Melvin Sparks

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Melvin Sparks
Born March 22, 1946
Houston, Texas, United States.
Died March 15, 2011(2011-03-15) (aged 64)
Mount Vernon, New York, United States
Genres Soul jazz, hard bop, jazz blues
Occupation(s) Guitarist
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1960s–2011
Labels Prestige, Savant

Melvin Sparks (March 22, 1946 – March 15, 2011)[1] was an American soul jazz, hard bop and jazz blues guitarist. He recorded a number of albums for Prestige Records, later recording for Savant Records. He appeared on several recordings with musicians including Lou Donaldson, Sonny Stitt, Leon Spencer and Johnny Hammond Smith.[1]

Sparks was born in Houston, Texas, United States, and raised in a musical family. He received his first guitar at age 11. Sparks began working in the rhythm and blues genre as a high school student, first with Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, and then with the Upsetters, a touring band formed by Little Richard, which also backed Jackie Wilson, Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye.[2]

Sparks moved to New York City and worked as a session musician for Blue Note and Prestige Records. As part of the burgeoning soul-jazz scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Sparks often backed organists like Jack McDuff, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Charles Earland. Sparks released his debut album, Sparks!, for Prestige in 1970.[2]

He was seen on Northeastern television commercials as the voice of Price Chopper's House of BBQ advertising campaign.[3]

Sparks died on March 15, 2011, at age 64, at his home in Mount Vernon, New York. He had diabetes and high blood pressure.[2]


As leader[edit]

  • Sparks! (Prestige, 1970) -with Leon Spencer
  • Spark Plug (Prestige, 1971) -with Grover Washington Jr.
  • Akilah! (Prestige, 1972)
  • Texas Twister (Eastbound, 1973)
  • Melvin Sparks '75 (Westbound, 1975)
  • Sparkling (Muse, 1981)
  • I'm A 'Gittar' Player (Cannonball, 1997)
  • Legends Of Acid Jazz: Melvin Sparks (Prestige, 1997) (compilation of Sparks! + Spark Plug)
  • What You Hear Is What You Get (Savant, 2001)
  • It Is What It Is (Savant, 2004)
  • This Is It! (Savant, 2005)
  • Groove On Up (Savant, 2006)

As sideman[edit]

With Henry Brown/Pucho & The Latin Soul Brothers

  • Jungle Strut (Lexington/West 47th), 1993
  • Rip a Dip (Milestone), 1995

With Rusty Bryant

With Hank Crawford

  • Indigo Blue (Milestone), 1983
  • Down on the Deuce (Milestone), 1984
  • Roadside Symphony (Milestone), 1985
  • Night Beat (Milestone), 1988
  • South Central (Milestone), 1992
  • Tight (Milestone), 1996
  • After Dark (Milestone), 1998
  • Crunch Time (Milestone), 1998
  • The World of H.C. (Milestone), 2000

With Dennis Day

  • All Things in Time (D-Day Media), 2008

With Joey DeFrancesco

  • All In The Family (Highnote), 1998
  • Plays Sinatra His Way (Highnote), 1998
  • Hip Cake Walk (Highnote), 2000

With Karl Denson

  • Dance Lesson #2 (Blue Note, 2001)

With Lou Donaldson

With Charles Earland

  • Black Talk! (Prestige, 1969)
  • Slammin' & Jammin' (Savant), 1997
  • Cookin' with the Mighty Burner (Highnote), 1997

With Ceasar Frazier

  • Hail Ceasar! (Eastbound), 1972

With Red Holloway

  • Coast to Coast (Milestone), 2003

With Plas Johnson

  • Keep That Groove Going! (Milestone), 2000

With Etta Jones

  • If You Could See Me Now (Muse, 1978)

With Charles Kynard

With Ron Levy

  • Zim Zam Zoom: Acid Blues on B-3 (Bullseye Blues), 1996
  • Voodoo Boogaloo (Levtron), 2005

With Johnny Lytle

With Jack McDuff

With Jimmy McGriff

  • Countdown (Milestone), 1983
  • State of the Art (Milestone), 1985
  • Blue to the 'Bone (Milestone), 1988
  • McGriff Avenue (Milestone), 2001

With Idris Muhammad

With John Patton

With Houston Person

With Sonny Phillips

With Bernard Purdie

  • Bernard Purdie's Jazz Groove Sessions In Toyko (Lexington/West 47th), 1993

With Alvin Queen

  • Lenox and Seventh (Black & Blue), 1985 -with Dr. Lonnie Smith

With Rhoda Scott

  • Very Saxy (Night and Day), 2004

With Johnny "Hammond" Smith

With Dr. Lonnie Smith

With Leon Spencer

With Dakota Staton

  • A Packet of Love Letters (Highnote), 1996

With Tom "T Bone" Stinson

  • On Fire (Golden Zebra), 2004

With Sonny Stitt

With Leon Thomas

  • Bluesband (Portrait/Epic), 1988

With Reuben Wilson

  • Blue Mode (Blue Note, 1969)
  • The Cisco Kid (Groove Merchant), 1974
  • Down with It (Cannonball), 1998
  • Fun House (Savant), 2004

With Jimmy Witherspoon


  1. ^ a b Henderson, Alex. "Melvin Sparks Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2007-06-23. 
  2. ^ a b c Chinen, Nate (March 20, 2011). "Melvin Sparks, Guitarist, Is Dead at 64". The New York Times. Retrieved March 21, 2011. 
  3. ^ House of BBQ