Willis Jackson (saxophonist)

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For other people named Willis Jackson, see Willis Jackson (disambiguation).

Willis "Gator" Jackson (April 25, 1932 – October 25, 1987)[1] was an American jazz tenor saxophonist.


Born in Miami, Florida,[1] Jackson joined Duke Ellington alumnus Cootie Williams's band in 1949 as a teenager, after being discovered by Eddie Vinson. During the 1950s Jackson participated in R&B and jazz recordings, primarily as a session musician. He also toured as leader of the backing band of singer Ruth Brown, whom he married.[1] Jackson joined Prestige Records in 1959, making a string of jazz albums that proved to an influence on the burgeoning soul jazz movement.[citation needed] During this era, Jack McDuff and Pat Martino became famous through association with Jackson. Jackson's main influences were Lester Young and Illinois Jacquet.[citation needed]

Jamaican ska innovator Prince Buster has cited Jackson's song "Later for the Gator" as one of the first ska songs.[2]

Jackson died in New York one week after heart surgery, in October 1987, at the age of 55.[1]


As leader[edit]


  • The Best Of Willis Jackson – Willis Jackson With Brother Jack McDuff (Prestige), 1972 compilation
  • On My Own (Whiskey, Women, and...Record Company), 1986 compilation of fifties tracks
  • The Best of Willis Jackson Volume One – Gator's Groove (Ace), 1988 compilation of Prestige recordings
  • Legends of Acid Jazz – Willis Jackson (Prestige), 1998 compilation of Blue Gator & Cookin' Sherry
  • Legends of Acid Jazz – Keep on a Blowin' (Prestige), 1999 compilation of Keep on a Blowin' and Thunderbird
  • At Large (Prestige), 2000 compilation
  • Willis Jackson with Pat Martino – Gravy (Prestige), 2001 compilation
  • Willis Jackson with Jack McDuff – Together Again! (Prestige), 2003 compilation
  • After Hours (Prestige), 2004 compilation of Loose... & Soul Grabber

As sideman[edit]

With Ruth Brown


  1. ^ a b c d Thedeadrockstarsclub.com - accessed July 2010
  2. ^ Video on YouTube

External links[edit]