John Simmons (musician)

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John Simmons, ca. July 1947
Photograph by William P. Gottlieb.
(From left:) Dave Lambert, John Simmons, Chubby Jackson, George Handy, and Dizzy Gillespie, William P. Gottlieb's office, New York, N.Y., ca. July 1947
Photograph by William P. Gottlieb.

John Simmons (June 14, 1918 in Haskell, Oklahoma – September 19, 1979 in Orange, New York) was an American jazz bassist.

Simmons played trumpet at first, but a sports injury prevented him from continuing on the instrument. He picked up bass instead, landing his first professional gigs a mere four months after starting on the instrument. Early on he played with Nat King Cole and Teddy Wilson (1937), then moved to Chicago, where he played with Jimmy Bell, King Kolax, Floyd Campbell, and Johnny Letman. He played with Roy Eldridge in 1940 and spent 1941-42 variously in the employs of Benny Goodman, Cootie Williams, and Louis Armstrong. In 1942-43 he worked in the CBS Blue Network Orchestra, then played with Duke Ellington (1943), Eddie Heywood (1945), and Illinois Jacquet (1946), in addition to doing much studio work. He continued to work as a studio musician for much of the 1950s, and also played with Erroll Garner (1950–52), Harry "Sweets" Edison (1955), Art Tatum (1955), and the Rolf Ericson/Duke Jordan band (1956). One of his last associations was with Phineas Newborn in 1960; ill health forced his retirement not long afterwards.

In addition to the above, Simmons also recorded with Lester Young, James P. Johnson, Hot Lips Page, Ben Webster, Billie Holiday, Sidney DeParis, Sid Catlett, Coleman Hawkins, Don Byas, Benny Carter, Bill DeArango, Al Casey, Ella Fitzgerald, Charles Thompson, Thelonious Monk, and Erroll Garner.

He is the father of NBC New York newscaster Sue Simmons.


With Maynard Ferguson

With Matthew Gee

With Phineas Newborn, Jr.