Wilton Felder

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Wilton Felder
Felder in 1978
Background information
Birth nameWilton Lewis Felder
Born(1940-08-31)August 31, 1940
Houston, Texas, U.S.
DiedSeptember 27, 2015(2015-09-27) (aged 75)
Whittier, California, U.S.
GenresJazz, R&B
Instrument(s)Saxophone, bass
Years active1959–2015

Wilton Lewis Felder (August 31, 1940 – September 27, 2015) was an American saxophone and bass player, and is best known as a founding member of the Jazz Crusaders, later known as The Crusaders. Felder played bass on the Jackson 5's hits "I Want You Back" and "ABC" and on Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On".


Felder was born on August 31, 1940, in Houston, Texas and studied music at Texas Southern University.[1][2] Felder, Wayne Henderson, Joe Sample, and Stix Hooper founded their group while in high school in Houston. The Jazz Crusaders evolved from a straight-ahead jazz combo into a pioneering jazz-rock fusion group, with a definite soul music influence. Felder worked with the original group for over thirty years, and continued to work in its later versions, which often featured other founding members.

Felder also worked as a West Coast studio musician, mostly playing electric bass, for various soul and R&B musicians, and was one of the in-house bass players for Motown Records, when the record label opened operations in Los Angeles in the early 1970s. He played on recordings by the Jackson 5 such as "I Want You Back", "ABC" and "The Love You Save", as well as recordings by Marvin Gaye including "Let's Get It On" and "I Want You". He also played bass for soft rock groups like Seals and Crofts. Also of note were his contributions to the John Cale album Paris 1919, Steely Dan's Pretzel Logic (1974), and Billy Joel's Piano Man and Streetlife Serenade albums. He was one of three bass players on Randy Newman's Sail Away (1972) and Joan Baez' Diamonds & Rust. Felder also anchored albums from Grant Green, Joni Mitchell and Michael Franks.

His album Secrets, which prominently featured Bobby Womack on vocals, reached No. 77 in the UK Albums Chart in 1985.[3] The album featured the minor hit, "(No Matter How High I Get) I'll Still be Looking Up to You", sung by Womack and Alltrinna Grayson.

Felder played a King Super 20 tenor sax with a metal 105/0 Berg Larsen mouthpiece. He also used Yamaha saxes. He played a Fender Telecaster Bass, and also played Aria bass guitars.

Felder died in 2015 at his home in Whittier, California from multiple myeloma.[1] He was 75.[4][5]


As leader/co-leader[edit]

  • Bullitt (Pacific Jazz, 1969)
  • We All Have a Star (MCA, 1978)
  • Inherit the Wind (MCA, 1980)
  • Gentle Fire (MCA, 1983)
  • Secrets (MCA, 1985)
  • Love Is a Rush (MCA, 1987)
  • Nocturnal Moods (PAR, 1991)
  • Forever, Always (PAR, 1992)
  • Lets Spend Some Time (BCS, 2005)

With The (Jazz) Crusaders

As sideman[edit]

With Donald Byrd

With Joan Baez

With John Cale

With Michael Franks

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Grant Green

With Richard "Groove" Holmes

With Harry Nilsson

With Marvin Gaye

With Matraca Berg

  • The Speed of Grace (MCA, 1994)

With Paul Anka

  • The Painter (United Artists, 1976)

With Solomon Burke

  • Electronic Magnetism (MGM, 1971)

With Donovan

With Jackson Browne

With Jennifer Warnes

With Milt Jackson

With Tina Turner

With John Klemmer

With Charles Kynard

With Minnie Riperton

With Ringo Starr

With Carmen McRae

With Billy Joel

With Randy Crawford

With Joni Mitchell

With B.B. King

With Wendy Waldman

  • Love Has Got Me (Warner Bros., 1973)

With Randy Newman

With Shuggie Otis

With Dusty Springfield

With Jean-Luc Ponty

With Seals & Crofts

With Jimmy Smith

With Steely Dan

With Gerald Wilson

With Hugh Masekela


  1. ^ a b Slotnik, Daniel E. (October 3, 2015). "Wilton Felder, Saxophonist for the Crusaders, Dies at 75". The New York Times. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  2. ^ Williams, Richard (October 8, 2015). "Wilton Felder obituary". The Independent. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  3. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 197. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  4. ^ Colker, David. "Wilton Felder, musician who played on many pop hits, dies at 75". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  5. ^ Smith, William Michael (September 27, 2015). "Legendary Crusaders Sax Man Wilton Felder Passes Away". Houston Press. Retrieved September 27, 2015.

External links[edit]