February 3, 2004 – Cornelius Bumpus was born on May 7, 1945 in Santa Cruz, California. Bumpus began his career at the age of ten, playing alto saxophone in his school band in Santa Cruz, California. He put his love of music down to his parents’ record collection – it included early Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Fats Domino and James Brown. By the time Bumpus was 12, he was already landing gigs, playing at Portuguese dances in central California.
In 1966, he spent six months performing with the Bobby Freeman band, then embarked on a series of ventures as he honed his talent. In 1977, he joined Moby Grape, writing one tune for their Live Grape album. He also recorded two solo albums and toured with his own band.
Soon afterwards, he hooked up with the Doobie Brothers, and from 1979 to 1982 he toured and recorded with them. When the Doobies reunited in the late 1980s, Bumpus eagerly rejoined the fold. However, his relations with his former bandmates turned sour in the late 1990s, when they sued him and several other musicians over their use of the Doobie Brothers’ name. A US federal judge in 1999 ruled against Bumpus and the others, ordering them not to use the name.
Bumpus also performed with the likes of Steely Dan and Boz Scaggs. He loved playing saxophone so much, that he was liable to turn up at weddings – and occasionally busked in the subways of his adopted home city of New York.
Bumpus died after suffering a heart attack on a flight from New York to California where he was due to perform. Steely Dan, on their website, expressed their “profound sorrow and sympathy to Cornelius’ wife and family”.