|Birth name||Curtis Ousley|
February 7, 1934|
Fort Worth, Texas
|Died||August 13, 1971
New York, New York
|Genres||Soul, R&B, rock, funk, jazz|
|Occupations||Musician, bandleader, producer|
|Labels||King, Prestige, True Sound, Capitol, Atlantic, Groove|
|Associated acts||Aretha Franklin, The Coasters, John Lennon, The King Pins, Bernard Purdie, The Shirelles, The Noble Band, Cornell Dupree|
Curtis Ousley (February 7, 1934 – August 13, 1971), who performed under the stage name King Curtis, was an American saxophone virtuoso known for rhythm and blues, rock and roll, soul, blues, funk and soul jazz. Variously a bandleader, band member, and session musician, he was also a musical director and record producer. Adept at tenor, alto, and soprano saxophone, he was best known for his distinctive riffs and solos such as on "Yakety Yak", which later became the inspiration for Boots Randolph's "Yakety Sax" and his own "Memphis Soul Stew".
Early life 
Curtis Ousley was adopted, with his sister, Josephine Ousley Allen. They were raised together in Fort Worth. Ousley attended I.M. Terrell High School, and studied and performed music with schoolmate Ornette Coleman.
Curtis started playing saxophone at the age of twelve in the Fort Worth area. He took interest in many musical genres including jazz, rhythm and blues, and popular music. As a student pursuing music, he turned down college scholarships in order to join the Lionel Hampton Band. During his time with Hampton, he was able to write and arrange music and learn guitar. In 1952 Curtis decided to move to New York and became a session musician, recording for such labels as Prestige, Enjoy, Capitol, and Atco. He recorded with Nat Adderley and Wynton Kelly, Buddy Holly and Andy Williams.
Stylistically, Curtis took inspiration from saxophonists Lester Young, Louis Jordan, Illinois Jacquet, Earl Bostic, and Gene Ammons. Known for his syncopated and percussive style, he was both versatile and powerful as a musician. He put together a group during his time as a session musician that included Richard Tee, Cornell Dupree, Jerry Jemmott, and Bernard Purdie.
Move into rock 
King Curtis enjoyed playing jazz and rhythm & blues but decided he would make more money as a rhythm & blues musician, stating in a 1971 interview with Charlie Gillet that "I love the authentic rhythm & blues more than anything, and I also like to live well." From the 1950s until the mid-1960s, he worked as a session player, recording under his own name and with others such as the Coasters, with whom he recorded "Yakety Yak." Buddy Holly hired him for session work, during which they recorded "Reminiscing." Holly wrote this song, but gave Curtis the songwriting credit for flying down to the session. His best-known singles from this period are "Soul Twist" and "Soul Serenade."
In 1965, he moved to Atlantic Records and recorded his most successful singles, "Memphis Soul Stew" and "Ode to Billie Joe" (1967). He worked with The Coasters, led Aretha Franklin's backing band The Kingpins. The Kingpins opened for The Beatles during their 1965 performance at Shea Stadium. Curtis produced records, often working with Jerry Wexler and recorded for Groove Records during this period, including the Joe South song "Games People Play" with guitarist Duane Allman.
In 1970, he appeared with Aretha Franklin and The Kingpins on Aretha Live at Fillmore West, and another record, Live at Fillmore West. In July 1971, Curtis recorded saxophone solos on "It's So Hard" and "I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier Mama I Don't Wanna Die" from John Lennon's Imagine. Along with The Rimshots, he recorded the original theme song for the 1971 hit television show, Soul Train, titled "Hot Potatoes."
Around midnight on August 13, 1971 Curtis was lugging an air-conditioning unit toward his brownstone apartment on West 86th Street in New York City when he noticed two substance abusers were using drugs on the steps to his home. When he asked them to leave, an argument started. The argument quickly became heated and turned into a fist fight with one of the men, 26-year old Juan Montañez. Montañez pulled a knife and stabbed Curtis in the chest. Curtis managed to wrest the knife away and stab his assailant four times before collapsing. Montañez staggered away from the scene and Curtis was taken to Roosevelt Hospital, where he died from his wounds less than an hour later.
Montañez was arrested at the same hospital Curtis had been taken to. When police officers investigating the murder discovered that another man had been admitted to Roosevelt hospital with stab wounds around the same time as Curtis, they quickly realized the two events were connected. Montañez was charged with Curtis' murder and subsequently sentenced to a term of imprisonment.
On the day of Curtis' funeral Atlantic Records closed their offices. Jesse Jackson administered the service and as the mourners filed in, Curtis's band 'The Kingpins' played "Soul Serenade". Among those attending were Ousley's immediate family including sister Josephine Ousley Allen, other family members, Aretha Franklin, Cissy Houston, Brook Benton and Duane Allman. Franklin sang the closing spiritual "Never Grow Old" and Stevie Wonder performed "Abraham, Martin and John and now King Curtis".
Curtis was subsequently buried in a red granite-fronted wall crypt in the 'West Gallery of Forsythia Court' mausoleum at Pinelawn Memorial Park in Farmingdale, New York, the same cemetery that holds Jazz greats Count Basie and John Coltrane.
King Curtis 
- The Good Old Fifties (1959)
- Have Tenor Sax, Will Blow (1959)
- Azure (1960)
- King Soul (1960)
- Soul Meeting (1960)
- Party Time (1961)
- Trouble in Mind (1961)
- Old Gold (1961)
- Night Train (1961)
- Doin' the Dixie Twist (1962)
- Country Soul (1962)
- Soul Twist and other Golden Classics (1962)
- It's Party Time (1962)
- The Best of (1962)
- Soul Serenade (1964)
- Plays Hits made by Sam Cooke (1965)
- That Lovin' Feeling (1966)
- Live at Small's Paradise (1966)
- Play Great Memphis Hits (1967)
- Memphis Soul Stew (1967) #33 Pop, #6 R&B
- Sweet Soul (1968)
- Sax in Motion (1968)
- Instant Groove (1969)
- Everybody Talkin (1970)
- Get Ready (1970)
- Blues at Montreux (1971)
King Curtis and The Kingpins 
- Soul Twist (1962) with The Noble Knights
- The Shirelles & King Curtis Give A Twist Party (1962) with The Shirelles a/k/a Eternally, Soul (1968)
- King Size Soul (1967)
- Live at Fillmore West (1971)
As sideman 
|This section requires expansion. (January 2013)|
With Jimmy Forrest
- Soul Street (New Jazz, 1960)
With Oliver Nelson
- Soul Battle (Prestige, 1960) - with Jimmy Forrest
With Shirley Scott
- Shirley Scott & the Soul Saxes (Atlantic, 1969)
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- Schumach, Murray (1971-08-15). That morning, when radio DJ Herb Hamlett started his show on WCMF FM, he received a call from long-time friend Frankie Crocker, who delivered the news of King's death. Hamlett wept openly on the air for his long-time friend. Hamlett opened and closed all his programs with Curtis' "Memphis Soul Stew" Hamlett in tribute played all King's albums the remainder of his show. res=F40615F8355B137A93C7A81783D85F458785F9&scp=1&sq=King+Curtis&st=p "King Curtis is stabbed to death". nytimes.com. Retrieved 2008-02-01.
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