from Haskell, OK
June 14, 1918 - September 19, 1979 (age 61)
John Simmons was a valuable bassist on many sessions in the 1940s and '50s. He grew up in Tulsa and in California. Originally a trumpeter for two years, injuries suffered in a football game ended his brass playing. Simmons soon switched to bass, and four months later he was playing professionally. He picked up experience as a member of the very early Nat King Cole Trio and recorded with Teddy Wilson (1937) before moving to Chicago. After stints with Jimmy Bell, King Kolax, Floyd Campbell, and Johnny Letman, Simmons joined Roy Eldridge in 1940. He worked with the orchestras of Benny Goodman, Cootie Williams, and Louis Armstrong during 1941-1942 before becoming a member of CBS' Blue Network Orchestra. Simmons was briefly with Duke Ellington in October 1943, played with Eddie Heywood's Sextet in 1945, Illinois Jacquet in 1946, and then did extensive session work. The '50s were mostly spent in the studio, except for stints with Erroll Garner (1950-1952), Harry Sweets Edison (1955) and the Rolf Ericson-Duke Jordan band in Scandinavia (1956). Simmons recorded with Art Tatum on several dates in 1955 and worked and recorded with Phineas Newborn in 1960, but bad health soon forced him out of music. John Simmons, who appeared with Lester Young in the 1944 film #Jammin' the Blues, recorded pretty extensively (but never as a leader) during 1944-1955 including with Young (in the Kansas City Six), James P. Johnson, Hot Lips Page, Ben Webster, Billie Holiday, Sidney DeParis, Sid Catlett, Coleman Hawkins, Don Byas, Benny Carter, Bill DeArango, Al Casey, Ella Fitzgerald, Charles Thompson, Thelonious Monk, and Erroll Garner among others. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi
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