Benny Golson

Inducted: 2016

Multitalented and internationally famous jazz legend, – a composer, arranger, lyricist, producer – and tenor saxophonist of world note, Benny Golson was born in Philadelphia, PA on January 25, 1929.

Raised with an impeccable musical pedigree, Golson has played in the bands of world famous Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Earl Bostic and Art Blakey.

Few jazz musicians can claim to be true innovators and even fewer can boast of a performing and recording career that literally redefines the term “jazz”. Benny Golson has made major contributions to the world of jazz with such jazz standards as: Killer Joe, I Remember Clifford, Along Came Betty, Stablemates, Whisper Not, Blues March, Five Spot After Dark, Are you Real?

Benny Golson is the only living jazz artist to have written 8 standards for jazz repertoire.

These jazz standards have found their way into countless recordings internationally over the years and are still being recorded.

He has recorded over 30 albums for many recording companies in the United States and Europe under his own name and innumerable ones with other major artists. A prodigious writer, Golson has written well over 300 compositions. For more than 60 years, Golson has enjoyed an illustrious, musical career in which he has not only made scores of recordings but has also composed and arranged music for: Count Basie, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Sammy Davis Jr., Mama Cass Elliott, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Shirley Horn, David Jones and the Monkees, Quincy Jones, Peggy Lee, Carmen McRae, Anita O’Day, Itzhak Perlman, Oscar Peterson, Lou Rawls, Mickey Rooney, Diana Ross, The Animals (Eric Burden), Mel Torme, George Shearing, Dusty Springfield.

His prolific writing includes scores for hit TV series and films: M*A*S*H, Mannix, Mission Impossible, Mod Squad, Room 222, Run for Your Life, The Partridge Family, The Academy Awards, The Karen Valentine Show, Television specials for ABC, CBS and NBC. Television specials for BBC in London and Copenhagen, Denmark. Theme for Bill Cosby’s last TV show, A french film ‘Des Femmes Disparaissent” (Paris).

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Benny Golson Plaque

The Heath Brothers

Jimmy, Percy, and Tootie Heath teamed up in 1975 to form the Heath Brothers. Up until then, bassist Percy had been busy with the Modern Jazz Quartet, but with the group in “retirement” (temporarily as it turned out), all three brothers were free to join forces. Originally a quartet with pianist Stanley Cowell, but expanding after the addition of guitarist Tony Purrone and Jimmy’s son Mtume on percussion, the band recorded for Strata East (1975), four albums for Columbia, and two for Island. Tootie Heath left the group early on and was replaced by Akira Tana, although he came back for the final 1983 record. Although the Heath Brothers’ music was essentially hard bop, there were occasional departures into jazzy R&B on isolated selection.

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Heath Brothers Plaque

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday was a true artist of her day and rose as a social phenomenon in the 1950s. Her soulful, unique singing voice and her ability to boldly turn any material that she confronted into her own music made her a superstar of her time. Today, Holiday is remembered for her masterpieces, creativity and vivacity, as many of Holiday’s songs are as well known today as they were decades ago. Holiday’s poignant voice is still considered to be one of the greatest jazz voices of all time.

Holiday began working with Lester Young in 1936, who pegged her with her now-famous nickname of “Lady Day.” When Holiday joined Count Basie in 1937 and then Artie Shaw in 1938, she became one of the very first black women to work with a white orchestra, an impressive accomplishment of her time. In the 1930s, when Holiday was working with Columbia Records, she was first introduced to the poem “Strange Fruit,” an emotional piece about the lynching of a black man. Though Columbia would not allow her to record the piece due to subject matter, Holiday went on to record the song with an alternate label, Commodore, and the song eventually became one of Holiday’s classics.

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Billie Holiday Plaque

Leon Huff

In tandem with his partner Leon Huff, producer and songwriter Kenny Gamble was the principal architect behind the lush and seductive Philly Soul sound, one of the most popular and influential musical developments of the 1970s.

Leon Huff started his musical career as a session pianist, and played on sessions for Phil Spector, the Ronettes, and Carole King in New York City before moving to Philadelphia. He formed the Locomotions, and did sessions for Cameo and Swan. Huff earned his first hit as a composer writing “Mixed-Up Shook-Up Girl” for Patty & the Emblems in 1964.

Native Philadelphian Kenny Gamble first teamed with Huff during the late ’50s while a member of the harmony group the Romeos, a unit which also included another aspiring area musician named Thom Bell, who would become crucial to Gamble’s later success. “The 81,” a 1964 single by the little-known Candy & the Kisses, was the inaugural Gamble-Huff co-production, and three years later the duo scored their first Top Five pop hit with the Soul Survivors’ “Expressway to Your Heart.” Soon recruiting Thom Bell as arranger, they subsequently scored with smashes including Archie Bell & the Drells’ “I Can’t Stop Dancing” and Jerry Butler’s “Only the Strong Survive,” gradually forging their own distinctive sound.

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Leon Huff Plaque

Philly Joe Jones

Philly Joe Jones, an innovator of modern jazz drum technique, was the drummer of choice for jazz giants Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Tadd Dameron, Gil Evans and others. Born Joseph Rudolph Jones, Philly Joe Jones was an exciting, explosive drummer and his influence on modern jazz is legendary.

Philly Joe  was one of the first African American trolley car drivers in Philadelphia (Philly Joe is on the far left).

Philly Joe Jones - Trolley Car

He left his hometown to hook into the New York jazz scene in 1952, where he worked with Tadd Dameron and then achieved critical and popular acclaim with the Miles Davis Quintet. He was prolific in his recordings, appearing as a leader on Blues for Dracula (1958), Drum Songs (1978), and others, and as a sideman with Miles Davis on Round Midnight (1955), Cookin’ (1956), Milestones (1958), and more.

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Philly Joe Jones Plaque

Eddie Lang

The first jazz guitar virtuoso, Eddie Lang, born Salvator Massaro, was everywhere in the late ’20s; all of his fellow musicians knew that he was the best. A boyhood friend of Joe Venuti, Lang took violin lessons for 11 years but switched to guitar before he turned professional. In 1924 he debuted with the Mound City Blue Blowers and was soon in great demand for recording dates, both in the jazz world and in commercial settings.

Lang’s sophisticated chord patterns made him a superior accompanist who uplifted everyone else’s music, and Lang was also a fine single-note soloist. He often teamed up with violinist Venuti (including some classic duets) and played with Red Nichols’s Five Pennies, Frankie Trumbauer and Bix Beiderbecke (most memorably on “Singing the Blues”), the orchestras of Roger Wolfe Kahn, Jean Goldkette and Paul Whiteman (appearing on one short number with Venuti in Whiteman’s 1930 film The King of Jazz) and anyone else who could hire him.

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Eddie Lang Plaque

MFSB Orchestra

The MFSB Orchestra was comprised of musicians handpicked by producers Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Thom Bell to be the house band for their recordings. It was the band that recorded the music tracks for the likes of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, the O’Jays, the Stylistics, the Spinners, Lou Rawls, Billy Paul and a host of others. A well-oiled machine with talent and enthusiasm so special that the group had to be given its own opportunity in the spotlight. Gamble & Huff did just that in 1973 by officially making the MFSB (Mother Father Sister Brother) Orchestra recording artists in their own right. The MFSB Orchestra quickly became an exciting melodic hybrid of swing, classical, jazz and R&B that went on to Grammy winning gold and platinum success.

MFSB Orchestra Plaque

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