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king curtis

King Curtis

b. Curtis Ousley, 7th February 1934, Fort Worth, Texas, U.S.A.

d. 13th August 1971, New York City, New York State, U.S.A.

King Curtis’ real name was Curtis Ousley.

He was an accomplished saxophonist and bandleader.

King Curtis was, probably, the most influential saxophone player in the history of R&B and Rock & Roll music.

Adopted as a child (along with his sister), Curtis attended I.M. Terrell High School, Forth Worth.

One of his contemporaries at the school, was Ornette Coleman.

King Curtis

He studied music at the school, before choosing to join the Lionel Hampton Band.

In the early Fifties, Curtis relocated to New York, in order to become a session musician.

Curtis played sessions for the likes of Nat Adderley, Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings and Andy Williams.

These sessions were performed for several imprints, including Prestige, Enjoy, Capitol, and Atco.

Curtis began putting together a session band, whose line-up included Richard Tee, Cornell Dupree, Jerry Jemmott, and Bernard Purdie.

His session work covered several genre’s, which only partly, included Jazz.

He collaborated with the Coasters (on their hit ‘Yakety Yak’), LaVern Baker, (on her 1958 single ‘I Cried a Tear’), Jimi Hendrix, ‘Twistin’ the Night Away’ by Sam Cooke, ‘Tossin’ and Turnin’ by Bobby Lewis, and also worked with the rock artist, Buddy Holly.

King CurtisKing CurtisKing CurtisKing Curtis

the good old fifties - 1959 / soul meeting - 1960 / old gold - 1961 / country soul - 1962

Curtis began releasing his own material, including the singles ‘Soul Twist’ (number 1 for two weeks in 1962) and ‘Soul Serenade’.

In 1965, Curtis signed for the Atlantic Records imprint.

At Atlantic Records and recorded the singles, ‘Memphis Soul Stew’ and ‘Ode to Billie Joe’.

King CurtisKing CurtisKing CurtisKing Curtis

soul serenade - 1964 / plays the hits made famous by sam cooke - 1965 / that lovin' feeling - 1966 / plays the great memphis hits - 1967

Curtis became the band leader for Aretha Franklin's own band The Kingpins.

The Kingpins were on the same bill as the Beatles, when the group performed at the Shea Stadium.

King Curtis

Jerry Wexler, Otis Redding, Eddie O'Jay, King Curtis and Nesuhi ErtegŁn

He began producing sides with Jerry Wexler at Atlantic, and recorded for Groove Records.

In 1970, a year before his death, Curtis won the Best R&B Instrumental Performance Grammy for the song ’Games People Play’.

King CurtisKing CurtisKing CurtisKing Curtis

sweet soul - 1968 / instant groove - 1969 / get ready - 1970 / live at fillmore west - 1971

In early 1971 he appeared with Aretha Franklin and The Kingpins at the Fillmore West.

These shows generated two live albums, namely ‘Aretha Live at Fillmore West’, and his own ‘Live at Fillmore West’ release.

King Curtis

Later in 1971, his Beatles connection continued, when Curtis played Sax on the songs ‘It's So Hard’ and ‘I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier’, both of which appeared on John Lennon's classic album ‘Imagine’.

Also in 1971, Curtis collaborated with the group The Rimshots, on the theme song for the music show ‘Soul Train’.

On the 13th of August 1971, at the age of 37, Curtis was murdered during an argument with a pair of drug dealers he found on the steps of his Manhattan apartment.

Curtis’ passing prompted Atlantic Records to close their offices on the day of his funeral.

Jesse Jackson

Jesse Jackson and Modeen Broughton, the fiancée of King Curtis arriving at King Curtis' funeral

Rev. Jesse Jackson led the service, whilst 'The Kingpins' performed ‘Soul Serenade’.

Attending his funeral were his close family members, along with, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Cissy Houston, Brook Benton, The Isley Brothers and Duane Allman.

‘King’ Curtis was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the 6th of March 2000.

Real Player


as King Curtis:

The Good Old Fifties (ATCO Records 1959)

Have Tenor Sax, Will Blow (ATCO Records 1959)

Azure (Prestige Records 1960)

King Soul (Prestige Records 1960)

Soul Meeting (Prestige Records 1960)

The New Scene of King Curtis (New Jazz Records 1960)

Party Time (Tru Sound Records 1961)

Trouble in Mind (Tru Sound Records 1961)

Old Gold (Tru Sound Records 1961)

Night Train (Tru Sound Records 1961)

Doin' the Dixie Twist (Tru Sound Records 1962)

Country Soul (Capitol Records 1962)

Soul Twist and other Golden Classics (Tru Sound Records 1962)

It's Party Time (Tru Sound Records 1962)

The Best of (Tru Sound Records 1962)

Soul Serenade (Capitol Records 1964)

Plays Hits made by Sam Cooke (Capitol Records 1965)

That Lovin' Feeling (ATCO Records 1966)

Live at Small's Paradise (ATCO Records 1966)

Play Great Memphis Hits (ATCO Records 1967)

Memphis Soul Stew (ATCO Records 1967)

Sweet Soul (ATCO Records 1968)

Sax in Motion (RCA Records 1968)

Instant Groove (ATCO Records 1969)

Everybody's Talkin’ (ATCO Records 1970)

Get Ready (ATCO Records 1970)

Blues at Montreux (ATCO Records 1971)

Live at Fillmore West (ATCO Records 1971)

as King Curtis and The Kingpins:

Soul Twist (Tru Sound Records 1962)

with The Noble Knights:

The Shirelles & King Curtis Give A Twist Party (Scepter Records 1962)

with The Shirelles:

Eternally, Soul (Scepter Records 1968)

King Size Soul (Scepter Records 1967)

Live at Fillmore West (ATCO Records 1971)

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