Julian Edwin "Cannonball" Adderley (September 15, 1928 - August 8, 1975) was a highly acclaimed jazz alto saxophonist who became famous during the 1960s. His best known songs include the 1967 instrumental smash, "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," a soulful, gospel-influenced jazz standard written by Joe Zawinul in 1966 for Adderley which has since then been covered over the years by numerous artists in both sung and instrumental versions.
Born in Tampa, Florida into a musical family and raised in Tallahassee, both Adderley and his younger brother Nat began their musical careers as well as a longtime collaboration at an early age when they played with Ray Charles during the early 1940s while he was residing in the area. After finishing his music studies at Florida A&M, Adderley served as the band director at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale from 1948-1950. While visiting New York City in 1955, Adderley sat in with Oscar Pettiford for his band's regular saxophonist at the Cafe Bohemia in Greenwich Village. His performance created such a sensation within the jazz scene that it soon after led to a contract with Savoy Records. After forming a short-lived quintet with brother Nat, Adderley then played with Miles Davis as part of his sextet. He can be heard on such classic recordings as "Milestones" (1958) and "Kind Of Blue" (1959), and along with Davis and other jazz greats, Adderley also recorded a solo album, "Somethin' Else" (1958). In 1959, he reformed the Cannonball Adderley Quintet with Nat Adderley (cornet). Other members included Walter Booker (bass), Roy McCurdy (drums), and Joe Zawinul (keyboards), with a number of personnel changes.
Cannonball Adderley debuted in 1961 on both the R&B and Pop/Rock charts with "African Waltz" (billed as Cannonball Adderley Orchestra). He had his only sung hit the following year with "Save Your Love For Me," a Top 20 R&B hit with vocals by Nancy Wilson. Adderley had his greatest hit in 1967 with "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," which reached #2 on the R&B charts and made the Pop/Rock Top 20. His hits, which continued through 1970 on both charts, also include "The Jive Samba" (1963), "Why? (Am I Treated So Bad)" (1967), and "Country Preacher" (1970).
Cannonball Adderley's numerous honors and accolades included being inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1975. Known for his hearty appetite, his nickname, which he had since high school, came from one of his friends trying to call him "cannibal" but mispronouncing it as "can-i-bol." With repeated use by friends and acquaintances, the moniker eventually morphed to "cannonball."
- The New York Times remembers Cannonball Adderley.
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- Mercy, Mercy, Mercy 1967
(This 1967 instrumental song also became a hit that same year for the Buckinghams (sung version), Marlena Shaw (sung version), and Larry Williams & Johnny Watson (sung version).)
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