by Bob Porter
King Curtis was the last of the great R&B tenor sax giants. He came to prominence in the mid-50s as a session musician in New York, recording, at one time or another, for most East Coast R&B labels. A long association with Atlantic/Atco began in 1958, especially on recordings by the Coasters. He recorded singles for many small labels in the 50s — his own Atco sessions (1958-1959), then Prestige/New Jazz and Prestige/TruSound for jazz and R&B albums (1960-1961). Curtis also had a number one R&B single with Soul Twist on Enjoy Records (1962). He was signed by Capitol (1963-1964), where he cut mostly singles, including Soul Serenade. Returning to Atlantic in 1965, he remained there for the rest of his life. He had solid R&B single success with Memphis Soul Stew and Ode to Billie Joe (1967). Beginning in 1967, Curtis started to take a more active studio role at Atlantic, leading and contracting sessions for other artists, producing with Jerry Wexler, and later on his own. He also became the leader of Aretha Franklins backing unit, the Kingpins. He compiled several albums of singles during this period. All aspects of his career were in full swing at the time he was murdered in 1971.