Major Holley

Major "Mule" Holley Jr. (July 10, 1924 – October 25, 1990)[1][2][3] was an American jazz upright bassist.[4][5]

Major Holley
Born(1924-07-10)July 10, 1924
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
DiedOctober 25, 1990(1990-10-25) (aged 66)
Maplewood, New Jersey, U.S.
Instrument(s)Upright bass
Years active1940s-1990

Early life and educationEdit

Holley was born in Detroit, Michigan, United States.[3] He attended the prestigious Cass Technical High School in Detroit.[1] Holley played violin and tuba when young.[3]


He started playing bass while serving in the Navy,[3] playing in the Ships Company A Band at Camp Robert Smalls, which was led by Leonard Bowden and included Clark Terry, and several other musicians recruited from civilian dance bands.[6][7] In the latter half of the 1940s, he played with Dexter Gordon, Charlie Parker, and Ella Fitzgerald;[3] in 1950 he and Oscar Peterson recorded duets, and he also played with Peterson and Charlie Smith as a trio.[3] He was married to Minnie Walton (born Millicent Aitcheson).

In the mid-1950s, he moved to England and worked at the BBC.[3] Upon his return to America, he toured with Woody Herman in 1958 and with Al Cohn/Zoot Sims between 1959 and 1960.[3] A prolific studio musician, he played with Duke Ellington in 1964 and with the Kenny Burrell Trio, Coleman Hawkins, Lee Konitz, Roy Eldridge, Michel Legrand, Milt Buckner, Jay McShann and Quincy Jones in the 1960s and 1970s.[3] From 1967 to 1970, he taught at the Berklee College of Music.[3]

Holley was known for singing along with his arco (bowed) bass solos, a technique Slam Stewart also used.[3] Holley and Stewart recorded two albums together.


Holley died of a heart attack in Maplewood, New Jersey, at the age of 66.[5]


As leaderEdit

  • Two Big Mice with Slam Stewart (Black and Blue, 1977)
  • Shut Yo' Mouth! with Slam Stewart (PM, 1987)
  • Major Step with Joe Van Enkhuizen (Timeless 1992)
  • Excuse Me Ludwig (Black and Blue, 1997)
  • Mighty Like a Rose with Rose Murphy (Black & Blue, 1998)

As sidemanEdit

With Peter Appleyard

  • Barbados Heat (Concord Jazz, 1990)
  • Barbados Cool (Concord Jazz, 1991)

With Kenny Burrell

With Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis

  • Light and Lovely (Black and Blue, 1979)
  • Midnight Slows Vol. 10 (Black and Blue, 1979)

With Coleman Hawkins

With Jo Jones

With Quincy Jones

With B.B. King

With Roland Kirk

With Buddy Tate

  • The Texas Twister (Master Jazz 1975)
  • Just Jazz (Uptown, 1984)
  • Just Friends (Muse, 1992)

With Clark Terry

  • Tread Ye Lightly (Cameo, 1964)
  • Having Fun (Delos, 1990)

With Joe Williams

  • Having the Blues Under European Sky (Denon, 1985)

With others


  1. ^ a b Peter Watrous (27 October 1990). "Mule Holley, Bassist, Dead at 66; A Favorite Among Jazz Musicians". The New York Times. p. 1 28. Retrieved 1 April 2022.
  2. ^ "Major Holley". (in French). Bibliothèque nationale de France. Retrieved 11 October 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 213. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  4. ^ Scott Yanow, Major Holley at Allmusic. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  5. ^ a b "Jazz Bassist Major Holley Dies". Associated Press. October 26, 1990. Retrieved May 21, 2020.
  6. ^ "Willie Smith of Lunceford Crew Is among others Starred Here." Chicago Defender 15 May 1943: p. 19.
  7. ^ Floyd, Samuel A. “An Oral History: The Great Lakes Experience,” in The Black Experience in Music 11.1: (Spring 1983): pp. 41-61.