David Fathead Newman was born in Corsicana, Texas on February 24, 1933. His family soon moved to Dallas, where they settled and David stayed through graduating Lincoln High School. After school, David found gigs in local bands. He received a scholarship to Jarvis Christian College where he studied theology and music.
After two years of college, David decided to go on the road full time with Buster Smith (Charlie Parker's mentor). The band played lots of one-nighters and dance halls, touring Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and sometimes California. On one of those tours, David met Ray Charles.
Ray was working as a sideman with another group on the night's roster. They immediately bonded, both musically and as friends. When Ray started his own band, he called on David to be part of his group. In 1954, David began a twelve year association with the Ray Charles Band. David began as the baritone player and soon became the star tenor soloist.
In 1959, David recorded his first album as a leader titled, Fathead: Ray Charles Presents 'Fathead' on Atlantic records. It included Newman's dramatic and now famous rendition of Hard Times.
He returned to Dallas for a short time and led his own bands. Then he moved to New York City where his career took off in many directions.
Newman recorded many albums for Atlantic records, as well as Warner Brothers and Prestige. During this time in NYC, David gigged with Lee Morgan, Kenny Drew Sr., Billy Higgins, Kenny Dorham and so many other of the great jazz musicians hanging out on the New York scene. He gigged around the East Coast with his own quartet and soon began touring Europe and Japan as a leader.