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Paul Riser, Sr.

Musician and music arranger Paul Riser, Sr. was born on September 11, 1943 in Detroit, Michigan. Riser attended Keating Elementary School in Detroit, where he began to develop an interest in music. Riser later enrolled at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, where he studied classical and jazz trombone, as well as musical theory. At Cass Technical High School, he was mentored and encouraged by people such as Dr. Harold Arnoldi and Dr. Harry Begian. He graduated from Cass Technical High School in 1961.

After graduation, Riser began working as a session musician playing trombonist with The Funk Brothers at Motown Records. By 1963, Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records, chose Riser to work as a music arranger at Motown Records. He worked on a number of Motown hits during his tenure, including “ I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye, ”My Girl” by The Temptations, “My Cherie Amour” by Stevie Wonder, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross, "If I Were Your Woman" by Gladys Knight & The Pips, "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)” written by Ashford and Simpson as performed by Diana Ross, and “The Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. Following his departure from Motown Records in 1973, Paul Riser continued to arrange songs for popular artists. He has worked with artists such as Quincy Jones, The Carpenters, Carly Simon, Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, and Phil Collins. In 2003, Riser arranged music for R. Kelly’s fifth studio album, Chocolate Factory. The album debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and sold over three million copies worldwide.

In 1972, Riser won a Grammy Award for “Best R&B Instrumental Performance” for the song “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” by The Temptations. He was nominated for another Grammy Award in 1982, for “Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocals” for the song “Do I Do”, which was performed by Stevie Wonder. In 2009, Riser was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum.

Riser and his wife have a son, Paul Riser, Jr.

Paul Riser, Sr. was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 16, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.187

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/18/2017

Last Name

Riser

Maker Category
Organizations
First Name

Paul

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

RIS01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bahamas

Favorite Quote

Nice Job, But Let’s Do It Again

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Birth Date

9/11/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Detroit

Country

United States of America

Favorite Food

Banana Pudding

Short Description

Musician and music arranger Paul Riser, Sr. (1943 - ) worked as a session musician and music arranger for Motown Records from 1961 until 1973. He arranged music for many artists since his departure from Motown and has won two Grammy Awards.

Favorite Color

Aqua

Nat Adderley, Jr.

Music arranger and pianist Nat Adderley, Jr. was born on May 23, 1955 to Nat Adderley, Sr. and Ann James in Quincy, Florida. Adderley attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan, New York. In high school, he performed and wrote music for his father’s group, the Cannonball Adderley Quintet. Adderley also worked as a keyboardist for R&B singer Valerie Simpson. Adderley earned his B.A. degree in African American studies from Yale University in 1977.

In 1981, Adderley became the music director for Luther Vandross. Adderley arranged the music for Vandross’ 1981 album, Never Too Much on the songs “Never Too Much” and “Sugar and Spice (I Found Me a Girl).” He then co-wrote the song “Better Love” for Vandross’ 1982 album, Forever, for Always, for Love. In 1984, Adderley arranged “Superstar,” as well as “If Only for One Night” and “Creepin’” for Vandross’ album, The Night I Fell In Love. He co-wrote Vandross’ first top twenty hit, “Stop to Love” and arranged the songs “So Amazing” and “Give Me Reason” from the album, Give Me Reason. In 1988, Adderley arranged the songs “I Wonder” and “Love Won’t Let Me Wait” for Vandross’ album, Any Love. The album was nominated for a 1989 Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. Adderley also played keyboard for Vandross’ 1991 Grammy award winning album, Power of Love. He produced Vandross’ albums Your Secret Love, Luther Vandross, and the Grammy award winning album, Dance with My Father. Adderley arranged Vandross’ 2003 Grammy award-winning duet with Beyonce Knowles, “The Closer I Get to You,” which won for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. He then produced the live album, Luther’s Live 2003 at Radio City Music Hall.

In addition to his work with Vandross, Adderley has worked with several other musicians. He arranged the songs for Aretha Franklin’s 1983 album, Jump To It, the string section for Doc Powell’s Grammy nominated song “What’s Going On” and Natalie Cole’s song “When I Fall in Love.” Recordings of Adderley playing piano were used by playwright August Wilson for his play The Piano Lesson in 1990. Adderley later formed the Nat Adderley, Jr. Trio.

Nat Adderley, Jr. was interviewed by The Historymakers on January 19, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.005

Sex

Male

Interview Date

01/19/2017

Last Name

Adderley

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Occupation
Organizations
First Name

Nat

Birth City, State, Country

Quincy

HM ID

ADD02

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Florida

Favorite Vacation Destination

Islands: Barbados

Favorite Quote

Me and you.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

5/23/1955

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fish: Redfish, orange roughy, catfish

Short Description

Music arranger and pianist Nat Adderley, Jr. (1955 - ) was the music director and musical arranger for Luther Vandross from 1981 to 2003.

Favorite Color

Black

Benjamin Wright

Music director, arranger, and conductor Benjamin Franklin Wright, Jr. was born on July 11, 1946 in Greenville, Mississippi. Wright started his music career while in high school, performing as a drum major in the marching band and singing Doo Wop in a group he and his friends started. Wright attended the Chicago Conservatory of Music and received his Ph.D. from the Pentecostal Bible College in Tuskegee, Alabama.

After high school, Wright embarked on his first major musical tour with rhythm and blues icon Ted Taylor. During the tour, Wright played piano and sang back-up for the band. The Ted Taylor Tour allowed Wright to experience music arrangement for the first time, and his subsequent success within the industry took him on the road with James Brown, Otis Redding, Billy Stewart and Gladys Knight and The Pips. Shortly after Wright’s touring period, he was drafted into the United States Air Force. While there, Wright met “Fats” Ford, a trumpet player who played with Duke Ellington. Ford eventually introduced Wright to Duke Ellington, an experience that changed his life forever. After Wright’s honorable discharge from the military in Alabama, he worked for several years with Bobby Moore and The Rhythm Aces, before working on the hotel circuit and jazz trios throughout the country. In 1969, Wright worked as a copyist for notable musical arrangers such as Charles Stepney, Gene Barge, Donny Hathaway and Richard Evans. Concurrently, Wright performed with Pieces of Peace, a group of musicians who recorded music sessions for Jackie Wilson, The Chi-Lites, Jerry Butler, Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions. After traveling overseas with Pieces of Peace at the end of 1971, Wright enrolled in the Chicago Conservatory of Music, and shortly thereafter formed the Benjamin Wright Orchestra. In 1975, Wright moved to Los Angeles, California and became the musical director for The Temptations, Gladys Knight and The Pips, Aretha Franklin, and Barry White and The Love Unlimited Orchestra. In 1979, Wright acted as the string arranger for Michael Jackson’s first solo album, Off the Wall, where he met producer Quincy Jones. Between 1982 and 1983, Wright opened the Ritesonian Recording Studio, and in 1987, he went back on the road as the musical director for Gladys Knight and The Pips to do a year of one-night-only performances. In 2003, Wright and long time friend and former singer with The Temptations, Louis Price, formed the Price/Wright Orchestra. Then, in 2004, Wright wrote five new arrangements for singer Brandy and produced three songs with Otis Williams for The Temptations. Wright has also done arrangements on Outkast and Justin Timberlake’s Grammy-winning albums Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, and Justified respectively. In 2005, Wright was honored by being invited to write and conduct the Norwegian Radio Symphony Orchestra for the Patty LaBelle segment of the Nobel Peace Prize celebration in Oslo, Norway.

Wright was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 18, 2007 and March 9, 2017.

Accession Number

A2007.146

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/18/2007 |and| 07/22/2017

Last Name

Wright

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Julia Armstrong Elementary School

Coleman High School

American Conservatory of Music

Berklee College of Music

First Name

Benjamin

Birth City, State, Country

Greenville

HM ID

WRI03

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Saint Martin

Favorite Quote

Straight Ahead.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

7/11/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lobster

Short Description

Music arranger, music director, and conductor Benjamin Wright (1946 - ) became the musical director for The Temptations, Gladys Knight and The Pips, Aretha Franklin, Barry White and The Love Unlimited Orchestra. He has arranged music on the albums by Michael Jackson, Outkast, and Justin Timberlake.

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Benjamin Wright's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright describes his maternal and paternal family histories

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright talks about his parents return to Greenville, Mississippi from Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright talks about his experience at Julia L. Armstrong Elementary School

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright talks about being inspired to play piano by his church and his sister

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Benjamin Wright talks about playing his sister's piano

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright talks about his choir at Coleman High School

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about his high school doo-wop group, The Soothers

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright talks about his choir at Coleman High School in Greenville, Mississippi, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about his choir at Coleman High School in Greenville, Mississippi, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright talks about singing in the choir at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright talks about playing in his high school band director's swing group

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright describes chopping cotton and avoiding snakes with his father

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Benjamin Wright talks about his father's independent contractor business

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright talks about his early awareness of racism in Greenville, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about Emmett Till and meeting the Freedom Riders

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright describes the difference between his parents' attitudes about the Civil Rights Movement and his own

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright describes his growing consciousness of the Civil Rights Movement during high school

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright describes his maturation in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright describes his first experience writing music

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright describes how a performance of Handel's "Messiah" encouraged him to write music

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright describes honing his ear as an arranger at Coleman High School

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright describes being expelled from Coleman High School in Greenville, Mississippi

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright talks about receiving his diploma from Coleman High School in Greenville, Mississippi

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright recalls his introduction to Down Beat magazine and HistoryMaker B.B. King

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright talks about working for his father and meeting with his high school counselor

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright describes auditioning for Ted Taylor's band

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright recalls beginning to tour with singer Ted Taylor

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright describes his experience touring with singer Ted Taylor

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about why he has never done drugs

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright describes meeting Peggy Lee and his decision to remain on the road with Ted Taylor

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about a Civil Rights march and concert with James Brown and Mitty Collier in Birmingham, Alabama in 1965

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright describes trying to avoid the Vietnam War draft by enrolling at Jackson State College in Jackson, Mississippi

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright describes a racist experience on the first night he was in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright talks about studying music while in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about his job in the communications center at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright describes the last time he saw his mother and getting an Humanitarian Deferment during the Vietnam War

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about touring as an organist with Bobby Moore and The Rhythm Aces and Skip McQueen

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright describes playing with Skip McQueen's trio

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright talks about moving to Chicago, Illinois to play with Jerry Wilson's band, the Pieces of Peace

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright recalls meeting Duke Ellington while in the U.S. Air Force, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright recalls meeting Duke Ellington while in the U.S. Air Force, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about joining the Pieces of Peace in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright talks about his family

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright describes enrolling at the Chicago Conservatory in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright describes his experience in Singapore

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright talks about his experience at the Chicago Conservatory in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright talks about the difference between music education and practical musicianship

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Benjamin Wright describes the growth of his career as an arranger

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Benjamin Wright describes moving to Los Angeles, California

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Slating of Benjamin Wright's interview, session 2

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright remembers his return to civilian life

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright recalls being drafted

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about going back on tour with Bobby Moore and the Rhythm Aces after his military discharge

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright recalls the racism in the South during his early tours

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright remembers President Bill Clinton

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright remembers meeting Skip McQuinn

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright remembers playing music for the mob

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about his decision to move to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright talks about abstaining from drug use

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about composing music

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright remembers his work as a copyist

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright talks about his business and marketing philosophy

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright recalls the artists he's work with

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright remembers passing the entrance exam to the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about his experience at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright talks about the European tour with Pieces of Peace

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright describes why Pieces of Peace dissolved after their European tour

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright remembers playing popular nightclubs in Chicago, Illinois with The Benjamin Wright Orchestra

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright recalls his reasons for moving to Los Angeles, California

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright remembers his early success in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright talks about becoming the music director for The Temptations

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright reflects upon his work with The Temptations

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright recalls his biggest hits as a composer

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about negotiating his rate as an arranger and composer

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright recalls meeting Quincy Jones

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright remembers writing music for Quincy Jones

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright talks about his biggest hit singles

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright remembers working with Michael Jackson

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright describes Quincy Jones

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright remembers opening Ritesonian Recording Studio in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about his role as musical director and conductor for the 'Night of the Living Divas'

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright talks about touring with Gladys Knight and the Pips

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright talks about arranging music for major artists

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright remembers the Easter program at the L.A. Forum for Faithful Central Church, pt. 1

Tape: 12 Story: 8 - Benjamin Wright remembers the Easter program at the L.A. Forum for Faithful Central Church, pt. 1

Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright describes his work arranging and composing music for churches

Tape: 13 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about his faith

Tape: 13 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright talks about his family

Tape: 13 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright describes his musical philosophy

Tape: 13 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright shares his work philosophy

Tape: 13 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright talks about his plans for the future

Tape: 13 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 13 Story: 8 - Benjamin Wright reflects upon his life

Tape: 13 Story: 9 - Benjamin Wright describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 13 Story: 10 - Benjamin Wright shares his advice for aspiring musicians

Tape: 14 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

2$4

DATitle
Benjamin Wright talks about Emmett Till and meeting the Freedom Riders
Benjamin Wright talks about a Civil Rights march and concert with James Brown and Mitty Collier in Birmingham, Alabama in 1965
Transcript
The Emmett Till thing--you know, we didn't have television, my family, okay, but the when the Emmett Till thing happened, wow, that was heavy duty.$$What are the details that you remember about Emmett Till affair?$$Well, you know, the word was Emmett Till came from Chicago [Illinois], visiting his cousin or whatever and supposedly he whistled at a white woman, and now then (unclear) killed him, identifiable. Shot him, beat him, threw him in the river. You didn't--in Greenville, you didn't see that on a daily basis because you didn't have contact with white people. But as you begin to go to school and whatever--I lived in what is called the "south end." The south end had a big white school called, E.E. Bass [School], by the railroad tracks. Now, I had to--E.E. Bass was maybe 10 or 12 blocks from my house, but I had to go approximately five miles to get to my school [Coleman High School] and you had a choice. You could take the streets or you could take the railroad tracks. The railroad track was a shorter route but you had two dangers, the train--(simultaneous)--$$--Right.--(simultaneous)--$$--there wasn't much room on either side if the train came, and white kids at the school that you had to pass, so nobody knew the other one. There was a fight every day, rock throwing or whatever. And it was like-- I never understood that.$$Was there retaliatory rock throwing, in other words, when the white kids threw at you, you would throw back at them?$$Yeah, yeah, you know. I mean it was on every day, and, you know, you didn't want to--you didn't want to take the track by yourself, generally there was four or five guys, you know. But the racial thing was bad. And like I said, nobody knew each other. White kids didn't know the black kids and vice versa. What the hell are we fighting for, you know? Now, my--my parents [Benjamin F. Wright, Sr. and Colonus Miller], love, love, love, love, love and I have a problem with that because that ain't what's happening outside of this door. Okay? My dad was the Sunday school superintendent, you know. All my dad know is God and carpentry. Never heard him curse, good man. But I don't like what's happening with this, I can't go here, I can't do this. I never knew nothing else, but there is something is wrong here, instinctively something is wrong.$$Okay.$$When the Freedom Riders came, information, information. Well, I'm hanging out down there because all this pent up stuff for me to feel that something is wrong. Now somebody else show up and showed that it is wrong because we didn't get that basically from home, you know.$I-- There's a James Brown date. [Austin] Ted Taylor used to headline over James Brown.$$Okay.$$Now, it's about August. August 1965, 'Papa's Got a Brand New Bag' hit. Nobody head lined over James no more. So we're going to big James Brown date. I'm excited because a couple of cats in our band knew cats in James' band. They had gone to school together, or something, or whatever, so I'm excited. This gig is in Birmingham, Alabama. I think it's called Ridgeway Field [sic. Rickwood Field]. It's a stadium. James is big. But it's two things happening in town that day, the James Brown gig, which I'm excited to get to, but that morning, there was a march, [Reverend] Dr. [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] was in Birmingham.$$Okay.$$Now, I've been so Civil Rights conscious and the whole bit. I'm going to be in that march.$$Okay.$$I made that march.$$You're at the march that morning.$$That morning, and that evening--(simultaneous)--$$---you played with James Brown?$$Yes. Now, this was another experience. There was a young lady on the show called, Mitty Collier. Mitty Collier had a big record at that time called 'I had a Talk with My Man Last Night.' Mitty didn't have a band. [Austin] Ted Taylor's band is to play behind Mitty Collier. Well, now, we're set up at around second base. They're calling Mitty Collier. "Mitty Collier!" The stadium is full and people are calling. People are screaming. And this guy is running out toward second base where the band is with some charts. I'd never seen any charts other than in the high school band. The band starts playing (singing) with everybody's come on song. The guy is running out, Mitty Collier. She appears and she is strolling. The guy came out and staring passing music. What am I going to do with this? I can't read this. I can read drum stuff. I'm the piano player. Guess what? In Mitty Collier's record, there is a piano solo--two bar piano solo that is big in the song. (Singing) "I said I had a talk with my man." This is a big part in the song, so they do two songs while I sat silently. And the third song was her hit record. Now, I've been looking through this chart. Throughout these two songs, nobody had heard me, but I could figure out based on my choir experience and my notation in terms of beats and whatever, I was able to figure out that part. So when it got to that part, I'm ready man. I turn up, and I kill it.$$All right.$$I became the hit of the tour. I was so embarrassed. I was so embarrassed.$$About?$$Because I couldn't handle the music.

Johnny Pate

Jazz bassist, rhythm and blues arranger John W. Pate, Sr., “Johnny Pate,” was born December 5, 1923 in blue collar Chicago Heights, Illinois. Pate took an interest in the family’s upright piano and learned from the church organist who boarded with them. He attended Lincoln Elementary School, Washington Junior High and graduated from Bloom Township High School in 1942. Drafted into the United States Army, Pate joined the 218th AGF Army Band where he took up the tuba and played the upright bass in the jazz orchestra. In 1946, after his tour of service, Pate moved to New York City where bassist Oscar Pettiford helped him get started.

Pate played with the Red Allen - J.C. Higginbotham Combo and jazz violinists Stuff Smith and Eddie South. Returning to Chicago, he arranged musical numbers at the Regal Theatre with Red Saunders. Pate studied at the Midwest Conservatory of Music from1950 to 1953 and continued to perform in the 50s with Dorothy Donegan, Sarah Vaughan, Joe Williams, Count Basie and Ahmad Jamal. Forming the Johnny Pate Trio and Combo in 1957, he was also “house bassist” for Chicago’s Blue Note. Johnny Pate’s bass solo on “Satin Doll” is featured on the album Duke Ellington Live At The Blue Note (1959). Pate continued to perform, and appeared on albums featuring James Moody, Phil Woods, Shirley Horn, Wes Montgomery, Stan Getz, Kenny Burrell, Jimmy Smith and Monty Alexander as producer and arranger.

Contacted by Carl Davis of Chicago’s Okeh Records, Pate arranged a Curtis Mayfield song, “Monkey Time,” which was a big hit for Major Lance in 1963. Pate’s collaboration with Curtis Mayfield produced most of the well-known Impressions tracks including “Amen,” “We’re A Winner” and “Keep On Pushin.” He produced B.B. King: Live at the Regal and also arranged for Betty Everett, Gene Chandler and Jerry Butler. In the1970s Pate orchestrated and arranged Shaft In Africa, Brother on the Run, Bucktown, Bustin Loose and others. He continued to arrange in the 1980s for Peabo Bryson and Natalie Cole. Retiring to Las Vegas in the 1990s, Pate was honored in 2003 as the “Unsung Hero of Popular Music”. Pate’s son is well known bassist, Don Pate and his cousin is saxophonist, Johnny Griffin.

Accession Number

A2004.188

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/30/2004

Last Name

Pate

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Bloom High School

Washington Junior High School

Lincoln Elementry School

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

John

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago Heights

HM ID

PAT03

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $1,000 - $5,000

Favorite Season

None

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

It Is Never Enough.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Nevada

Birth Date

12/5/1923

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Las Vegas

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Jazz bassist and music arranger Johnny Pate (1923 - ) formed the Johnny Pate Trio and Combo, and was house bassist for Chicago’s The Blue Note. Johnny Pate’s bass solo on “Satin Doll” is featured on the album "Duke Ellington Live at The Blue Note," and he has collaborated with Curtis Mayfield, produced the Impressions’s hits “Amen,” “We’re A Winner” and “Keep On Pushin’.” and arranged for B.B. King, Gene Chandler and Jerry Butler.

Employment

Verve Records

King Records

ABC-Paramount Records

Club DeLisa

Favorite Color

Blue, Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Johnny Pate's Interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Johnny Pate lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Johnny Pate describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Johnny Pate describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Johnny Pate describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Johnny Pate describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood in Chicago Heights, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Johnny Pate describes his childhood household

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Johnny Pate recalls the churches his family attended during his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Johnny Pate describes his mother's personality and interests

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Johnny Pate remembers childhood trips to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Johnny Pate talks about his maternal relatives

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Johnny Pate describes his childhood personality

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Johnny Pate describes his experiences at Lincoln Elementary School in Chicago Heights, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Johnny Pate remembers his early love of basketball

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Johnny Pate describes his favorite childhood bands

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Johnny Pate talks about playing basketball at Bloom High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Johnny Pate talks about his musical education and his graduation from Bloom High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Johnny Pate talks about playing music in the United States Army during World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Johnny Pate describes learning to play the tuba for the United States Army during World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Johnny Pate talks about playing in a band for the United States Army while stationed in Europe

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Johnny Pate talks about starting his musical career after World War II

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Johnny Pate describes touring with Stuff Smith and Eddie South

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Johnny Pate explains how he became musical director for Club DeLisa in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Johnny Pate talks about working with Sammy Dyer

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Johnny Pate remembers highlights of his career from the late 1950s to early 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Johnny Pate recalls writing arrangements for Curtis Mayfield

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Johnny Pate remembers some of his hit songs from the 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Johnny Pate talks about his reception in Europe and the lack of regard for musicians in the United States

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Johnny Pate describes working on 'B.B. King Live at the Regal'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Johnny Pate talks about working on the soundtrack for 'Super Fly'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Johnny Pate talks about his television and movie scores

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Johnny Pate talks about producing for Peabo Bryson in the 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Johnny Pate talks about arranging music and his favorite musicians

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Johnny Pate describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Johnny Pates shares his opinion of hip-hop music

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Johnny Pate reflects upon his life

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Johnny Pate reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Johnny Pate remembers celebrating his success with his mother

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Johnny Pate talks about working as a producer for Verve Records

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Johnny Pate talks about his work with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada and the UNLV Jazz Ensemble

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Johnny Pate talks about his radio show on KUNV

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Johnny Pate describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Johnny Pate narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Johnny Pate narrates his photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Johnny Pate narrates his photographs, pt. 3

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DATitle
Johnny Pate talks about working with Sammy Dyer
Johnny Pate recalls writing arrangements for Curtis Mayfield
Transcript
And I worked very closely with the producer name--his name was Sammy Dyer. You probably--sometime or other, the old-timers will probably remember a dance group called The Dyerettes.$$Right. Sammy Dyer is still well-known in Chicago [Illinois]; there's a school of dance, a (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Sammy Dyer was a--Sammy Dyer had a, I think, a school of dance, and he did so much, but Sammy produced the shows at Club DeLisa. So I worked closely with him, working out whatever production numbers we did. And during this time, this is when I met Lurlean Hunter and Joe Williams because they were the male and the female singers at the club because they kept a male and a female singer because whatever production things that Sammy Dyer came up with, he utilized the male and the female singers, and one of the things that he did with Joe Williams, and we talked about it for years; in fact, so many people talked about it. Sammy Dyer came up with an idea, and he had Joe singing "Vesti La Giubba" from 'Pagliacci' [Ruggero Leoncavallo]; Joe did it in Italian in a big clown suit. He wore this clown suit right on stage and he sang it in Italian--legit, and after he had finished this legitimate rendition that Sammy Dyer had choreographed a swing arrangement of it, and I had written this swing arrangement on 'Pagliacci' that the girls danced to at the--'course I wrote the shows at Club DeLisa for, I think, two or three years, and I can't remember because at that--that's when I really had a chance to really do some really arranging that really also helped me really start getting better and better at it.$$Now that's really some challenging stuff going on (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Oh, yes.$$--opera to be-bop.$$Oh, yeah, goin' from opera to swing, swing and be-bop, and we did so many different type things. Sammy, Sammy Dyer was, you know, always on top of everything. He knew all the Broadway shows that were going. I remember 'South Pacific' had come in around that time, and we did one whole production about--on 'South Pacific' at the time, and 'course we were taking, you know, the well-known tunes from a lotta these shows and, and giving the swing treatment with, with the girls dancing, you know. So that was a lot of very good experience.$Now this is like in the '60s [1960s] now. We're like talking about '63 [1963] (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) We're, we're, we're probably getting up to the '60s [1960s] now.$$Yeah, this is nineteen--I remember it was the fall of '63 [1963].$$Sixty-three [1963], okay.$$When 'Monkey Time' came out, I was in high school, a freshman, that year.$$All right.$$And Major Lance became this big star. We'd never heard of him before.$$All right. Well, 'Monkey Time' was written by Curtis Mayfield. Curtis wrote 'Monkey Time,' and Curtis [Mayfield] was, was an associated producer with [HistoryMaker] Carl Davis, and so he was doing quite a bit of work with Carl, and of course after 'Monkey Time' got to be a hit, we did an LP on it, and some other things, with Major Lance. And then Curtis approached me; he said, "Well, you"--he says, "We're on the ABC-Paramount [Records] label." And he said, "I've got a group called The Impressions," and he said, "We, we've gotta, we've gotta record pretty soon," and he said, "I sure like the arrangements that you are writing," and he said, "Would you," you know, "arrange for us?" Well, by that time, I'd began to--I was getting so much work arranging until I just put the bass fiddle aside and I stopped playing completely because I was getting all this work writing. Because after I recorded The Impressions on a few things, ABC-Paramount Records approached me and they said, "We'd like for you to come work for us as a record producer--working for ABC-Paramount Records."$$Now, let me--before we go to the producing aspect of it, I mean--now The Impressions--a lot of the songs were written by Curtis Mayfield, but I don't think a lotta people who're gonna be watching this--and maybe they do understand and I'm--I assume that they don't understand what's--what an arranger does to a, a song that's written.$$All right. What an arranger does is--we'll go back to Curtis Mayfield; we'll take Curtis Mayfield as our guide. Curtis was an excellent composer-songwriter. Curtis would sit down with his guitar and actually create a song. He couldn't put it down on paper, couldn't write a note of music, but he could do the basic song, and he would sit down and play the basic song into a tape recorder and bring it, bring it to me, and what I would do would be take this basic song and put instruments, musical instruments, around it and do what we call write an arrangement. There's a fine line between a orchestration and arrangement, yeah. When an arranger writes, he writes for these instruments which--and it turns out to be an orchestration, and that's what an arranger does; he takes instruments--'course, Curtis would sit down and he says, "Well, I think maybe I can hear some strings on this one." He could hear the strings on it but I would have to write them, and this is what arrangers do. So singers and songwriters basically have the basic melody of a song, but a lotta people say a lotta times the arrangement can really make the record. So, with Curtis' basic idea and with, I guess, my arrangement, then it turns out to be something, something special, but the two really need each other.