Drummer Duffy Jackson: The ‘Johnny Appleseed of Jazz’

March 19, 2021

As a 20-year-old drummer, Duffy Jackson, who died March 4 in Nashville at the age of 67, was the youngest musician ever hired by Count Basie. According to WBGO’s Nate Chinen (March 4, 2021), “His bedrock time and tasteful embellishments were a natural fit for the band.” During his career, Jackson also played with saxophonists Benny Carter, Illinois Jacquet, and Sonny Stitt as well as with vibraphonist Lionel Hampton and bassist Ray Brown.

Born in Freeport, NY, on July 3, 1953, Jackson started in show business at a very early age, playing the drums on his father, bassist Chubby Jackson’s ABC television program, Chubby Jackson’s Little Rascals. According to Chinen, he made 300 TV appearances between the ages of five and 12.

Jackson moved to Nashville from South Florida in the late 2000s and became a regular at Rudy’s Jazz Room there. In a Facebook post, Rudy’s said goodbye “to one of the most legendary drummers in our Nashville jazz scene . . . Duffy was truly an amazing energetic swinging drummer . . . Duffy shared with us many wonderful stories of his experiences of playing with the greats. Most notable were some of his experiences of playing with the Basie Orchestra.”

Trumpeter Nicholas Richardson, also on Facebook, recalled being “so fortunate to perform with Mr. Jackson, playing lead trumpet on some of his charts at Western Illinois University. He was such an amazing musician and an even better guy.”

In a 1996 interview with the Los Angeles Times’ Zan Stewart, Jackson called himself the “Johnny Appleseed of Jazz,” explaining that, “About three weeks ago, I went to the Lindenbrook School in Valley Village, and I had the little kids dancing and scatting to ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ and other songs they knew. I want to plant the seeds of groove and love of happy swinging jazz into little kids’ hearts.”

Cause of death was complications from hip surgery. Jackson is survived by his wife, Marina, and two sisters, Myno Tayloe and Jai Jackson.

Photo from nashvillejazz.org

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