Sax Players of the Pop and Rock Era

By Russ:

If you like saxophone stuff as I do, you’re in for a treat. I’d like to present a little synopsis about sax players that were big in the field of  Pop Music or Rock n Roll – from the early 1950s to the end of the 70s. 

Each of these musicians will have recorded at least one Signature Sax Solo or tune, and their creative musical passages are etched in our memories.

Lots of information on each of these artists can be found elsewhere, but here are some of their distinctive sounds for your listening pleasure.

Included (in order by first name) are:

Bill Justis, Boots Randolph, Clarence Clemons, Clifford Scott, Danny Flores, David “Fathead” Newman, Don Wilkerson, Earl Bostic, Gene Barge, Grady Gains, Herb Hardesty, Jesse Powell, Jimmy Forrest, Joey D’Ambrosia, Junior Walker, Justin Gordon, King Curtis, Lee Allen, Noble “Thin Man” Watts, Paul Desmond, Phil Woods, Plas Johnson, Raphael Ravenscroft, Red Prysock, Rusty Bryant, Rudy Pompilli,
Sam Butera, Sil Austin, Stan Getz, Steve Douglas, Steve Gregory

Sorry if I’ve missed one of your favourites. Let me know. In order by date of birth…


notesLine1912-1965   / from Oklahoma / played with Lionel Hampton

BosticBeechlerEarl Bostic

Flamingo / 1951


Harlem Nocturn / 1951


Red Sails In The Sunset / 1951


1917-1988 / California USA / played the twin saxes with Billy Vaughn

JustinGordonJustin Gordon

Billy Vaughn – Sail Along Silvery Moon /


notesLine1920-1980      /  Missouri / played with  Duke Ellington

JimmyForrestJimmy Forrest

Night Train /  1951


notesLine— / played with Bill Haley & His Comets

JoeyD'AmbrosiaJoey D’Ambrosia

Bill Haley and His Comets – Shake Rattle and Roll / 1954


notesLine1924-1976    /  Pennsylvania USA  / played with  Bill Haley & His Comets

HaleynRudyRudy Pompilli

Bill Haley and His Comets – Rudy’s Rock  /  1956


notesLine1924-1977    /   San Francisco /   played with the  Dave Brubeck Quartet    

PaulDesmondBrubeck, Paul Desmond

Dave Brubeck Quartet – “Take Five”  /  1961


1924 — / played with Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, The Cadillacs

JessePowellJesse Powell

The Bobbettes – Mr. Lee / 1957


notesLine1925    /    Louisiana USA / played with   Fats Domino, Dave Bartholemew’s Band

HerbHardestyHerb Hardesty

Fats Domino – Blue Monday” / 1955

Fats Domino – I’m Walkin”   / 1955


notesLine1926-1982 / Alabama USA / arranged music for Sun artists Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and Charlie Rich, who discovered him

BillJustisBill Justis

Raunchy / 1957


1926 — /  Virginia, USA / played with Fats Domino, B Diddley, LaVern Baker, Ray Charles among others.

GeneBargeGene Barge

The Church Street Five – A Night With Daddy “G” / pt 1 & 2 / 1961 /


notesLine1926-1993   /   North Carolina USA / played with  Tiny Bradshaw Band

RedRed Prysock

 Hand Clappin’”    1955


notesLine1926-2004   /   Florida  / played with  Lionel Hampton

NobleNoble “Thin Man” Watts

This man was considered “one of the most incendiary fire-breathing tenor sax honkers” of the 1950s

Hard Times (The Slop) by Noble “Thin-Man” Watts / 1957 / used the Flutter-tongue technique  /



notesLine1927-1991    /    Pennsylvania  / played with  Woody Herman

StanGetzStan Getz

Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd – Desafinado” / 1963

Girl From Ipanema” w/ Astrud Gilberto  /  1963


notesLine1927-1994    /    New Orleans / played with   Dave Bartholemew, Fats Domino, Little Richard

LeeAllenLee Allen

Fats Domino – “I Can’t Go On” / 1955


Lee Allen – Walkin’ With Mr. Lee” / 1958


Little Richard – Lucille / It may not be Lee Allen miming the sax solo in this video, but is sure is him on the recorded track


notesLine1927-2007    /    Kentucky  / played with  Roy Orbison, and many others

BootsBoots Randolph

Yackety Sax” / 1958


notesLine1927-2009        New Orleans    Tommy Dorsey, Louis Prima

SamSam Butera

Keely Smith & Louis Prima / with Sam Butera & The Witnesses / Just A Gigalo/I Ain’t Got Nobody” / 1956


notesLine1928-1993    /   Texas  / played with  Lionel Hampton, Bill Doggett

Bill Doggett / Honky Tonk part 2” / 1956


notesLine1929-2001    /    Florida  / played with  Roy Eldridge

silAustinSil Austin

Slow Walk”  /  1957


notesLine1929-2006    /    California  /   played with The Champs

DannyFlores-Chuck_RioDanny Flores

Tequila  /  1959


1929 — / West Virginia USA / played with Tiny Grimes and Stomp Gordon

RustyBryantRusty Bryant

Rusty Bryant & The Carolyn Club Band – All Night Long / Pt 1 & 2 /


notesLine1931 —   /    Louisiana USA / played with  Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole and many more

plasJohnsonPlas Johnson

Henry Mancini – “The Pink Panther”  /  1964


notesLine1931 —      /  Massachusetts  / played with  Billy Joel, and with many jazz artists

PhilWoodsPhil Woods

Billy Joel – Just The Way You Are”  /  1977


notesLine1931-1995   /  Michigan  / played with  The Rhythm Rockers

JuniorJunior Walker

Jr. Walker & The All-Stars – Shotgun / 1965

Jr. Walker & The All-Stars – How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You / 1966


1932-1986 / Los Angeles USA / played with Amos Milburn, Ray Charles

DonWilkersonDon Wilkerson

Ray Charles – I Got A Woman / 1954


Ray Charles – This Little Girl Of Mine / 1955


Ray Charles – Hallelujah I Love Her So / 1956


notesLine1933-2009    /    Texas  / played with  Ray Charles

DavidFatheadDavid “Fathead” Newman

Ray Charles – Unchain My Heart”  / 1961


notesLine1934-1971   /  Texas  / played with  Lionel Hampton, The Coasters

KingCurtisKing Curtis 

The Coasters – “Yakety Yak” / 1958

King Curtis – Soul Serenade”  / 1964


1934 — / Texas USA / played with Little Willy John, Sam Cooke, James Brown, Ray Charles, Little Richard

GradyGainsGrady Gains

Little Richard – Keep A-Knockin’ / 1957


notesLine1938-1993 / California USA / session saxophonist with the Wrecking Crew, played with the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, Duane Eddy, the Ventures, to name a few.

steve-douglas2Steve Douglas

Duane Eddy – Forty Miles Of Bad Road / 1959


Duane Eddy – Peter Gunn / 1959



notesLine1942-2011  / Virginia, USA / played with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Clarence-Clemons-and-Bruc-007Clarence Clemons & Bruce Springsteen

You’re A Friend Of Mind / Duet with Jackson Browne


notesLine1942    /    Suffolk, UK  / played with  Pink Floyd

DickPerry2Dick Perry

Pink Floyd – “Money” / 1972


Pink Floyd – “Us And Them” / 1972


notesLine1945    /    London, UK  / played with  George Michael

SteveGregorySteve Gregory

George Michael and Wham – “Careless Whisper” / 1984


“The Sax Guy” (this is a joke)


notesLine1954-2014    /   Stoke-On-Trent, UK

RaphaelRaphael Ravenscroft 

Gerry Rafferty – “Baker Street” / 1975




plus some of our loyal and very supportive followers, per comments below…

7 thoughts on “Sax Players of the Pop and Rock Era”

  1. Hi Garry You got most of them but you should definitely have included Steve Douglas because of his huge body of work with Phil Spector There are a few others like Clarence Clemons who worked for one good artist but Steve Douglas should definitely be on your list. Best wishes Tony


  2. You missed Jim Horn. He was (at least for a time) the sax player in the Duane Eddy band ‘The Rebels’ and played on many of his records. Steve Douglas was, however, the sax player on ‘Have Guitar Will Travel’, Duane’s first album. Those early Duane Eddy records on the Jamie label were produced by Lee Hazelwood and recorded in Phoenix using mostly local musicians like Al Casey, Donnie Owens, Larry Knectel, and Buddy Wheller. So that raised the question for me of who really played that solo?

    I think Jim Horn, not Steve Douglas, is the sax player on ‘Forty Miles Of Bad Road’. I can’t verify which but the copyright date on the tune is 1959 by Duane Eddy & Al Casey and I believe it was on Duane’s fourth album ‘$1,000,000 Worth Of Twang’. Jim Horn had replaced Steve Douglas in the Rebels by the third album. Unfortunately, my copy of ‘$1,000,000’ seems to have vanished from my collection so I can’t check the album credits or the catalog numbers. Having said that, Lee Hazelwood didn’t necessarily release songs in the order they were recorded.

    I do still have several original releases of Duane Eddy albums including ‘The Twangs The Thang’ and a rarity on the Canadian Reo label called ‘Twangy Guitar’ which includes 8 tracks from the first album plus four more from a couple of unknowns named Donnie Owens and Neil Sedaka. I think that probably came about because Jamie Records used Reo in Canada to distribute.

    Getting back to Jim Horn, he went on to play woodwinds with many different artists, most notably John Denver (eg. ‘The Wildlife Concert’). His allmusic credits are impressive.


    1. Hi Les
      I am so pleased to see a lot of great feedback on this post (which was Gary’s idea, by the way).

      I admit to not knowing a lot of the detail behind some of the great recording session saxophonists. For that reason, I attempted to limit content to just those of the 50s – 70s with a hit record, or the players who you can identify by a “signature” sax solo.

      This is my reason for disregarding Jim Horn, rightly or wrongly. I have already added Steve Douglas.
      – Russ


  3. I was in the Royal Air Force back in ’52 when I first heard Earl Bostic’s ‘Flamingo’ on the American Forces Network programme ‘March of Dimes’ from Germany. I bought it as soon as I could ( only 78 those days) and played it endlessly in the billet. Since play it on the Great track.


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