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Willis "Gator" Jackson (April 25, 1932 – October 25, 1987)[1] was an American jazz tenor saxophonist.



Born in Miami, Florida,[1] Jackson joined Duke Ellington alumnus Cootie Williams's band in 1949 as a teenager, after being discovered by Eddie Vinson. During the 1950s Jackson participated in R&B and jazz recordings, primarily as a session musician. He also toured as leader of the backing band of singer Ruth Brown, whom he married.[1] Jackson joined Prestige Records in 1959, making a string of jazz albums that proved to an influence on the burgeoning soul jazz movement.[citation needed] During this era, Jack McDuff and Pat Martino became famous through association with Jackson. Jackson's main influences were Lester Young and Illinois Jacquet.[citation needed]

Jamaican ska innovator Prince Buster has cited Jackson's song "Later for the Gator" as one of the first ska songs.[2]

Jackson died in New York City one week after heart surgery, in October 1987, at the age of 55.[1]


As leaderEdit


  • The Best of Willis Jackson With Brother Jack McDuff (Prestige, 1969)
  • The Best of Willis Jackson/Soul Stompin' (Prestige, 1970)
  • On My Own (Whiskey, Women, And... , 1986) (compilation of early Atlantic recordings 1950–55)
  • Gator's Groove: The Best of Willis Jackson, Volume One (BGP/Ace, 1988) (compilation of Prestige recordings)
  • Call of The Gators (Delmark, 1992) (compilation of early Apollo recordings 1949–50)
  • Gentle Gator (Prestige, 1995) (compilation drawn from four different Jackson albums)
  • Willis Jackson With Pat Martino (Prestige, 1995) (compilation of Jackson's Action! Recorded Live + Live! Action)
  • Willis...With Pat (32 Jazz, 1998) (compilation of three Muse albums: Headed And Gutted [4 tracks], Bar Wars [2 tracks], Single Action [2 tracks])
  • Legends of Acid Jazz: Willis Jackson (Prestige, 1998) (compilation of Blue Gator + Cookin' Sherry)
  • Legends of Acid Jazz: Willis Jackson – Keep On A Blowin' (Prestige, 1999) (compilation of Keep On A Blowin' + Thunderbird)
  • At Large (Prestige, 2000) (compilation drawn from five different Jackson albums)
  • Willis Jackson With Pat Martino – Gravy (Prestige, 2001) (compilation of Grease 'N' Gravy + The Good Life)
  • Nuther'n Like Thuther'n (Prestige, 2002) (compilation of More Gravy + Boss Shoutin' )
  • Willis Jackson With Pat Martino – Soul Night Live! (Prestige, 2002) (compilation of Soul Night/Live! + Tell It... )
  • Willis Jackson With Jack McDuff – Together Again! (Prestige, 2003) (compilation of Together Again! + Together Again, Again)
  • After Hours (Prestige, 2004) (compilation of Loose... + Soul Grabber)
  • The Chronological Willis Jackson 1950–1954 (Classics 'Blues & Rhythm Series' 5135, 2005)
  • The Remaining Willis Jackson 1951–1959 (Blue Moon 6048, 2005)
  • Later For The Gator (Acrobat 4203, 2005) (compilation/retrospective of Jackson's early career years)

As sidemanEdit

With Ruth Brown


  1. ^ a b c d Doc Rock. "The 1980s". The Dead Rock Stars Club. Retrieved 2017-05-07.
  2. ^ Video on YouTube

External linksEdit