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Buddy Lucas 3/1983

Buddy LucasMarch 18, 1983 – Buddy Lucas was born Alonzo W. Lucas on August 16, 1914 (Session musician) in Pritchard, Alabama, he made his first recordings in 1951 for Jerry Blaine’s Jubilee label, where he also became leader of the house band.

As a bandleader, he led bands such as Buddy Lucas & His Band of Tomorrow, the Gone All Stars and Buddy Lucas & His Shouters and he also went under the stage name of “Big” Buddy Lucas.

He was much-in-demand session saxophonist on the East Coast and recorded with Little Willie John, Nina Simone, Roberta Flack, Count Basie, Jimi Hendix, Roy Buchanan, Horace Silver, Bernard Purdie, Titus Turner, The Rascals, Yusef Lateef and Aretha Franklin among others.

The solo recording career of Buddy Lucas, a tenor saxophonist who doubled on harmonica, started a bit less than a year before fellow R&B honker Jimmy Forrest rode the first hit version of the instrumental entitled “Night Train.” Once that express had left the station, opportunities to follow in hot pursuit were aplenty for saxmen such as Lucas, Earl Bostic, and Sam “The Man” Taylor. Lucas’ run of recordings under his own name continued on into the ’60s, running on a parallel track with his work as a studio session player. Undoubtedly the majority of his performances on record stem from the latter category, particularly his blowing on the questioning “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” by the Teenagers in 1956 and the soggy “Tears on My Pillow” by Little Anthony & the Imperials in 1958. Meanwhile, Lucas was responsible for dozens of singles and albums, enjoying a creative run in which the names of labels, songs, and bands all vie for the groovy gravy. He cut sides for Groove, Gone, Jubilee, Tru-Sound, Mohawk — even a record company called Lawn.

Then there were the songs themselves, a combination of popular and sentimental vocal music standards and wild-ass novelty songs and instrumentals out of which tales of drunken revelry could easily be spun: “Greedy Pig,” “Let’s Go to the Party,” “I Got Drunk,” “I Need Help,” “No Dice.” “Money, Money, Money, Money, Money” was hopefully the result. At least one album spotlighted his harmonica playing, the jam-packed 50 Harmonica Favorites, credited to “Big” Buddy Lucas & the Wigglers. This artist also recorded a pair of albums in the ’50s for the Savoy label accompanying dynamic blues singer Big Maybelle. In the late ’60s he was featured with Nina Simone, coming up with a fine harmonica part for the standard “Since I Fell for You.” Lucas’ session activities also led into the realm of modern jazz, usually when a performer known for far-out sounds attempts to display his funkier side: prime examples are Albert Ayler’s New Grass and the Atlantic Blue Yusef Lateef LP. Lucas eventually ran his own label, Steamboat, and among his pet projects was a doo wop combo featuring his son, Buddy Lucas, Jr.

In the late 1960s Buddy slowed down on studio work and concentrated on TV and radio commercials. Starting in 1972, he played in the band in the Broadway musical “Purlie” for almost two years, but his diabetes began to take its toll. He began to work with his old friend Herman Bradley in a trio at the Catch 22, a local club.

In 1980 his right lung was removed after cancer was discovered, but he was still able to play a little sax and harmonica in Bradley’s group. In December 1982 he finally gave up due to ill-health and on March 18, 1983 he passed away at age 68.

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