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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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201312 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 Request)

BEN BRANCH - Motherless child - CHESS

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

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 honey man 7''

nice popcorn groover,yeahhhh.


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

Ben Branch and The Operation Breadbasket Orchestra - Yield Not To Temptation (1968)

Ben Branch and The Operation Breadbasket Orchestra and Choir Yield Not To Temptation (Album "The Last Request") ©1968 Chess Records (By Request)

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 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 moment so send me a email at ben.branch4@gma...

Ben Branch - Motherless Child

Basketball class of 2017 by Benjamin Branch Version2 ( 60 sec. 3pt. drill)

Like, subscribe, and comment so I can make better videos in the future 1st time filming hope you enjoy more is on the way NC Southeast Raleigh student that has good character and major potential...

201312 videos foundNext > 

77 news items

Joplin Globe

Joplin Globe
Fri, 17 Apr 2015 19:14:55 -0700

Scott Hamilton, with the federal service, said the project now involves about 250 acres along Center Creek and Ben's Branch located north of Webb City. Ultimately, Hamilton said, the project could take in 1,000 acres. In late October, Webb City began ...


Thu, 26 Mar 2015 12:10:21 -0700

So will Ben branch out into other martial arts as well? With that much talent and focus at his disposal, would he welcome additional challenges? “I'm sure there will be a point when I will try other styles,” he says, “but that won't be for a while.” He ...

Amherst Bulletin

Amherst Bulletin
Fri, 30 Jan 2015 21:37:30 -0800

AMHERST — At a time when University of Massachusetts Amherst students spend about $1,200 a year on textbooks, one wonders whether the authors of the nearly $300 “Essentials of Investments” would advise students to actually buy a new copy of their ...

Periodico a.m.

Periodico a.m.
Sat, 04 Apr 2015 09:18:45 -0700

Sus últimas palabras en ese balcón fueron dirigidas al músico Ben Branch, quien iba a actuar esa noche durante una reunión pública a la que asistiría Martin Luther King. Sus amigos, que estaban dentro de la habitación, al oír los disparos corrieron ...

Alice @ 97.3

Alice @ 97.3
Sat, 07 Feb 2015 11:44:53 -0800

Play it real pretty,” he is recorded as saying to jazz musician Ben Branch in Memphis just moments before his death. Jackson sang the song at King's funeral at his request. Watch the performance of “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” and “Glory,” among ...

NBA.com (blog)

NBA.com (blog)
Sun, 18 Jan 2015 19:11:15 -0800

"He was talking to Jesse Jackson and the musician Ben Branch. He was talking about this particular song that is playing now, Precious Lord, Take My Hand. He wanted the song to be played at the rally that they were going to be having later on for the ...

NPR (blog)

NPR (blog)
Thu, 15 Jan 2015 07:56:15 -0800

The most beautiful thing about Ava DuVernay's film Selma — the first major biographical film feature about Martin Luther King, Jr. — is its deep recognition of how private encounters inform and even shape historic events. The portrayal of public ...

Your Houston News

Your Houston News
Thu, 05 Feb 2015 15:17:49 -0800

The Mardi Gras Parade will kick off at 2 p.m. and will feature local businesses, organizations and residents tossing beads and prizes as they circle the park. According to Ibanez, the parade will line up and start from Ben's Branch Drive, circle the ...

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