Listen to a conversation between Timothy Hoover and Chuck Berry: An American Life
author RJ Smith.
Although in 2000 he became the first sideman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame,
“King Curtis” Ousley never lived to accept his award. Tragically, he was murdered outside
his New York City home in 1971. At that moment, thirty-seven-year-old King Curtis was widely
regarded as the greatest R & B saxophone player of all time. He also may have been the most
prolific, having recorded with well over two hundred artists during an eighteen-year span.
Soul Serenade is the definitive biography of one of the most influential musicians of the 50s,
60s, and early 70s. Timothy R. Hoover chronicles King Curtis’s meteoric rise from a humble Texas
farm to the recording studios of Memphis, Muscle Shoals, and New York City as well as to some of
the world’s greatest music stages, including the Apollo Theatre, Fillmore West, and Montreux Jazz
Festival. Curtis’s “chicken-scratch” solos on the Coasters’ Yakety Yak changed the role of the
saxophone in rock & roll forever. His band opened for the Beatles at their famous Shea Stadium concert
in 1965. He also backed his “little sister” and close friend Aretha Franklin on nearly all of her tours
and Atlantic Records productions from 1967 until his death.
Soul Serenade is the result of more than twenty years of interviews and research. It is the
most comprehensive exploration of Curtis’s complex personality: his contagious sense of humor and
endearing southern elegance as well as his love for gambling and his sometimes aggressive temperament.
Hoover explores Curtis’s vibrant relationships and music-making with the likes of Buddy Holly,
Sam Cooke, Isaac Hayes, Jimi Hendrix, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Sam Moore, Donny Hathaway,
and Duane Allman, among many others.