Renowned jazz and blues trumpeter, B.B. Little, died at his home Wednesday. He was 93.
Little got his break when celebrated big band leader Randall Canadienne was putting together the brass section for what he famously dubbed his “army field band” during World War II. After the war, Little played in numerous big bands but longed to play slow tempo blues and jazz. In the early fifties, he joined forces with composer Shep Haygood and formed his own jazz/blues quartet, The Narcoleptics.
The Narcoleptics signed with Wake-Up Records and between 1954 and 1967 released eight albums backed by extensive nonstop touring. In 1969, Little suffered a heart attack and did not record again until 1973 with the release of the album, “Where Am I?” which was universally panned by critics.
Having lost his quartet, his composer, and his label he dropped out of sight, struggling with drug addiction, for more than a decade. In 1985, he played trumpet behind singer Cornelius Meadows on the hit blues single “We Do Cry,” which signaled his comeback. Little continued to play as a guest for other artists until 1990 when The Narcoleptics reunited and toured for several years, until all the members were well into their 70’s.
“The only reason we stopped touring,” said Little in a 2004 interview, “is we stopped to take a nap and, you know, never got back out there.”
The Narcoleptics released three albums between 1990 and 1997 and toured until 1999. They refused to rest on their laurels, continuing to create new compositions. Despite their age, music critics declared them innovators.
B.B. Little is survived by his second wife, Hampton, 76.