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King Curtis' Violent End


Curtis Montgomery was born in Fort Worth Texas in 1934. He took up playing saxophone at the age of 12, and became very good very quickly. He passed up college scholarships to join a band, and it payed off for him. He gained a reputation as both a musician and an arranger, going by the name King Curtis. He developed a recognizable, distinct sound known as yakkety sax. If you've listened to much rock and roll of the late 50's and early 60's, you've heard it. Curtis worked with a wide range of musicians, including The Coasters (this is how I first became aware of him), Aretha Franklin, Duane Allman, Buddy Holly and Waylon Jennings. He recorded three songs with Jimi Hendrix that were never released and were tragically lost in a fire.


In 1971 Curtis' hayday may have been past, but he was still working and well regarded. But one day in August the music from King Curtis was cut off. The details seem to be uncertain, as versions if the event vary. Curtis was entering his apartment, or a building that he owned. He confronted either one man or a pair of men, who were drug dealers. A fist fight ensued. Someone pulled a knife and stabbed Curtis. He took the knife and managed to stab his killer 4 times. The man went to the same hospital Curtis was taken to, which is how police found and arrested him. Proving their is no such thing as cosmic justice, Curtis died while the man who stabbed him recovered. One has to wonder if the punk even realized he was robbing the world of a man who helped define the sound of rock and roll.

© 2022 Gracchus Gruad

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