Houston's own, saxophonist Arnett Cobb


Arnett Cobb
Date: 
Sat, 1918-08-10

*On this date in 1918, Arnett Cobb was born. He was an African American jazz tenor saxophonist.

From Houston, Texas, Arnett Cleophus Cobb was taught piano by his grandmother and went on to study violin before taking up tenor saxophone in the high school band. When he was fifteen he joined Louisiana band leader Frank Davis's band doing shows in Houston and throughout Louisiana during the summer. He worked with trumpeter Chester Boone for two years and left to play with Milton Larkin in 1936. Cobb played with Larkin's band for six years while it toured the country; its clubs included the Apollo Theatre in Harlem and the Rhumboogie Club in Chicago owned by boxer Joe Louis.

Cobb turned down an offer from Count Basie in 1939 but in 1942 accepted an offer from Lionel Hampton to take Illinois Jacquet's seat. Although his fans doubted that anyone could successfully replace Jacquet, within a short time Cobb became as popular. Hampton rerecorded his theme song, Flying Home No. 2, with Cobb as the featured soloist, and the excitement brought out by his uninhibited, blasting style earned him the label "Wild Man of the Tenor Sax." He was a major player in the Hampton band for five years. He left Hampton in 1947 and formed his own small group, which recorded a series of singles, including the hits Dutch Kitchen Bounce, Big Red's Dreams, and When I Grow Too Old to Dream.

After only seven months on the road Cobb was forced to disband the group and undergo spinal surgery and a long hospital stay because of Pott's disease, a tubercular condition of the vertebrae. He recovered and reorganized his group in 1950 and resumed touring in 1951. In 1956 he became permanently disabled as a result of a car crash. Doctors advised against it, but a year later he was performing coast to coast, although from this time on, he could not walk without crutches. In 1959, Cobb moved from New Jersey back home to Houston permanently.

From 1960 onwards he managed Club Ebony, performed locally with his own band and with other famous jazz performers, and toured to New York and Europe, all between stints in the hospital. Cobb received a Grammy nomination in 1979 for best jazz instrumental performance and shared a Grammy with B. B. King in 1984 for best traditional blues performance. In 1986 he founded the Jazz Heritage Society of Texas, which established the Jazz Archives at the Houston Public Library. Arnett Cobb died in Houston on March 24, 1989, and was survived by his daughter.

Reference:
All Media Guide
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Person / name: 

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