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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]

Discography[edit]

References[edit]

  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

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Branch — Please support Wikipedia.
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87 news items

Joplin Globe

Joplin Globe
Fri, 29 May 2015 16:18:30 -0700

Scott Hamilton, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services in Columbia, said Friday that six companies submitted bids on the project that so far involves 250 acres of land along Center Creek and Ben's Branch located north of Webb City. The total number ...

Winston-Salem Journal

Winston-Salem Journal
Sat, 23 May 2015 20:45:00 -0700

From the meandering pathways around Salem Lake or through Reynolda Gardens to the high-heel challenges of Bethabara or Old Salem cobblestone sidewalks, Winston-Salem is overflowing with gorgeous outdoor destinations. Blue skies, cool ...
 
Herald-Mail Media
Sat, 16 May 2015 21:04:47 -0700

As I prepared my spring garden and planted the onions, zucchini, lettuce, peppers and tomatoes for their slow summer journey toward maturity and harvest, I found my leisure time devoted to the reading of an interesting book titled “Last Words of ...

The Patriotic Vanguard

The Patriotic Vanguard
Sun, 17 May 2015 23:12:51 -0700

Riley B. King (September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015), known by his stage name B.B. King, was an American Hall of Fame blues singer, songwriter and guitarist. Rolling Stone ranked King number 6 on its 2011 list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time ...

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 ...

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 ...

Joplin Globe

Joplin Globe
Fri, 17 Apr 2015 19:18:39 -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 ...

Henderson Daily Dispatch

Henderson Daily Dispatch
Tue, 21 Apr 2015 18:41:15 -0700

Hamrick recorded three goals in the first half alone, while Webb junior attack Ben Branch had four goals in the opening 24 minutes of play. “We didn't play real well in the first half,” J.F. Webb head coach David Farabee said. “We played a lot harder ...
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