Ben Tucker: Jazz double bassist who played with Quincy Jones and Peggy Lee

 

Ben Tucker, who was killed in a car crash on 4 June at the age of 82, was a jazz bassist who performed with such stars as Quincy Jones to Peggy Lee before he settled in the 1970s in Savannah, where he became one of the Georgia city's best-known musicians.

Tucker, an avid golfer, was driving a golf cart across a road on Hutchinson Island when a car slammed into him at high speed. The driver of the car that struck him was charged with vehicular homicide and other criminal counts.

The news stunned musicians and jazz enthusiasts in Savannah, where Tucker had been a musical fixture for around four decades. Tucker made his living playing upright bass – an instrument he named Bertha and claimed was 240 years old – at jazz festivals, wedding receptions, nightclub gigs and bar mitzvahs.

"One of the most interesting things about playing with Ben was he was so beloved by so many people in Savannah," said Howard Paul, a jazz guitarist who played and recorded with Tucker for more than 20 years. "You could count on being interrupted at least three times in a song because Savannahians would walk up and shake his hand while we were playing."

Before he moved to the Georgia coast, Tucker had success as a songwriter, most notably with "Comin' Home Baby," co-written with the jazz singer Bob Dorough, which was recorded by Mel Torme, Herbie Mann and more recently Michael Bublé. By the end of the 1960s he had toured with Lee and performed and recorded with jazz greats such as Dexter Gordon, Buddy Rich and Jones.

Paul was a young Army lieutenant scheduled to deploy to Operation Desert Storm when he arrived in Savannah 22 years ago. A friend sent him to a nightclub Tucker operated at the time, and the bassist invited him on stage to play that night and all week.

"He was on the music scene for so many years and performed with many of the greatest names in jazz, yet he spent so much time with local musicians and children as well," Paul said. "I think he grew up in an era of jazz musicians where they felt obligated to give back."

Julius "Boo" Hornstein, a Savannah psychotherapist and jazz writer, befriended Tucker and worked with him for years in the Coastal Jazz Association, which organizes the Savannah Jazz Festival. He said Tucker took excellent care of himself for a man in his 80s and kept a steady gig playing Sunday brunch at a Savannah hotel, where he had been scheduled to perform the night of his death.

"He was a working musician right to the end," Hornstein said. "He was so instrumental in the music life of Savannah."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there