Staton is well acquainted with the feeling of jazz. Over the course of his century on earth, he’s been steeped in it. Born on Valentine’s Day, 1915, Staton’s musical life began with the strains of his mother’s player piano and 78 discs of Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson. He cites a Johnny Hodges cut on an Ellington big band record played off the family’s Victrola as the inspiration for his life-long infatuation with the saxophone.
A singer in his church’s gospel choir, Staton’s introduction to playing jazz came when the group’s sponsor brought in a full band’s worth of equipment, along with charts of popular music. First gravitating towards to the drums, he admits it was the frustration of having to a pack up his kit while his bandmates left to flirt with women after gigs that led him to commit to the saxophone.