Marshal Royal

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Marshal Royal
Birth name Marshal Walton Royal Jr.
Born (1912-12-05)December 5, 1912
Sapulpa, Oklahoma, U.S.
Died (1995-05-09)May 9, 1995
Culver City, California
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Clarinet, saxophone
Associated acts Count Basie

Marshal Walton Royal Jr. (December 5, 1912 – May 9, 1995)[1] was an American jazz clarinettist and alto saxophonist best known for his work with Count Basie, with whose band he played for nearly twenty years.

Early life and education[edit]

Marshal Royal Jr. was born into a musical family in Sapulpa, Oklahoma,[1] the elder brother of trumpeter Ernie Royal, and learned to play piano, violin, guitar, clarinet and sax while still a child. The family had moved to Los Angeles, California by the time he was five years old. His mother, Ernestine (née Walton) Royal, began giving him piano lessons when he was three, and his father, from Sherman, Texas, began teaching him violin when he was six.[citation needed]


Royal's first professional gig was with Lawrence Brown's band at Danceland in Los Angeles, and he soon had a regular gig at the Apex, working for Curtis Mosby in Mosby's Blue Blowers, a 10-piece band. He then began an eight-year (1931–1939) stint with the Les Hite orchestra at Sebastian's Cotton Club, which was near the MGM studios in Los Angeles. He spent 1940 to 1942 with Lionel Hampton, until the war interrupted his career.

With his brother, Ernie, he served in the U.S. Navy in the 45-piece regimental band that was attached to the Navy's preflight training school for pilots at St. Mary's College in Moraga, California. The band played for bond rallies, regimental reviews, at football games, and in concerts for the cadets and the community. Two swing bands were organized from the larger regimental band, and they played for smokers and dances at USOs and officers clubs. Royal was leader of the Bombardiers, one of those bands, which also included his brother, Ernie, Jackie Kelson (later known as Jackie Kelso), Buddy Collette, Jerome Richardson, and Vernon Alley.[2][3]

After his military service, Royal played with Eddie Heywood, then went on to work in studios in Los Angeles, California. In 1951 Royal replaced Buddy DeFranco as clarinettist with Count Basie's septet, which Basie had formed after circumstances forced him to dissolve his big band. When the Basie band was reformed the following year, Royal stayed on as lead alto saxophonist and as music director — not to leave until 1970.[citation needed]

When he left Basie in 1970, Royal settled permanently in Los Angeles, continuing to play and record, working with Bill Berry's big band, Frank Capp and Nat Pierce, Earl Hines, and Duke Ellington. Royal recorded as a soloist with Dave Frishberg in 1977,[4] and with Warren Vache in 1978. He co-led a band with Snooky Young in the 1970s and 1980s, recording with it in 1978,[5] and with Ella Fitzgerald and Gene Harris, among others. In 1989 he took the lead alto chair with Frank Wess's band. Royal was a guest soloist on The Lawrence Welk Show (Salute to Irving Berlin).[citation needed]

Marshal died in Culver City, California, in 1995, aged 82.[1]


As sideman[edit]

With Count Basie

With Clifford Coulter

With Joe Newman


  1. ^ a b c Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 342. ISBN 978-0313344237. 
  2. ^ Royal (2001).
  3. ^ Walsh, Alex. "Earl Watkins—Mr. Lucky". Local 6 Archives. San Francisco, CA: Musicians Union Local 6. 
  4. ^ Dave Frishberg GETTING SOME FUN OUT OF LIFE Concord Jazz LP cj-37
  5. ^ a b Yanow, Scott. "Snooky & Marshal's Album: Review by Scott Yanow". Retrieved 2015-04-11. 


  • Royal, Marshal (2001). Marshal Royal: Jazz Survivor. A&C Black. ISBN 9780826458049. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]