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Rufus Harley

Rufus Harley, “the world’s first jazz bagpiper”, was born on May 20, 1936 near Raleigh, N.C. but grew up in a working class neighborhood in Philadelphia where his family moved when he was two years of age. He started playing the C melody saxophone and trumpet at age 12. In his later teens he worked as a paper boy to raise enough money to buy a tenor saxophone so that he can play in the high school band but at age 16 he dropped out of school and worked odd jobs to help support his family. He continued, however, to take music lessons on the saxophone, oboe, clarinet and flute from Dennis Sandole, a Philadelphia area guitarist and music teacher. He made his professional debut in Mickey Collins’ band at age 18 at a local jazz club. He continued to play the tenor saxophone at local clubs for several years until he took up the bagpipes.

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