|Birth name||Ben F. Branch|
|Died||August 27, 1987|
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."
In 1982 Branch founded the American Music Hall of Fame, a private music school in Chicago.
Branch held a degree in music from Memphis State University.
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.
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.
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.
- 1964: "Beach Bash"/"Bush Bash" - The Mar-Keys - Wayne Jackson (tp) Ben Branch (ts) Floyd Newman (bars) Booker T. Jones (org) Steve Cropper (g) Donald "Duck" Dunn (el-b) Al Jackson (d) (Stax 45-156)
- 1968: The Last Request - Operation Breadbasket Orchesta and choir (Chess)
- 1969: Gin and Orange – Brother Jack McDuff
- "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.
- Blues Access Interview by Wayne Robins (Spring 1999) – Accessed January 23, 2009.
- The Memphis Sound: Lost and Found
- 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
- June 7, 1987 "Rosco Gordon with the Ben Branch Band" City of Chicago Official Tourism Site
- Post-Tribune (IN), August 29, 1987.
- "Martin Luther King Is Slain in Memphis; A White Is Suspected; Johnson Urges Calm" The New York Times
- 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
- Chicago Defender Online
- Atlantic Records discography: 1964