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Ben Branch
Birth name Ben F. Branch
Born 1924
Died August 27, 1987(1987-08-27)
Genres Jazz

Ben F. Branch (1924 – August 27, 1987) was an American entrepreneur, jazz tenor saxophonist, and bandleader.

Although possibly better known as being one of the last people Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to moments before his assassination in 1968,[1] Branch had been a leading bandleader for many years.

Musical career[edit]

With his brother, Thomas, on trumpet, Branch was a member of the horn section on B.B. King's first recordings for Bullet Records in 1949. "My very first recordings were for a company out of Nashville called Bullet, the Bullet Record Transcription company," King recalls. "I had horns that very first session. I had Phineas Newborn on piano; his father played drums, and his brother, Calvin, played guitar with me. I had Tuff Green on bass, Ben Branch on tenor sax, his brother, Thomas Branch, on trumpet, and a lady trombone player."[2]

Branch recorded with King again on an early 1952 Memphis recording with the B.B. King Orchestra with, among others, Hank Crawford and Ike Turner.

For much of the 1950s, Branch was the bandleader for the houseband, The Largos, at Curry's Club in North Memphis, which occasioned a young Isaac Hayes his first professional gigs.[3][4]

Future M.G. bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn was the first white member of Branch's big band in the early 1960s.[5]

In 1982 Branch founded the American Music Hall of Fame, a private music school in Chicago.

A few months before his death Branch appeared with his band at the 1987 Chicago Blues Festival backing Rosco Gordon.[6]

Branch also recorded with Brother Jack McDuff and Etta James, Little Milton and Phil Upchurch.

Branch held a degree in music from Memphis State University.

Business career[edit]

Branch was president of Doctor Products Inc., founded in 1983, in Chicago, Illinois, the nation's only black-owned soft-drink manufacturing company. The company eventually signed a $355 million agreement with Kemmerer Bottling Group, bottler of several well-known soft drinks, including 7Up, to distribute the Doctor Products beverages.[7]

Operation Breadbasket[edit]

As musical director for the SCLC's Operation Breadbasket he led the Breadbasket Orchestra and Choir that performed benefits for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Operation/PUSH. Just moments before being assassinated, Dr. King had just asked Branch to play a Negro spiritual, "Precious Lord, Take My Hand," at a rally that was to have been held two hours later.[8]

Cannonball Adderley, in the introduction to the title track of his 1969 album Country Preacher, makes a specific mention of Branch in recognition of his work as leader of the Operation Breadbasket Orchestra and Choir.[9]

While musical director of the Breadbasket Orchestra and Operation/PUSH, he arranged for gospel singer Deleon Richards to perform at the Chicago Stadium (later the United Center).[10]



  1. ^ "Ben Branch, 59, musician and civil rights activist, died Thursday 27 in Provident Medical Center after suffering a stroke. Mr. Branch, a South Side resident, was the last person to whom Martin Luther King Jr. spoke moments before his assassination at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968. King asked Mr. Branch, a saxophonist, to play his favorite gospel song, 'Precious Lord,' at a rally later that night." Chicago Sun-Times, August 28, 1987.
  2. ^ Blues Access Interview by Wayne Robins (Spring 1999) – Accessed January 23, 2009.
  3. ^ The Memphis Sound: Lost and Found
  4. ^ Bowman, Rob Soulsville, U.S.A.: the story of Stax Records Music Sales Group, 2003 ISBN 0-8256-7284-8, ISBN 978-0-8256-7284-2 at Google Books
  5. ^ ejazznews.com
  6. ^ June 7, 1987 "Rosco Gordon with the Ben Branch Band" City of Chicago Official Tourism Site
  7. ^ Post-Tribune (IN), August 29, 1987.
  8. ^ "Martin Luther King Is Slain in Memphis; A White Is Suspected; Johnson Urges Calm" The New York Times
  9. ^ Thomas, Lorenzo & Lynn Nielsen, Aldon Don't Deny My Name: words and music and the black intellectual tradition, University of Michigan Press, 2008 ISBN 0-472-06892-X, 9780472068920 at Google Books
  10. ^ Chicago Defender Online
  11. ^ Atlantic Records discography: 1964

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290899 videos foundNext > 

Ben Branch and The Operation Breadbasket Orchestra - Precious Lord Take My Hand (1968)

Ben Branch and The Operation Breadbasket Orchestra and Choir Precious Lord Take My Hand (Album "The Last Request") Solo: Clay Evans ©1968 Chess Records (By R...


This is a super funky version of the Jackie Wilson classic. I am so digging it..........

Ben Branch and The Operation Breadbasket Orchestra - Hard Times (1968)

Ben Branch and The Operation Breadbasket Orchestra and Choir Hard Times (Album "The Last Request") ©1968 Chess Records (By Request)

Ben Branch 2013

this is my clip from 2013 , thanks to ryan kayes for filming and also a big thanks to Anthony cox for filming/editing .im looking for sponsorship at the mome...

Ben Branch and The Operation Breadbasket Orchestra - Let Us Break Bread Together (1968)

Ben Branch and The Operation Breadbasket Orchestra and Choir Let Us Break Bread Together (Album "The Last Request") ©1968 Chess Records (By Request)

BEN BRANCH - Motherless child - CHESS

Great mod jazz gospel! Follow us on http://nutslitevenueroma.blogspot.com/

Ben Branch - Motherless Child

Ben Branch & The Downhomers - Honey Man - CADET 5543

DJ Lucien * POPCORN BEAT * ORIGINAL VINYL * Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes s...

ben branch honey man 7''

nice popcorn groover,yeahhhh.

Ben branch & the downhomers - Honey man

290899 videos foundNext > 

61 news items

Paragould Daily Press

Paragould Daily Press
Sat, 22 Nov 2014 07:56:15 -0800

Ben Branch, president of the Greene County Goodfellows, kicked off the club's annual Christmas toy drive on Friday at Centennial Bank in downtown Paragould. "We serve the whole county, not just Paragould," Branch said. "So any kids needing help out ...
Allentown Morning Call
Mon, 27 Oct 2014 22:07:27 -0700

1969—Ben Branch scores four touchdowns, two on kickoff returns, to lead Emmaus to a 47-30 win over Palmerton. Branch scores on kickoff returns of 88 and 72 yards. Contributions, subject to verification in The Morning Call's archives, can be submitted ...
Armenian Weekly
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 19:56:07 -0700

Employees of Gephardt Group subcontractor Dickstein Shapiro LLC contacted Ben Branch, legislative director to Cong. Gregory Meeks, “regarding legislation focused on Turkish regional issues.” On behalf of Dickstein Shapiro, former House Speaker Dennis ...

Asbarez Armenian News

Asbarez Armenian News
Tue, 26 Aug 2014 11:24:44 -0700

Employees of Gephardt Group subcontractor Dickstein Shapiro LLC contacted Ben Branch, Legislative Director to Cong. Gregory Meeks, “regarding legislation focused on Turkish regional issues.” On behalf of Dickstein Shapiro, former House Speaker Dennis ...
Tue, 06 May 2014 20:22:30 -0700

NBC led the field Tuesday with six wins at the 35th annual Sports Emmy Awards, presented at Frederick P. Rose Hall in Gotham. The Peacock's “Sunday Night Football” (pictured) extended its streak in the live sports series category to a sixth consecutive ...
Fri, 23 May 2014 14:48:10 -0700

The information is fascinating, and we are grateful that Ben's branch of the family tree is so interested in preserving the entire family history. The family member who contracted the German researcher recently visited both the Schwalbach and Neuweid ...


Fri, 14 Mar 2014 08:45:00 -0700

PREMIER Design + Build Group has opened a second office, located in Broward County, Fla., and has named Ben Branch as senior vice president, Southeast Division. A successful introduction into the design + build construction market has paved the way ...

Henderson Daily Dispatch (registration)

Henderson Daily Dispatch (registration)
Fri, 11 Apr 2014 21:05:23 -0700

Ben Branch led the Warriors with five goals, Nick Meador had four and Luke Wheeless tallied three. Also scoring were Bruce Clay, Garrod Watts, Tony Bowden, Nolan Boyd, and Cameron Blanchard. An exodus of seniors last spring left Webb rebuilding.

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