Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman celebrates a musician who was nicknamed for his lively stage performances.
You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Friday on KXT and Saturday on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KERA radio’s 90.1 at Night.
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Arnett Cobb, who died on March 24, 1989, was born in Houston on Aug. 10, 1918. Cobb learned piano from his grandmother before playing tenor sax in his high school marching band. While still a teenager, he began touring throughout the Southwest and soon was performing with such nationally-prominent artists as Milt Larkin, Eddie Vinson and Lionel Hampton. Cobb’s dynamic showmanship and his bold playing style earned him the nickname “The Wild Man of the Tenor Sax.” Cobb worked with a number of well-known jazz artists during the 1940s and 1950s, playing at such legendary venues as Harlem’s Apollo Theater. In 1959, he moved back to Houston, where he managed the Club Ebony and helped organize performances by Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald and others. Cobb continued to perform and mentor scores of younger musicians, and, in 1986, he founded the Jazz Heritage Society of Texas.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll remember a young singer whose promising career ended tragically.