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Tue, 10.06.1908

Sammy Price, twentieth century jazz pianist

Sammy Price album

On this date in 1908, Sammy Price, an African American jazz pianist, was born.

Born in Honey Grove, TX, Samuel Blythe Price grew up in Waco, where he learned to play alto saxophone. Portia Pittman, the daughter of Booker T. Washington was his piano teacher in Dallas. His career began in 1925 when he joined the Alphone Trent Orchestra as a Charleston dancer. Soon after he was leading his own big band in Dallas. In the 1920s, he performed with Benny Long, Lem Johnson, Leonard Chadwick, and in 1927, he toured with the Let’s Go Show.

Price lived in Kansas City, Chicago, and Detroit before settling in New York where he began a long relationship with Decca Records. As a recording supervisor and arranger, he worked with many top artists of the time, including Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Peetie Wheatstraw, and Blue Lu Baker. Price also led his own group, the Texas Blusicians. In the 1940s, Price recorded for Mezz Mezzrow’s King Label as both a solo and boogie-woogie pianist; he also sided with Sidney Bechet and organized the first black-run jazz festival in Philadelphia.

Until 1957, Price’s charm and playing brought him to Europe more than once and he acquired two nightclubs in the Dallas area. He then moved back to New York and recorded several albums, including "Blues and Boogie" (1955) and "The Price is Right" (1956). During the 1960s, he left the music business briefly to work in community affairs and run his Down Home Meat Products Company. Upon returning to the stage and studio, Price played with a group called Two-Tenor Boogie, recording "Midnight Boogie" (1969), "Fire" (1975), "Black Beauty" (1979), and "Play it Again Sam" (1983).

His best major appearance was at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall as part of the 1991 JVC Jazz Festival. Sammy Price died in April 1992.

A Century of Jazz, by Roy Carr
Da Capo Press, New York
Copyright 1997
ISBN 0-306-80778-5

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