March 6th in African American History – John Leslie “Wes” Montgomery

John Leslie “Wes” Montgomery March 6, 1923 John Leslie “Wes” Montgomery, jazz guitarist, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Montgomery started playing the guitar at the age of 19 and initially recorded with his two brothers as the Montgomery Brothers.

From 1948 to 1950, he toured with Lionel Hampton’s orchestra. In 1960, Montgomery won the Down Beat Magazine New Star award for his album “The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery.” In 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1966, and 1967, he won the Down Beat Critic’s Poll award for best jazz guitarist. In 1966, he won the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance by Large Group or Soloist with Large Group for “Goin’ Out of My Head.” Other Grammy nominated recordings by Montgomery include “Bumpin” (1965), “Eleanor Rigby” (1968), and “Willow, Weep for Me” (1969).

Montgomery is considered the founder of the smooth jazz school and a significant influence on other jazz guitarist, including Pat Metheny, George Benson, and Kenny Burrell. Montgomery died June 15, 1968 and was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame that same year. Wes Montgomery Park in Indianapolis is named in his honor.


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