After many years of traveling around the world, literally, with studio dates and concert appearances with jazz greats such as Roland Kirk, Jack McDuff, Sonny Stitt, Dizzy Gillespie, Lonnie Smith, Slide Hampton and Frank Foster, among others, I'm now setting out on my own to continue my solo career and expand my musical horizons. I'll always count my long-time friend, the late Wes Montgomery, as my mentor and as the greatest influence on my playing style. But also, jazz guitar great George Benson and I have been friends ever since our early days of knocking around at local jam sessions in Pittsburgh, and our life-long association can be readily heard in one another's playing.
Originally, I started playing jazz music at the age of 16 along with my brother, Wendall, while growing up in Pittsburgh. Wendall was a great organist – our father was a minister of the local church, and it was this inspiration that gave us our love for music. We played in many of the local clubs in Pittsburgh, although the one that stuck with me the most was called Hurricane Birdie. The club owner at the time asked me how old I was; when I said that I was 16 she told me, "Get out of here! You're too young." That really hurt me, but did not stop me from playing. From there, I went on the road with Roland Kirk for one year, and as soon as I came back to Pittsburgh I started to play with The Gene Ludwig Trio. Together we played for Etta Jones, Big MaeBelle, Lou Donaldson and Ernestine Anderson to name just a few, culminating with a big hit on Atlantic Records called "Sticks and Stones". After that, I went on to play with the superstar Jack McDuff, traveling all around the world playing and recording for the next two years, before making a tour of Europe and America with the great Sam Rivers, which lead to my long-term work with the legendary pianist and vocalist Freddy Cole as well as Natalie Cole.