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Sun, 12.12.1943

Grover Washington Jr., Jazz Saxophonist born

Grover Washington Jr.

On this date in 1943, Grover Washington, Jr., was born. He was a Black saxophonist who played tenor, alto, soprano, and baritone; he also played the clarinet, electric bass, and piano; and he was a composer.

Born in Buffalo, N.Y., he grew up in a musical family. Washington started playing the saxophone when he was 10 and was already playing in clubs as a teenager. After graduating from high school at the age of 16, he formed a group called The Four Clefs, which was based in Ohio.

Washington was drafted into the army and sent to radio school at Fort Dix, N.J., where he was accepted into the Nineteenth Army Band.  The logistical advantage of being near New York City allowed him to moonlight and connect with many of the great musicians of his time.

But it wasn't until the 1970s that Washington hit it big, playing a style of crossover instrumental music that appealed to many musical tastes. His record sales, in particular, were enormous as they achieved gold and platinum status. He also won a double-Grammy for his platinum album Winelight. Washington helped usher in what has now become adult contemporary music.

He continued to record and tour internationally, playing at clubs and festivals worldwide. Grover Washington died in 1999.

Heart & Soul:
A Celebration of Black Music Style in America, 1930-1975
by Merlis Davin Seay, Forward by Etta James
Copyright 2002, Billboard Books
ISBN 0-8230-8314-4

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