Melvin Sparks

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Melvin Sparks
BornMarch 22, 1946
Houston, Texas, United States.
DiedMarch 15, 2011(2011-03-15) (aged 64)
Mount Vernon, New York, United States
GenresSoul jazz, hard bop, jazz blues
Years active1960s–2011
LabelsPrestige, 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, Charles Earland and Leon Spencer. 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; reissued on BGP/Ace in 1993) -with Leon Spencer
  • Spark Plug (Prestige, 1971) -with Grover Washington Jr.
  • Akilah! (Prestige, 1972; reissued on BGP/Ace in 1993)
  • Texas Twister (Eastbound, 1973; reissued on BGP/Ace in 1995)
  • Melvin Sparks '75 (Westbound/20th Century, 1975; reissued on BGP/Ace in 1995)
  • I'm Funky Now (Westbound/20th Century, 1976; previously unreleased material finally issued by Ace in 2017)
  • Sparkling (Muse, 1981)
  • I'm A 'Gittar' Player (Cannonball, 1997)
  • What You Hear Is What You Get (Nectar, 2001; Savant, 2003)
  • It Is What It Is (Savant, 2004)
  • This Is It! (Savant, 2005)
  • Groove On Up (Savant, 2006)
  • Live at Nectar's (One Note, 2010 [rel. 2017])

As sideman[edit]

With Henry "Pucho" Brown / Pucho & The Latin Soul Brothers

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

With Rusty Bryant

With Hank Crawford

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, 2004)

With Papa John DeFrancesco

  • Hip Cake Walk (HighNote, 2001)

With Karl Denson

With Lou Donaldson

With Charles Earland

With Ceasar Frazier

  • Hail Ceasar! (Eastbound, 1972)

With Red Holloway

With Etta Jones

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

With Idris Muhammad

With John Patton

With Houston Person

With Sonny Phillips

With Bernard Purdie

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

With Alvin Queen

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

With Rhoda Scott

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

  • Leon Thomas Blues Band (Portrait/Epic), 1988

With Reuben Wilson

With Jimmy Witherspoon

See also[edit]


  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 Archived 2009-06-16 at the Wayback Machine