1991 Inductees

CHESNEY “CHET” BAKER
Best known for his trumpet, Chet Baker also was a flugelhorn player and a gifted vocalist. Born in Yale, Oklahoma, December 23, 1929, he moved with his family to Oklahoma City where he sang in the church choir bur, at the time, did not play an instrument. At age 13, his father gave him a trombone which Chet found too large and exchanged it for a trumpet.
His widow, Carol, who still lives in Yale, described him as “the dearest and most sensitive man I ever knew. In spite of his many troubles….over the years, he never changed.

Baker won the Downbeat Jazz Poll. In 1953, Pacific Jazz released Chet Baker Sings, a record that increased his profile but alienated traditional jazz fans; he would continue to sing throughout his career. Baker formed quartets with Russ Freeman in 1953-54 with bassists Carson Smith, Joe Mondragon, and Jimmy Bond and drummers Shelly Manne, Larry Bunker, and Bob Neel. The quartet was successful in their three live sets in 1954. Because of his chiseled features, Hollywood studios approached Baker and he made his acting debut in the film Hell's Horizon, released in the fall of 1955. He declined an offer of a studio contract, preferring life on the road as a musician. Over the next few years, Baker fronted his own combos, including a 1955 quintet featuring Francy Boland, where Baker combined playing trumpet and singing. He became an icon of the West Coast "cool school" of jazz, helped by his good looks and singing talent.

His “many troubles” included losing his teeth in a street beating in 1966 and having to teach himself to play again with dentures. After this unfortunate incident, Baker did not play professionally for three years, but made his comeback on the Steve Allen Show late in 1968. Baker’s career was revitalized when Dizzy Gillespie arranged a booking in 1972 for him at the Half Note in New York. From then until his death in Amsterdam, Netherlands, May 13, 1988, Baker again played in Europe and the U.S., including appearing at Carnegie Hall.

Chet’s national and international reputation is reflected in the fact that their three children were born, respectively in London, New York and Los Angeles.

JOEY HOBART CRUTCHER
Tulsan Joey Hobart Crutcher has a biography that sounds like a “Who’s Who” in music despite the fact some music teachers tried to discourage his early devotion to gospel. Joey’s mother reported that when the delivery men brought a piano to their home, he showed versatility when he sat down and played “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”

It was Rev. John Henry Johnson and Don O’Banner who had an outside influence on Joey’s development of his dynamic gospel style. In school, Joey was pianist for the Boys Glee Club. During his stint in the Army, he was the chapel organist. After the military, he came back to Tulsa and attended Tulsa Junior College, Oklahoma Business College, and the Oklahoma School of Religion, where he studied church music.

In 1970, he joined musical forces by marrying his childhood sweetheart, Leanna Johnson. The couple had four children and specialized in building mass choirs and helping churches build quality music programs. 

Among his many musical obligations, Joey found time to be Minister of Music for the New Heights Christian Center, the director for Love Connection Community Singers, Music Director for the Gospel Music Workshop of America, Music Coordinator at the University of Tulsa for the Unlimited Gospel Choir and finds time, and to be a musician for the Liberty Baptist Church.

Most meaningful the Hall of Fame was that Crutcher found time in his busy schedule to produce a choir composed of Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame students and produce a Holiday Gospel Concerts annually at the Hall.
Crutcher was born in Tulsa, December 11, 1947.

BARNEY KESSEL
Known for his blues-like, hard-driving and earthy style, Barney Kessel is a model for students of brilliant harmonic improvisation. Kessel became a guitarist by accident. In 1935, he was selling newspapers on a street corner when he saw a guitar in a pawn shop window. He bought it, along with a how-to-play book for a dollar. His mother issued a mandate – either play it or get rid of it – after learning that the instrument was stashed in a broom closet. He chose to play it.

For three months, four hours a day, six days a week, Barney struggled with the instrument as he took advantage of free lessons offered at a government-sponsored school. At the age of 13 ½ Kessel discovered the jazz of Benny Goodman, the Dorseys and Jimmie Lunceford. He said, “It was almost like a mist lifted….”

As Kessel’s career developed, his style became modeled closely on that of fellow Oklahoman Charlie Christian, the guitarist who played to great acclaim with the racially integrated Benny Goodman Sextet. The pair soon met but when Mr. Kessel had the opportunity to play with Christian at a jazz jam session, he told The New York Times in 1991, the experience inspired him to develop a style of his own. "I realized that I had been methodically lifting his ideas from records," Kessel said. "What was I going to play? All I knew was his stuff. There were two guys playing like Charlie Christian. I knew I had to find myself."

In 1940, he moved to Los Angeles. From there his career led him to New York. Kessel continued playing for film and television until 1969 when he based himself in London, playing European clubs and concerts. Barney played and taught in Sweden, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Austria, Canada, Japan and the U.S.

Kessel was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, October 17, 1923 and died May 6, 2004 in California following a bout with brain cancer.

CECIL MCBEE
McBee, born and reared in Tulsa, began a musical career by playing a clarinet in high school. He traveled the state playing duets with his sister in concerts and in marching bands.
But by age, 17, he began experimenting with the bass and played steadily at local night clubs. Working his way through Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, he became inspired by the deep jazz tradition. He focused on the bass and jazz composition.

While in the Army, he conducted the military band at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and began to probe his bass composition. By graduation from college, he was deep into jazz improvisational.
After a stay in Detroit, he joined the Paul Winter Group and moved to New York City where he documenting a book, “The Techniques of Improvised Bass.”

He established his own group in 1975, and has made a number of recordings under his own name, but is best known for his work as a sideman; he continues to be in high demand, and has gone on to work with many jazz musicians.

His virtuoso-composer accomplishments have been recognized by membership since 1975 in the ASCAP – American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers – Special Awards for Performance and Composition. In 1985, he received his second National Endowments for the Arts award for experimental composition. In 1989, McBee received a Grammy Award as a participant in Best Group Recording for “Blues for John Coltrane.”

His compositions have been recorded by Charlie Lloyd on the “Forest Flowers” album, by Charles Tolliver on “Live at Slugs Volume I and II,” by Pharaoh Sanders on “Thembi,” ad by Norman Conners on “Love from the Sun.”
McBee was born May 19, 1935.

ROY MILTON
Milton, a “Most Wonderful Magnetic Man,” as described by his wife, Bette, who toured with the internationally famous bandleader, husband when his group electrified Europe after it catapulted into national prominence at home in the 1940s and 1950s.  A Paris, France, newspaper critic described his alternating from drumming as “terrific” and his singing” often languorous,” making Milton the ultimate “Swing Man.”

He was born in Wynnewood, Oklahoma and grew up on an Indian reservation before moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the 1920s, Milton joined the Ernie Fields Orchestra as a featured singer and then drummer. He later set out for Los Angeles (mid-30s) where he formed his own combo, “The Solid Senders,” composed of an array of strong artists who furnished pulsating rhythms and exciting solos.  Musical director of Milton’s group, Bobby Smith, composed “Tippin” In” and was also an alumnus of the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra. Milton was a night club and recording star with million-record seller “R.M. Blues,” “Best Wishes,” “Red Light,” and “So Tired,” which has become a standard. 

When rock music began to flourish, his albums reflected it with titles like “The Roots of Rock” and “Instant Groove.” Roy also was in demand for West Coast appearances in commercials and television programs including the nationally televised “Sanford and Son” show.
As a singer, his voice was described as “of exceptional quality, his diction is clear, and his moving simplicity touches you deeply.”

Milton was born July 31, 1907, and died in 1983 in Los Angeles, California.