Monk Montgomery, in Sweden 1953
|Birth name||William Howard Montgomery|
October 10, 1921|
Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
|Died||May 20, 1982
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
|Instruments||Bass guitar, double bass|
|Labels||MoJazz, Chisa, Philadelphia International|
|Associated acts||Wes Montgomery, Lionel Hampton, Cal Tjader, Red Norvo|
Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, into a musical family, Monk had three brothers and a sister. His older brother Thomas played drums, and died at 16. Monk played double bass, and gave his younger brother Wes (born 1923) a tenor guitar when Wes was 11 or 12. Wes took up the electric guitar at age 19 and went on to major success. The youngest brother, Buddy (born 1930) played piano and later took up the vibraphone. Their younger sister, Ervena (Lena), also played piano. The three brothers released a number of albums together as the Montgomery Brothers,  also playing together on some albums credited to Wes. Also Buddy and Monk recorded many albums together in their group The Mastersounds.
He is perhaps the first electric bassist of significance to jazz, taking up the Fender Precision Bass in 1952 or '53 after replacing Roy Johnson in the Lionel Hampton Orchestra. Monk played with his thumb (as did his brother Wes) and adapted his jazz playing from double bass to electric. In the 1960s he took up Fender Jazz Bass, playing with a felt pick.
His professional career did not start until after his younger brother Wes, at the age of 30. Wes worked for vibraphonist Lionel Hampton from 1948-1950, Monk then worked for Hampton around 1952-1953. Monk's recordings with The Art Farmer Septet on 2 July 1953 are some of the earliest recordings of the electric bass, and display his facility with walking bass lines, bebop melodies, and Latin-style ostinato, (Chuck Rainey said that Monk was the first to record). Monk toured and recorded in Europe with Hampton in late 1953. After that he worked briefly with the Anthony Ortega Quartet in Los Angeles,  and then with his brothers in the Montgomery-Johnson Quintet in Indianapolis (with Alonzo "Pookie" Johnson, sax, and Robert "Sonny" Johnson, drums). In 1955 he moved to Seattle to form The Mastersounds from 1957 to 1960. Later, from 1966 to 1970, he freelanced with vibraphonist Cal Tjader and continued to play where he settled in Las Vegas, Nevada, with The Red Norvo Trio until 1972.
Between 1969 and 1974 he released four solo albums.
In 1970 he recorded in Los Angeles with South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela. In 1974 he recorded his final solo album Monk Montgomery in Africa...Live! in Soweto, South Africa. In 1977 he helped organise the inaugural Maseru Music Festival in Lesotho which included Dizzy Gillespie, students and staff from Rutgers University and local musicians. In his final years he was active in the Las Vegas Jazz Society, which he founded, he also presented a local radio show. He had also been planning a world jazz festival.
Montgomery died of cancer in Las Vegas on May 20, 1982. He had a wife, Amelia, three sons, and four stepchildren.
- It's Never Too Late (1969, MoJazz)
- Bass Odyssey (1971, Chisa)
- Reality (1974, Philadelphia International)
- Monk Montgomery in Africa...Live! (1975, Philadelphia International)
- The Montgomery Brothers and 5 Others (World Pacific, 1957)
- Montgomeryland (Pacific Jazz, 1958)
- Wes, Buddy And Monk Montgomery (Pacific Jazz, 1958)
- Wes Montgomery - Far Wes (Pacific Jazz, 1958), all tracks with Buddy and Monk.
- Wes Montgomery - Echoes of Indiana Avenue (Resonance, 2012), recorded 1958-59, one track with Buddy and Monk.
- The Montgomery Brothers (Fantasy, 1960)
- Groove Yard (Riverside, 1961)
- Wes Montgomery - Complete Live at Jorgies (Definitive, 2002), recorded 1961, six tracks with Buddy and Monk.
- The Montgomery Brothers In Canada (Fantasy, 1961)
- Jazz Showcase Introducing The Mastersounds (Pacific Jazz Records, PJM 403, 1957)
- The King And I (Pacific Jazz Records, PJM 405, 1957)
- Kismet (World Pacific, 1958)
- The Flower Drum Song (World Pacific, 1958)
- Ballads and Blues (Vogue Records, 1959)
- The Mastersounds in Concert (Vogue Records, 1959)
- Happy Holidays from many lands (World Pacific, 1959)
- The Mastersounds play Horace Silver (World Pacific, 1960)
- Swinging with The Mastersounds (Fantasy, 1961)
- The Mastersounds on Tour (Fantasy, 1961)
- A Date with The Mastersounds (Fantasy, 1961)
- Art Farmer - The Art Farmer Septet (Prestige, 1954) recorded 2 July 1953
- Lionel Hampton - four dates issued under various titles:
- Stockholm, Sweden, 14 September 1953, live [European Concert 1953 (IAJRC), and other releases]
- Basel, Switzerland, 25 September 1953, live [European Tour 1953 (Royal Jazz), and other releases]
- Paris, France, 28 September 1953, studio [The Complete Paris Session 1953 (Vogue), and other releases]
- Berlin, Germany, 4 October 1953, live
- Jerry Coker - Modern Music from Indiana University (Fantasy, 1956) recorded 1955
- Jon Hendricks - A Good Git-Together (World Pacific, 1959)
- Johnny Griffin - Do Nothing 'til You Hear from Me (Riverside, 1963)
- Hampton Hawes - The Green Leaves of Summer (Contemporary Records, 1964)
- Jack Wilson - Ramblin' (Vault, 1966)
- Eddie Harris - Silver Cycles (Atlantic, 1968)
- Hugh Masekela - Reconstruction (Chisa, 1970)
- The Jazz Crusaders - The Pacific Jazz Quintet Studio Sessions (Mosiac, 2005), recorded 1970
- Kenny Burrell - Ellington Is Forever Volume Two (Fantasy, 1975)
- Monk Montgomery - The Monk Montgomery Electric Bass Method (Studio 224, 1978)
- Bass Heroes: Styles, Stories & Secrets of 30 Great Bass Players, Ed. Tom Mulhern, Backbeat Books, 1993, ISBN 0-87930-274-7
- Allmusic biography
- Interview with Chuck Rainey, Bass Heroes, ed. Tom Mulhern, 1993, pp165.
- Billboard, 10 December 1977, "US Musicians at Lesotho Jazz Fest", Hanford Searl
- Billboard, 28 January 1978, "Good things stem from Lesotho", Hanford Searl
- "William (Monk) Montgomery, Bass Player With Hampton". The New York Times. May 22, 1982. Retrieved on May 5, 2008.