Hank Crawford

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Hank Crawford
Bennie Ross Crawford, Jr..jpg
Background information
Birth nameBennie Ross Crawford, Jr
Born(1934-12-21)December 21, 1934
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
DiedJanuary 29, 2009(2009-01-29) (aged 74)
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
GenresR&B, hard bop, jazz-funk, soul jazz
Occupation(s)Saxophonist, songwriter
Instrument(s)Alto/baritone saxophone, piano
Years active1958–2009
LabelsMilestone, Atlantic

Bennie Ross "Hank" Crawford, Jr. (December 21, 1934 – January 29, 2009)[1] was an American alto saxophonist, arranger and songwriter whose genres ranged from R&B, hard bop, jazz-funk, and soul jazz. Crawford was musical director for Ray Charles before embarking on a solo career releasing many well-regarded albums for labels such as Atlantic, CTI and Milestone.


Crawford was born in Memphis, Tennessee, United States.[2] He began formal piano studies at the age of nine and was soon playing for his church choir. His father had brought an alto saxophone home from the service and when Hank entered Manassas High School, he took it up in order to join the band. He credits Charlie Parker, Louis Jordan, Earl Bostic and Johnny Hodges as early influences.

Crawford appears on an early 1952 Memphis recording for B.B. King, with a band including Ben Branch and Ike Turner.[3]

In 1958, Crawford went to college at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee.[2] While at TSU, he majored in music studying theory and composition, as well as playing alto and baritone saxophone in the Tennessee State Jazz Collegians. He also led his own rock 'n' roll quartet, "Little Hank and the Rhythm Kings". His bandmates all thought he looked and sounded just like Hank O'Day, a local saxophonist, which earned him the nickname "Hank".[4] This is when Crawford met Ray Charles, who hired Crawford originally as a baritone saxophonist.[2] Crawford switched to alto in 1959,[2] and remained with Charles' band — becoming its musical director until 1963.[5]

When Crawford left Ray Charles in 1963 to form his own septet, he had already established himself with several albums for Atlantic Records.[2] From 1960 until 1970, he recorded twelve LPs for the label, many while balancing his earlier duties as Ray's director. He released such pre-crossover hits as "Misty", "The Peeper", "Whispering Grass", and "Shake-A-Plenty".

He also has done musical arrangement for Etta James, Lou Rawls, and others.[6] Much of his career has been in R&B, but in the 1970s he had several successful jazz albums, with I Hear a Symphony reaching 11 on Billboard's Jazz albums list and 159 for Pop albums.

David Sanborn cites Crawford as being one of his primary influences.[7][8] Crawford is recognized by saxophonists as having a particularly unique and pleasing sound.[9] In 1981, he featured, with fellow horn players Ronnie Cuber and David Newman, on B.B. King's There Must Be a Better World Somewhere.

In 1983 he moved to Milestone Records as a premier arranger, soloist, and composer, writing for small bands including guitarist Melvin Sparks, organist Jimmy McGriff, and Dr. John.[10] In 1986, Crawford began working with blues-jazz organ master Jimmy McGriff.[2] They recorded five co-leader dates for Milestone Records: Soul Survivors, Steppin' Up, On the Blue Side, Road Tested, and Crunch Time, as well as two dates for Telarc Records: Right Turn on Blue and Blues Groove. The two toured together extensively.

The new century found Crawford shifting gears and going for a more mainstream jazz set in his 2000 release The World of Hank Crawford. Though the songs are compositions from jazz masters such as Duke Ellington and Tadd Dameron, he delivers in that sanctified church sound that is his trademark. Followed by The Best of Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff (2001).

Crawford died on January 29, 2009, at his home in Memphis, aged 74. The cause was complications of a stroke he had in 2000, his sister Delores said.[1]


As leader/co-leader[edit]

Year Title Label
1961 More Soul Atlantic Records
1962 The Soul Clinic Atlantic
1962 From the Heart Atlantic
1963 Soul of the Ballad Atlantic
1964 True Blue Atlantic
1965 Dig These Blues Atlantic
1966 After Hours Atlantic
1967 Mr. Blues Atlantic
1968 Double Cross Atlantic
1969 Mr. Blues Plays Lady Soul Atlantic
1970 The Best of Hank Crawford (compilation) Atlantic
1971 It's a Funky Thing to Do Cotillion/Atlantic
1972 Help Me Make it Through the Night Kudu/CTI Records
1972 We Got a Good Thing Going Kudu
1973 Wildflower Kudu
1974 Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing Kudu
1975 I Hear a Symphony Kudu
1976 Hank Crawford's Back Kudu
1977 Tico Rico Kudu
1978 Cajun Sunrise Kudu
1980 Centerpiece with Calvin Newborn Buddah Records
1982 Midnight Ramble Milestone Records
1983 Indigo Blue Milestone
1984 Down on the Deuce Milestone
1985 Roadhouse Symphony Milestone
1986 Soul Survivors with Jimmy McGriff Milestone
1986 Mr. Chips Milestone
1987 Steppin' Up with Jimmy McGriff Milestone
1989 Night Beat Milestone
1989 On the Blue Side with Jimmy McGriff Milestone
1990 Groove Master Milestone
1990 Bossa International with Richie Cole Milestone
1991 Portrait with Johnny "Hammond" Smith Milestone
1993 South Central Milestone
1994 Right Turn on Blue with Jimmy McGriff Telarc Records
1995 Blues Groove with Jimmy McGriff Telarc
1996 Tight Milestone
1997 Road Tested with Jimmy McGriff Milestone
1998 After Dark Milestone
1999 Crunch Time with Jimmy McGriff Milestone
2000 The World of Hank Crawford Milestone
2001 The Best of Hank Crawford & Jimmy McGriff (compilation) Milestone

As sideman[edit]

With Ray Charles

With Eric Clapton

With Grant Green

  • Easy (Versatile, 1978)

With Johnny Hammond

With Etta James

With B.B. King

With David "Fathead" Newman

With Shirley Scott

With Janis Siegel

  • The Tender Trap (Monarch, 1999)


  1. ^ a b Weber, Bruce. "Hank Crawford, Prolific Saxophonist, Dies at 74". The New York Times. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. pp. 578/9. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  3. ^ Robert Palmer. Deep Blues. Penguin Books. p. 220. ISBN 978-0-14-006223-6.
  4. ^ "Hank Crawford dies at 74; saxophonist in Ray Charles' band". Los Angeles Times. February 5, 2009. Retrieved August 21, 2021.
  5. ^ Lydon, Michael. Ray Charles: Man and Music, Routledge, p. 144 (2004) - ISBN 0-415-97043-1
  6. ^ "Down Beat Profile". Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved August 21, 2021.
  7. ^ Fairweather, Digby. The Rough Guide to Jazz, Rough Guides, p. 694 (2004) - ISBN 1-84353-256-5
  8. ^ Balfany, Greg (January–February 1989). "David Sanborn". Saxophone Journal. Vol. 13, no. 4. pp. 28–31.
  9. ^ Hank Crawford on Nightmusic on YouTube
  10. ^ Vladimir, Bogdanov. All Music Guide to the Blues: The Definitive Guide to the Blues, Backbeat Books, p. 133 (2003) - ISBN 0-87930-736-6

External links[edit]