WUSF All Night Jazz Focus Artist of the Week: Big John Patton

John Patton. Photo: Blue Note.

This week on All Night Jazz, we’ll focus on the soulful organist John Patton.

Born on July 12, 1935, in Kansas City, Patton first learned piano at the age of six. He caught an early break when the touring pianist for R&B singer Lloyd Price was fired.

Patton played a few bars of “Lawdy, Miss Clawdy” for Price and got the job.

While on the road with Price, he started tinkering with the Hammond B3 organ. “Some of the clubs that we would play in would have an organ off to the side and every time I would have a chance to get with that organ, man, it was just fascinating to me…especially the bass line,’ he told Pete Fallico at Jazzateria.

It was saxophonist and Blue Note A&R (artist and repertoire) man Ike Quebec who further encouraged Patton to explore his passion for the organ. He also introduced him to the up and coming guitarist Grant Green.

Later he worked with alto-saxophonist Lou Donaldson, with whom he made his first recording. Patton recorded multiple albums for the Blue Note label and became a driving force of the “soul jazz” movement.

He picked up the nickname Big John not from his size, but from a favorite song of the day, “Big Bad John.”

Patton, along with other jazz organists from the “Golden Era” of the jazz organ (1963-1970), had a resurgence with the advent of “acid jazz” in the UK in the ‘80s. Patton continued touring into the late 1990s.

He passed away in 2002 from complications from diabetes.