King Curtis - Biography

King Curtis

Curtis Ousley (1934 August 13, 1971), who performed under the name King Curtis, was an American tenor, alto, and soprano saxophonist who played rhythm and blues, soul, rock, and soul jazz.

During the 1950s and early to mid 1960s he both worked as a session player on such records as Yakety Yak and recorded his own singles. His best known singles from this period are "Soul Twist" (Enjoy) and "Soul Serenade" (Capitol). In 1965 he moved to Atlantic Records, where his most successful singles were "Memphis Soul Stew" and "Ode to Billie Joe." He led Aretha Franklin's backup band, The Kingpins, and produced records, at first with Jerry Wexler and then by himself.

Curtis guessed on John Lennon's Imagine and was capable of attracting the best session musicians to put in appearances for his own albums, including guitarist Duane Allman on Instant Groove and organist Billy Preston on Live At Fillmore West. Curtis did venture to the Fame and American studios, but he preferred to work in New York. "In the south you have to restrain yourself to make sure you come back alive". King Curtis' "Whiter Shade of Pale" plays during the beginning of Withnail and I, and was chosen as a symbol of the end of 1960s idealism.

He was stabbed to death by a derelict outside his apartment outside his West 86th Street apartment in New York City.

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