Curtis King
King Curtis
live in concert
Birth name Curtis Ousley
Date 7 February 1934
Origins Fort Worth, Texas, United States
Genres Soul, R&B, rock, funk, jazz
Occupation Musician, bandleader, producer
Associated acts Aretha Franklin, The Coasters, The King Pins, Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, The Shirelles, The Noble Band, Cornell Dupree

Curtis Ousley (February 7, 1934 – August 13, 1971), who performed under the name King Curtis, was an American tenor, alto, and soprano saxophonist and session musician who played rhythm and blues, Rock and roll, soul, Funk and soul jazz. He was also a musical director and record producer. He is best known for his distinctive sax riffs and solos such as on "Yakety Yak", which later became the inspiration for Boots Randolph's "Yakety Sax" and his own "Memphis Soul Stew".

Career Edit

During the 1950s and early to mid 1960s he both worked as a session player. He recorded under his own name and with others such as the Coasters with whom he recorded "Yakety Yak". Buddy Holly hired him for session work during which they recorded "Reminiscing". His best known singles from this period are "Soul Twist" and "Soul Serenade" .

In 1965 he moved to Atlantic Records and recorded his most successful singles "Memphis Soul Stew" and "Ode to Billie Joe" (1967). He worked with The Coasters, led Aretha Franklin's backing band The Kingpins. Curtis produced records, often working with Jerry Wexler and recorded for Groove Records during this period.

In 1970 he appeared with Aretha Franklin and The King Pins on Aretha Live at Fillmore West, which included a version of "Memphis Soul Stew" and covers of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" and Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours". The line-up for these performances included,Hammond organ player Billy Preston, bassist Jerry Jemmott, guitarist Cornell Dupree, Pancho Morales (percussion), drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie and The Memphis Horns. The cover of Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale" was taken from this album, and used as the title music in the cult British comedy film, Withnail & I. During 1971 Curtis recorded a saxophone solo on "It's So Hard" from John Lennon's Imagine.

Death Edit

On August 13, 1971, Curtis was stabbed, and taken to Roosevelt Hospital, where he died from his wounds. On the day of the funeral Atlantic Records closed their offices. Jesse Jackson administered the service and as the mourners filed in, Curtis's band 'The Kingpins' played "Soul Serenade". Amongst those attending were Aretha Franklin, Cissy Houston, Brook Benton and Duane Allman. Franklin sang the closing spiritual "Never Grow Old" and Stevie Wonder performed "Abraham, Martin & John and now King Curtis".

Awards Edit

In 1970, Curtis won the Best R&B Instrumental Performance Grammy for "Games People Play".

Hall of Fame Edit

Curtis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 6, 2000.

Discography Edit

  • The Good Old Fifties (1959)
  • Have Tenor Sax, Will Blow (1959)
  • Azure(1960)
  • King Soul (1960)
  • Soul Meeting (1960)
  • Party Time (1961)
  • Trouble in Mind (1961)
  • Old Gold (1961)
  • Night Train (1961)
  • Doin' the Dixie Twist (1962)
  • Country Soul (1962)
  • Soul Twist and other Golden Classics (1962)
  • It's Party Time (1962)
  • The Best of (1962)
  • Soul Serenade (1964)
  • Plays Hits made by Sam Cooke (1965)
  • That Lovin' Feeling (1966)
  • Live at Small's Paradise (1966)
  • Play Great Memphis Hits (1967)
  • Sweet Soul (1968)
  • Sax in Motion (1968)
  • Instant Groove (1969)
  • Everybody Talkin (1970)
  • Get Ready (1970)
  • Blues at Montreux (1971)

King Curtis and The Kingpins Edit

  • King Size Soul (1967)
  • Eternally, Soul (1968) with The Shirelles
  • Soul Twist(1962) with The Noble Nights
  • Live at Fillmore West (1971)

Refernces Edit