Specs Powell

Specs Powell: Drums, Percussion

Genre: Jazz

RIYL: Ray Copeland, Leon Merian, Jimmy Cleveland, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkins Aaron Sachs, Sahib Shihab, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Shirley Scott, Stanley Turrentine, Eric Gale

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Current Status: Powell died in September 2007 in San Marcos from complications related to kidney disease. He was 85.

Influences: Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkins


Drummer Specs Powell played with some of the biggest names in jazz and was one of the first jazz musicians hired by a national radio network. According to his official bio, he was born Gordon Powell in New York on June 5, 1922, playing piano as well as drums early in his career. But he rose to fame as a drummer during the swing era, when he was a fixture on the active 52nd Street (New York City) jazz scene.

He was hired by CBS in 1943 for its in-house orchestra. Moving from radio to television, he later helped provide music for The Ed Sullivan Show, The Jackie Gleason Show, Candid Camera and other CBS shows. He remained active in jazz during his years with CBS and in 1957 recorded his first and only album as a leader.

Powell worked with Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkins, and many other jazz stars. He was the drummer on a celebrated 1945 recording session, led by Red Norvo, that was among the first to feature the modern-jazz pioneers Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

A versatile percussionist who carried a kit filled with castanets, clickers, and other noisemakers, Mr. Powell used a specially designed stand that would allow him to play his bongo drums standing up, instead of slowing down to settle them between his knees.

He stayed with CBS until 1972, then moved to the Virgin Islands. He and his wife, Peggy, later retired to the San Diego area.

-- excerpted from Powell's obituary at www.nytimes.com

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