Born: February 28, 1925 | Died: July 29, 1996 Primary Instrument: Saxophone
The multi-instrumentalist was born 2-18-25 in Kansas City, Kansas, and started playing alto sax at age 10, clarinet at 12 and started teaching at 14. His mother sang in the church choir, and his father played a little alto saxophone. In 1942, after graduating from Sumner Senior High School, he entered the U.S. Navy. He told them he was a musician, but they said there were no openings, and sent him to service school for Machinist’s Mate in the Great Lakes region for the next 9 months. He was then shipped to San Diego, CA, where he fell in love with the weather. Weekends he would try to get to Los Angeles to hear some jazz and sit in, as the Central Avenue scene was still very active. After his discharge, he returned home to Kansas City, but didn’t stay long. Two friends left for California and he soon followed. They entered the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music, where he earned a Masters Degree in 1952, and remained on faculty for the next 10 years as an instructor. During this time, he was playing jazz at night, and working as a first call multi-reedman in the studios, playing classical and jazz. Some of the many players he performed with are The Los Angeles Philharmonic, Benny Carter, Bert Bacharach, Louie Bellson, Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Frank Sinatra, Capp-Pierce Juggernaut, Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton and Tony Bennett. He recorded as the leader of his own jazz group and frequently as a sideman. Bill was a very popular, sought-after teacher and mentor, active until his death at age 71.