he became highly sought after for concerts and music festivals around the country and in Europe.

     He was at the top of his game and career  when tragedy struck King Curtis in 1971. During a scuffle with man on the stoop of a brownstone that he owned in New York City, Curtis was stabbed and soon succumbed to his wounds.
King Curtis, 37 Years Old

At the time of his death Curtis was working on a John Lennon album and was also producing Freddie King for Atlantic. He left behind a well-recorded legacy of his varied musical talents as a composer, performer, and arranger. 

 "King Curtis was surely one of the instrument’s [tenor saxophone] most distinctive voices…He kept his ears and his heart open to all kinds of music, and played them all back with a bright, edgy sound that was his own—a sound that no one has ever quite replicated."

King Curtis was inducted into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000


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