The Montgomery Family Presents 

The Official Website for Legendary Jazz Pianist and Vibraphonist 


January 1930 - May 2009

An Amazingly Talented Muscian, Arranger and Composer-
His music has been described as, Lyrical and fluid, with a warmth and grace that's hard to resist.  Composer and arranger, pianist and vibraphonist, Buddy Montgomery's musical career has spanned nearly half a century.  Born and raised in Indianapolis, Buddy was the youngest in a family of musical siblings.  He was motivated to pursue a musical career by his older brothers, Thomas, Monk and Wes.  But it was his sister Lena's piano playing that inspired Buddy to play the piano.  Thomas, who died in his teens, was a drummer;  Monk, a bassist;  and Wes, a guitarist.

By the age of 18, Buddy was on the road with Big Joe Turner, a well-known blues singer.  Upon returning home, he continued to work with his brothers and other Indianapolis musicians.  Indianapolis was a hotbed of musical talent at that time and Buddy's biggest inspiration was a pianist by the name of Erroll Grandy.

In 1951, Buddy was drafted and served two years in the Army.  Because he didn't read music, he was not allowed in the Army band.   After his discharge, Buddy joined the Hampton Family band and worked at the Cotton Club in Cincinnati.  He then returned to Indianapolis to join his brothers Monk and Wes, and two other musicians, Robert (Sonny) Johnson and Alonzo (Pookie) Johnson, forming the Montgomery Johnson Quintet.

Miles Davis (bending down) Winton Kelley (back left), Buddy (vibes), Paul Chambers (bass), John Coltrane (sax)

Buddy has appeared with, recorded with, or arranged musical scores for most of the jazz greats, including George Shearing, Cannonball Adderly, Johnny Griffin, Ron Carter, John Coltrane and Wynton Kelly.  He joined the Miles Davis Sextet in 1960.  His stay with Miles was short because Buddy's fear of flying caused him to leave the band and his luggage just as their airplane started to taxi down the runway for a European tour.  Throughout the 60's, Wes, Monk and Buddy, worked together whenever they could.  They were on the road together in 1968 when Wes died of a heart attack at the early age of 45.

Buddy's Sextet: (L-R) Andy LoDuca, Duma Saafir, Teju, Jeff Chambers, Raymond Torres and Buddy (front)
 After that Buddy moved to Milwaukee, where he lived and worked for the next 12 years.  He worked at two of Milwaukee's prestigious hotels, the Marc Plaza (now Hilton) in the Bombay Bicycle room and the Pfister Hotel.   He formed the "Buddy Montgomery Trio" and because of his extraordinary ear for detecting talent he enlisted bassist Jeff Chambers and Sam Belton.  Later Buddy expanded his trio to quartet to include new drummer "Killer" Ray Appleton and Duma Saafir on percussions.   At times this group was expanded even further to a sextet.


Then he founded the Milwaukee Jazz Alliance (MJA), which provided entertainment, some of it free, throughout the city and outlying areas.  Buddy enlisted both nationally known artists and local artists to help provide free concerts.  With the help of local politicians, he obtained space at Marquette College where the MJA could teach students and soon the MJA was able to hire large numbers of these young musicians to perform at different venues and events, including grade and middle schools, colleges, performing arts centers, parks, night clubs, hospitals and prisons.  During this time, Buddy put countless hours and personal funds into helping young musicians, and non-profit organizations working with young people.  

As Buddy had worked at the Hotel Meridien in San Francisco, in 1989, he was asked to play at the Hotel Parker Meridien in New York City.  For four years he held court there, with his jazz trio, just doors from Carnegie Hall and blocks from Radio City Music Hall.  Many of his old friends, such as George Shearing, Nancy Wilson, George Benson, Al Jareau and Ella Fitzgerald dropped by to see him.   And some sat in, such as Bobby McFerron, Grover Washington Jr., Johnny Mandel and Charles Brown to name a few.  During that time, he returned to Oakland in the summer months to continue to manage the Oakland Jazz Alliance and record a another CD, So Why Not.  When the job ended in New York, he returned to Oakland to do two more shows with the Oakland Jazz Alliance before moving to Los Angeles in 1993, where he continued to work and record.  In the fall of 2004, Buddy returned, for a second year, as a featured performer, to the Jazz en Tete festival, in the south of France.   On his previous trip to France in 2000, he played the vibes on a CD entitled A Love Affair In Paris, for Space Time Records/Blue Geodesics.  Buddy was also working on a book about "The Brothers" while he continued to perform and compose music until his death in May 2009.  He will greatly be missed by his fans and family.  

Many thanks to Anita Bennett of National Consultants Group, for writing this biography with Buddy's approval.

Marlena Shaw in concert with Buddy on piano
L-R Willis Kirk, Monk, Wes and Buddy
The Mastersounds: Benny Barth (drums), Richie Crabtree (piano), Monk (bass) and Buddy (vibes)
At the age of 15, Buddy had seen Lionel Hampton perform and decided that someday he'd play the vibraphone.  By the mid 1950's he had mastered the vibes well enough, that when the Montgomery Johnson Quintet disbanded, he made a demo tape of himself on Vibes, Wes Montgomery on Bass, Al Plank on Piano and Benny Barth on Drums.  Buddy sent the demo tape to his brother Monk, who had relocated to Seattle, who gave it to a club owner, who was interested. 


The rest is history and the Mastersounds was formed, in 1957, with Buddy on Vibes, Monk on Bass, Richie Crabtree on Piano and Benny Barth on Drums.   In Seattle, and later in San Francisco, the Mastersounds became one of the hottest groups in the country.  Their first album, produced by World Pacific Records, Introducing The Mastersounds, quickly moved into the top 20 records.  Their second album, The King and I, a jazz version of the original musical, moved into the top spot on the charts of the well-known jazz magazine, Down Beat.  In 1958, Buddy won the Down Beat award for the Best New Vibraphone player and the Best New Arranger, while The Mastersounds was selected as the Best New Group.  Since those first two successful albums, Buddy has gone on to record some 20 plus albums with top recording companies and many leading artists.

Opening of Joe Louis Arena in Detroit MI (L-R) BB King, Sam Jones, Richard Pryor, Monk, Jimmy Smith and Buddy (front)

In 1983, Buddy moved to Las Vegas, to help care for his brother Monk, who was battling cancer.  Ultimately, Monk lost that battle and Buddy moved back to Oakland where he had raised his family.  There he founded the Jazz Action Movement in San Francisco, successfully sponsoring several concerts.  Next he organized the Oakland Jazz Alliance and produced many classic jazz events.  The Oakland Jazz Alliance concerts provided jobs for musicians, promoted jazz, held clinics for young musicians, and provided great exposure for local and national artists, as well as amateurs.  Buddy also continued to play with his own group and, in 1987, he recorded and produced the Ties of Love with his long time friend, Orrin Keepnews.  Another one of his very good friends, Marlena Shaw was the featured singer on the album.

OJA annual event (L-R) Buddy, Bobby Hutcherson and Orrin Keepnews

A note from Buddy's family.....

Thank you for taking time to learn more about our family music legacy.  We wanted to provide this information for Buddy's friends, fans and all jazz enthusiasts.


If you were a long time friend of Buddy's or worked with him during his career, we invite you to share your story/experience.  We will try to post it for others to read on this site.   


-Charla Montgomery-

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