Buddy Tate

Sherman native Buddy Tate dead at 88

by Don Eldredge

Herald Democrat

Buddy Tate, the legendary tenor saxophonist known as the "Texas Tenor" and one who held his hometown of Sherman near and dear, died Saturday, February 10, 2001 in Chandler, Ariz., following a lengthy illness. It was less than two weeks short of his 89th birthday.Tate, known worldwide for his jazz artistry, played with some of the greatest musicians of the jazz age, including Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Rushing, Jay McShann, Buck Clayton, Al Grey and Bobby Rosengarden, among many others. And for many years he fronted his own band, Buddy Tate's Celebrity Club All-Stars, which played at the Celebrity Club in Harlem of New York City. He recorded a large number of albums, many of which included his own compositions and are still available.

Tate's last trip to Sherman was in December of 1997, when he returned home to attend the funeral of his sister, Daisy Arterberry. Previously, he returned home in 1988 for the opening of a Black History exhibit at the Red River Historical Museum, where a portrait of Tate by local artist Pat Pierce was unveiled; and in 1984 he performed at the Red River Valley Arts Festival. He also performed a show at Austin College in 1979.

"He loved his hometown and the Sherman people," said Ms. Sheppard.

In the mid 1970s, Tate purchased a large frame house in Sherman, announcing plans at that time to possibly begin spending summer vacation time in North Texas.

  "If I ever retire from music," Tate told free-lance writer Mary Lee Hester in 1978, "Sherman is the place where I'll spend the remaining years of my life."

  He was born George Holmes Tate on Feb. 22, 1912, in the Blue Creek Community, just east of Sherman. His sister, Daisy, told a biographer in 1978 that, as a child, he would "run around the farm, holding a stick up to his mouth like a horn. ... He was born to play music."

  He reminisced about Blue Ridge during his 1988 visit, telling a Sherman Democrat reporter, "You just felt better then. Everything was so clean and pretty."

  Basie soon moved his band from Kansas City to New York, and Tate stayed with him, performing and recording through the 1940s. Among their biggest hits, and Tate's favorite with the band, was "Super Chief," which he played on stage the rest of his career.

By the early 1950s, he stepped out on his own to form the Celebrity All-Stars, and played regularly at the Celebrity Club until the early 1970s. During that time he also played at the Savoy Ballroom, and in 1959 he toured Europe, taking it by storm.

  Back in the States, he continued his success until jazz music inexplicably fell out of fashion around 1970. In Tate's own words, "the clientele began to change. They wanted rock and didn't appreciate what we were doing."

  He told a Sherman Democrat reporter in 1988, "Younger people weren't going for us. They wanted the James Brown thing. They even wanted me to sing like James Brown."

  Not being put off by the change in attitude, he continued to record, and in 1975 briefly co-led a band with Paul Quinichette. But from that time on, he worked mostly as a solo artist, teaming up on occasion with other big names of jazz such as Goodman, Rosengarden and Grey. And he lived to see jazz come strongly back into fashion.

  "They wanted me to play," he told a reporter, "and I was afraid it would hurt my hands. But, you know, when I got up there and started, it didn't hurt a bit."

  Heart bypass surgery and the auto accident, causing injury, followed, but he was still blowing into the 1990s, recording the album "Conversin' with the Elders" on Atlantic label with young saxophonist James Carter in 1996. It was possibly his last recording session, although an older recording, "Buddy and Claude," with pianist Claude Hopkins, was finally released on compact disc in November of 1999 on the Fantasy/Prestige label.

  Among his better known CDs, still available, are "Groovin' with Tate" (Fantasy/Prestige), "Hard Blowin'; Live at Sandy's" (Muse), and "The Ballad Artistry of Buddy Tate" (Sackville).

  Services for Buddy Tate will be held Wednesday at Powell Funeral Chapel in Amityville, N.Y. Burial will be in Pinelawn Cemetery in Huntington, N.Y.

  Surviving are his daughters, Georgette Matthews of Chandler, Ariz., and Josie Sonabia of Tempe, Ariz; as well as several grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Surviving him in Sherman are his nieces Althea Jean Sheppard and Margaret Moss.

  Memorials may be made to the Sherman Public Library, 421 N. Travis, Sherman, TX, 75090.

  He was adept at playing a number of instruments, including the clarinet, flute and baritone and soprano saxophones. But his greatest glory was the tenor sax.


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