Mickey Roker

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Mickey Roker
Roker in the 1980s
Roker in the 1980s
Background information
Birth nameGranville William Roker
Born(1932-09-03)September 3, 1932
Miami, Florida, U.S.
DiedMay 22, 2017(2017-05-22) (aged 84)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
GenresJazz, hard bop, bebop

Granville William "Mickey" Roker (September 3, 1932[1] – May 22, 2017)[2] was an American jazz drummer.


Roker was born into extreme poverty in Miami to Granville (Sr.) and Willie Mae Roker. After his mother died (his father never lived with them), when he was only ten, he was taken by his grandmother to live in Philadelphia with his uncle Walter, who gave him his first drum kit and communicated his love of jazz to his nephew.[3] He also introduced the young Roker to the jazz scene in Philadelphia, where drummer Philly Joe Jones became Roker's idol.

In the early 1950s, he began to gain recognition as a sensitive yet hard-driving big-band drummer. He was especially favored by Dizzy Gillespie, who remarked of him that "once he sets a groove, whatever it is, you can go to Paris and come back and it's right there. You never have to worry about it."[4] Roker was soon in demand for his supportive skills in both big-band and small-group settings.

While in Philadelphia he played with Jimmy Oliver, Jimmy Heath, Jimmy Divine, King James and Sam Reed before moving to New York in 1959, where his first gigs were with Gigi Gryce, Ray Bryant, Joe Williams, Junior Mance, Nancy Wilson and the Duke Pearson big band.[4][5]

In 1965 Mickey joined Art Farmer and Benny Golson's revamped group, the "New York Jazz Sextet".

In 1992, he replaced Connie Kay in the Modern Jazz Quartet.[4]

He recorded with Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Duke Pearson, Tommy Flanagan, Ella Fitzgerald, Zoot Sims, Horace Silver, Junior Mance, Sarah Vaughan, Milt Jackson, Herbie Hancock, Phil Woods, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Bucky Pizzarelli, Stanley Turrentine, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Hank Jones, Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Locke, and many other jazz musicians.

Roker was still active on the Philadelphia music scene during the 21st century. He died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the age of 84, of natural causes, though he had been suffering from diabetes, lung cancer, and other health issues.[2]


As sideman[edit]

With Nat Adderley

With Gene Ammons

With Roy Ayers

With Joshua Breakstone

With Randy Brecker

  • Score (Solid State, 1969)

With Ray Brown

  • Red Hot Ray Brown Trio (Concord, 1987)

With Ray Bryant

With Jon Faddis

With Art Farmer

With Frank Foster

With Dizzy Gillespie

Left to right: Roker, Ben Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, and a hidden Rodney Jones in Buffalo, N.Y., 1977

With Gigi Gryce

With Herbie Hancock

With Gene Harris

  • The Gene Harris Trio Plus One (Concord, 1984)

With Bobby Hutcherson

With Milt Jackson

With Willis Jackson

With Hank Jones

With Sam Jones

With Irene Kral

With Charles Kynard

With Mike Longo

With Junior Mance

With Herbie Mann

With Blue Mitchell

With the Modern Jazz Quartet

With Lee Morgan

With The N.Y. Hardbop Quintet

With Joe Pass

With Duke Pearson

With Oscar Peterson and Stephane Grappelli

With Billie Poole

With Sonny Rollins

With Shirley Scott

With Horace Silver

With Buddy Terry

With Stanley Turrentine

With McCoy Tyner

With Harold Vick

With Mary Lou Williams

  • Zoning (Mary Records, 1974 - later reissued by Smithsonian Folkways, with expansion)
  • Free Spirits (SteepleChase, 1975)

With Cedar Walton

With Joe Williams

With Reuben Wilson

With Phil Woods


  1. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 2129. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  2. ^ a b Chinen, Nate (May 22, 2017). "Mickey Roker, Dynamic Hard-Bop Drummer and Philly Jazz Institution, Dies at 84". WGBO. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  3. ^ "Drummer Mickey Roker Dies at 84". JazzTimes. May 23, 2017. ISSN 0272-572X.
  4. ^ a b c Feather, Leonard; Gitler, Ira (1999). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. Oxford University Press. p. 567. ISBN 978-0195320008.
  5. ^ Roker, Mickey (April 2011). "An Interview with Mickey Roker" (Interview). Interviewed by Ethan Iverson.

External links[edit]