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David "Fathead" Newman Quotes

The saxophone came first. I started out playing the alto saxophone. There was a gentleman from Dallas known as Buster Smith. He was my main influence. He spent many years living in Kansas City. He had bands in Kansas City in the 1930s when the town was the hub. There were great, what they called, territorial bands that came through Kansas City and stayed there. Buster Smith had a band there and he also played with Bennie Moten’s band. They had a band called the Blue Devils. Jay McShann also had a band there. Charlie Parker would listen to Buster Smith play and they all called Buster Smith "prophet". Charlie Parker was influenced by Buster Smith in the early days before joining Jay McShann. Charlie Parker was one of the big main influences. I started out playing the alto saxophone and later on, when I joined Ray Charles in ’54, I started out playing the baritone saxophone. Because that was the only opening. Then I switched to the tenor saxophone in the 1950s because it had become so very popular. And then later, around 1960, I played the soprano and then I started playing the flute also.
David "Fathead" Newman

That was his nickname for me. He didn’t like to use the term "Fathead". He felt it was a little degrading. I didn’t have any qualms about being called "Fathead". It was not derogatory to me at all. I wasn’t offended by the nickname after all it was just a nickname. A lot of musicians, my peers, have strange nicknames. I suppose "Fathead" was a "mushuginah" sounding name but it stuck. My music instructor from high school gave me the nickname by the way. I had this bad habit of memorizing the music. He wanted to make sure that I read the music. I had some music on my bandstand one day when we are playing "Sousa’s March." The music was upside down on my music stand. He knew that I could barely read the music upright let alone upside down. He walked behind me and thumped me on the head in class and called me "Fathead". He said: ‘You are supposed to read the music, not memorize the music.’ All my classmates went ape in class. After a class they all started calling me "Fathead" and it stuck. By now, it is like a trademark.
David "Fathead" Newman (about Ray Charles)

Category: Music Quotes
Occupation: Musician(s)

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