Cannonball Adderley Biography

(Jazz alto saxophonist)

Birthday: September 15, 1928 (Virgo)

Born In: Tampa, Florida, United States

Cannonball Adderley was a reputable jazz alto saxophonist of the 1950s and 1960s who created a rage amongst the audience with his ground-breaking music. Blessed with an open and agreeable personality, his music reflected the same. What made Adderley arch-different from other musicians of his era was his engaging and articulating nature that dominated his professional and personal life. He is best remembered till date for his super-successful single, ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ which went on to become a crossover hit at the pop charts. His association with Davis was also remarkable, the latter casting a dominant influence on his career and music. Together the two came up with the epochal album, ‘Kind of Blue’. Other than serving as a musician, he also worked as a talent scout in his lifetime, and introduced several prominent musicians, by both employing them in his ensemble and serving as a studio record producer for them. He was also a notable spokesperson for jazz and contributed extensively for the advancement in the field of jazz through television programs and as a teacher at various universities.
Quick Facts

Nick Name: Cannibal

Died At Age: 46

Saxophone Players Jazz Musicians

Died on: August 8, 1975

place of death: Gary, Indiana, United States

U.S. State: Florida

City: Tampa, Florida

  • 1

    When did Cannonball Adderley start his music career?

    Cannonball Adderley began his music career in the 1950s, playing as a sideman with various jazz bands before forming his own group.
  • 2

    What is Cannonball Adderley's most famous album?

    Cannonball Adderley's most famous album is "Somethin' Else," released in 1958. It is considered a classic of the hard bop genre.
  • 3

    What instrument did Cannonball Adderley play?

    Cannonball Adderley was a renowned saxophonist, known for his mastery of the alto saxophone.
  • 4

    Which famous jazz musicians did Cannonball Adderley collaborate with?

    Cannonball Adderley collaborated with many jazz legends, including Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Bill Evans, among others.
  • 5

    What impact did Cannonball Adderley have on the jazz music scene?

    Cannonball Adderley was influential in popularizing soul jazz and hard bop styles, and his innovative approach to improvisation continues to inspire musicians today.
Childhood & Early Life
Cannonball Adderley was born as Julian Edwin Adderley on September 15, 1928 in Tampa, Florida, United States.
Academically proficient, he attained his early education from a reputed school. Thereafter he completed his musical studies. During his early years, he was a voracious eater and had a large appetite. Due to this, seniors and friends at his school fondly gave him the nickname ‘cannibal’.
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Concluding his studies, he took up employment at the Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida as an applied instrumental music teacher.
After a couple of months, he moved to Tallahasse, Florida, where his family had relocated to. His parents took up teaching position at Florida A&M University. In the early 1940s, he along with his brother Nat played with Ray Charles.
It was in 1955 that he finally shifted to New York City. While at New York, he visited Cafe Bohemia, where Oscar Pettiford's group was playing. Incidentally, he carried his saxophone with him that day, primarily fearing it being stolen. However, he was asked to fill in as a saxophone player. The performance was so riveting that it established his reputation as a saxophonist.
He then formed his own group along with brother Nat. In 1957, he signed onto Savoy Jazz Label, before being spotted by Miles Davis who impressed by the former’s blues-rooted alto saxophone, invited him to play for the group.
He formally joined the Miles Davis Sextet in October 1957. These were the foundation years of his glorious career ahead. He played on the seminal Davis records ‘Milestones’ and ‘Kind of Blue’.
Three months following his admittance into the Miley Davis group, John Coltrane returned to the group. It was marked by the entry of pianist Bill Evan as well. Together, they recorded the records, ‘Portrait of Cannonball’ and ‘Know What I Mean?’
Meanwhile, he did not let go of his passion for teaching music and carried over this passion into his recordings. In 1961, he narrated The Child’s Introduction to Jazz on Riverside Records.
He united with his brother Nat and came up with his first quintet, the Cannonball Adderley Quintet, in which he was on alto sax while his brother was on cornet. Though the first quintet was not quite successful, it was the second quintet that garnered much positive response. It included notable pianist, bassists, drummer and saxophonists.
Later in his career, electric jazz and avant garde experimentation influenced much of his music. He was inspired by Davis’ ‘Bitches Brew’ album as well.
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Influenced by the music of Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, he came up with two musical albums during this period, ‘Accent on Africa’ and ‘The Price You Got to Pay to be Free’ in which he doubled on his soprano saxophone.
In 1970, his quintet was showcased at the Monterey Jazz Festival in California. Simultaneously, it was also featured in the psychological thriller, ‘Play Misty for Me’
Other than singing, he ventured into other forms of entertainment as well, and was seen acting in the episode ‘Battle Hymn’ in the television series, ‘Kung Fu’ alongside Jose Feliciano and David Carradine.
Some of his popular numbers include, ‘The Here’, ‘The Jive Samba’, ‘Work Song’, ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ and ‘Walk Tall’
Awards & Achievements
He was initiated as an honorary member of the Phi Mu Apha Sinfonia fraternity and Alpha Phi Alpha.
Personal Life & Legacy
He died of a stroke on August 8, 1975. He was buried in the Southside Cemetery, Tallahassee, Florida.
Posthumously, he was inducted into the Down Beat jazz Hall of Fame.
Following his death, a number of established singers and musicians came up with records to pay tribute to the legendary saxophonist that Adderley was. Weather Report’s ‘Black Market’ album released in 1976 had a track by the name of ‘Cannonball’ in memory of the great saxophonist. It was composed by Joe Zawinul.
Just days after his death, Pepper Adams and George Mraz dedicated the composition ‘Julian’ on their 1975 Pepper Adams album called ‘Julian Day’s’.
Facts About Cannonball Adderley
Cannonball Adderley's real name was Julian Edwin Adderley, and he earned the nickname "Cannonball" due to his robust and powerful playing style on the alto saxophone.
In addition to being a talented musician, Cannonball Adderley was also known for his sharp wit and sense of humor, often engaging in playful banter with bandmates and audiences during performances.
Cannonball Adderley had a deep passion for education and often mentored younger musicians, sharing his knowledge and expertise to help them develop their own skills and careers in jazz music.
Despite his success in jazz, Cannonball Adderley also had a keen interest in other genres of music, incorporating elements of soul, funk, and R&B into his performances to create a unique and innovative sound.
Cannonball Adderley was a trailblazer in the jazz world, collaborating with artists from diverse backgrounds and pushing the boundaries of traditional jazz music to create a new and exciting fusion of styles.


Grammy Awards
1968 Best Instrumental Jazz Performance, Small Group or Soloist With Small Group Winner
1962 Best Original Jazz Composition Winner
1962 Best Instrumental Theme Or Instrumental Version of Song Winner

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