You Oughta Know: Rufus Harley
Quick, name all of the famous jazz bagpipe players! What, you can’t come up with any?! Well, fortunately for you, we can at least provide you with the name of the most prominent in the field, who’s absolutely a guy you oughta know.
Born on May 20, 1936 in Raleigh, North Carolina, Rufus Harley moved to North Philadelphia when he was still a wee lad, and he had a love of music which led him to learn how to play a number of instruments, including the saxophone, trumpet, flute, oboe, and clarinet. After watching the Black Watch perform in JFK’s funeral procession, however, Harley had an epiphany: it was time for him to learn how to play bagpipes.
It took a trip to New York City and $120 before he found himself a bagpipe, after which he had to learn how to play the thing, a process which took time, not to mention a lot of trial and error. (It’s said that when neighbors called to complain, if the end result was the arrival of the police, he would hide his instrument and ask the officers, “Do I look like I’m Scottish to you?”)
For the second half of the 1960s, Harley had a deal with Atlantic Records which led to four albums with the label, but he was still a unique enough figure that he was a guest on I’ve Got A Secret and no one on the panel guessed his secret.
Harley’s tenure on Atlantic Records resulted in the release of COURAGE: THE ATLANTIC RECORDINGS, and let’s honest: you need a lot of courage to play jazz bagpipes. That said, let’s hope you can find the courage to press “play” on this Spotify collection, because trust us, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard a jazzed-up version of “Eight Miles High” on bagpipes!
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