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]



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

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