Doug Watkins

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Doug Watkins
Doug Watkins.jpg
Watkins c. 1950
Background information
Born(1934-03-02)March 2, 1934
Detroit, Michigan, United States
DiedFebruary 5, 1962(1962-02-05) (aged 27)
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
InstrumentsDouble bass, cello
Years active1950–1962
LabelsBlue Note, Prestige, Atlantic
Associated actsArt Blakey, Horace Silver, Sonny Rollins, Hank Mobley, Charles Mingus, Red Garland, Donald Byrd, Kenny Burrell, Lee Morgan

Douglas Watkins (March 2, 1934 – February 5, 1962) was an American jazz double bassist.[1] He was best known for being an accompanist to various hard bop artists in the Detroit area, including Donald Byrd and Jackie McLean.[2]


Watkins was born in Detroit, Michigan, United States.[1] An original member of the Jazz Messengers, he later played in Horace Silver's quintet[3] and freelanced with Gene Ammons, Kenny Burrell, Donald Byrd, Art Farmer, Jackie McLean, Hank Mobley,[3] Lee Morgan, Sonny Rollins, and Phil Woods among others.

Some of Watkins' best-known work can be heard, when as a 22-year-old, he appeared on the 1956 album, Saxophone Colossus by tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, with Max Roach and Tommy Flanagan.[1] From that session, the tunes "Blue Seven" and "St. Thomas," especially, have become revered not only as evidence of Rollins' original genius but as fine examples of Watkins' work.[citation needed]

According to Horace Silver's autobiography, Let's Get to the Nitty Gritty, Watkins, along with Silver, later left Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers because the other members of the band at the time (Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley and Blakey) had serious drug problems, whereas Watkins and Silver were tired of being harassed and searched by the police every time they went to a gig in a new city and club.[4]

In 1958, Watkins joined Donald Byrd for a European tour, taking up extended residence at Le Chat Qui Pêche, a jazz club on Paris' Left Bank. Along with Byrd, tenor saxophonist Bobby Jaspar, pianist Walter Davis, Jr. and drummer Art Taylor, Watkins made two albums with Byrd during this time, one recorded in the club and another at a formal concert featuring Byrd's quintet.

Watkins was known for his superb tone and distinct phrasing. He had a distinct walking tone and was right on the beat, forming an organic, indivisible relationship with his instrument as he swayed with it in perfect time.[citation needed] Pianist Red Garland often stated that Watkins was his favorite bassist and that he was always in tune and never off-key.[citation needed] Watkins played with Garland in 1959, along with drummer Specs Wright.

While Watkins lived only to the age of 27, he appeared on well over 350 LPs in his career backing many major jazz stars of the time.[citation needed] When Charles Mingus briefly ventured over to the piano stool in 1961, he hired Watkins to take over the bass part; Oh Yeah!!! and Tonight at Noon were the results.[1]

Watkins recorded only two albums as leader. Watkins at Large (1956) is an album for the tiny Transition label, made with fellow members of the Horace Silver Quintet of the time — most recently it has been available on a two-disc set, The Transition Sessions (Blue Note, 2002), which incorporates two additional Transition dates on which Watkins appears.

The other Watkins-led session, Soulnik (1960), with Yusef Lateef and reissued as part of the OJC series, features Watkins on cello with Herman Wright backing him on bass. The cello was an instrument he had started to play only three days before the recording session.[citation needed]

Watkins died in an automobile accident on February 5, 1962, while traveling from Arizona to San Francisco to meet drummer Philly Joe Jones for a gig.[1] He fell asleep at the wheel and was hit head-on by an oncoming truck. The other occupants of the car, pianist Sir Roland Hanna and trumpeter Bill Hardman, survived the crash.


As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Pepper Adams

With Gene Ammons

With Art Blakey

With Tina Brooks

With Kenny Burrell

With Donald Byrd

With John Coltrane

  • Dakar (Prestige, 1957 [1963])

With Tommy Flanagan

With Curtis Fuller

With Red Garland

With Benny Golson

With Bill Hardman

With Wilbur Harden

With Thad Jones

With Yusef Lateef

With Jackie McLean

With Charles Mingus

With Hank Mobley

With Lee Morgan

With The Prestige All Stars

With Paul Quinichette

With Dizzy Reece

With Rita Reys

With Sonny Rollins

With Horace Silver

With Louis Smith

With Idrees Sulieman

  • Roots (New Jazz, 1958) with the Prestige All Stars

With Billy Taylor

With Phil Woods


  1. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (2002). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Fifties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. p. 479. ISBN 1-85227-937-0.
  2. ^ "Doug Watkins | Artists". Retrieved 2018-06-26.
  3. ^ a b "Doug Watkins: The Hard Bop Homepage". Retrieved 2019-10-29.
  4. ^ Silver, Horace (1 August 2007). Let's Get to the Nitty Gritty. University of California Press. ISBN 0520253922.