Hubbard was born April 7, 1938 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He began playing the trumpet in his school band at the Jordan Conservatory. In 1958, he moved to New York City and began playing with some of the best jazz players of the era. In 1960, he made his recording debut as a leader, “Open Sesame,” and in 1961 he made one of his most famous recordings, “Ready for Freddie.”
From 1961 to 1966, Hubbard played with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Hubbard achieved his greatest popular success during the 1970s, recording “Red Clay” (1970), “First Light” (1971), which won the 1972 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Performance – Group, and “Sky Dive” (1972). In 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts designated Hubbard a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor in jazz, and in 2009 he was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame.