King Curtis Day

February 7, 1934 – August 13, 1971

Soul Serenade

Saxophonist Curtis “King Curtis” Ousley was born February 7, 1934 in Fort Worth, Texas. 

He was one of the many outstanding musicians to come out of the fertile Fort Worth music scene.

He picked up the sax at 13 and turned down a college scholarship to tour with the Lionel Hampton Band, where he learned to write music and play guitar.

In the 50s, he worked as a studio musician recording with Nat Adderley, Wynton Kelly, Buddy Holly and Andy Williams.

His career expanded to the point where his band The Kingpins opened for the Beatles at their 1965 concert at Shea Stadium. He recorded with Duane Allman and appeared on John Lennon’s “Imagine’ and performed extensively with Aretha Franklin.

King Curtis is featured with his band for a 1970 soprano saxophone performance of his signature tune.

“King” Curtis Ousley was an exceptional jazz saxophonist who crossed over to rhythm and blues.

Curtis moved to New York in 1952 and became a session musician appearing on the recordings of Nat Adderley, Buddy Holly, and Wynton Kelly among others.

In 1970, he appeared with Aretha Franklin and The Kingpins on Aretha Live at Fillmore West, and another record, Live at Fillmore West. 

“Soul Serenade” was played at King Curtis’ 1971 funeral by his band “The Kingpins.” 

The life a career of King Curtis was cut tragically short on August 13, 1971, when he was stabbed to death on the steps of his apartment building, the victim of a senseless act of random violence.

The service was led by a young Reverend Jesse Jackson with mourners including Stevie Wonder, Duane Allman, and Aretha Franklin.


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