James Hawthorne (“Chief”) Bey




James Hawthorne (“Chief”) Bey

April 17, 1913 – April 8, 2004

James Hawthorne Bey was an American jazz percussionist and African folklorist. He played under the name of Chief Bey.

Born in Yemassee, South Carolina, Bey moved with his family to Brooklyn and then to Harlem, where he began playing drums and singing in church choirs. He also served in the Navy during World War II conflict and later attended cosmetology school.

In the 1950s, Bey performed in an international tour of Porgy and Bess starring Leontyne Price and Cab Calloway. Besides this, he began a busy recording career performing on Herbie Mann’s At the Village Gate (1961), Art Blakey’s The African Beat (1962), Ahmed Abdul-Malik’s Sounds of Africa (New Jazz, 1961), as well as albums by Harry Belafonte, Miriam Makeba and Pharoah Sanders, among others. He took his stage name after joining the Moorish Science Temple of America, a Muslim sect. Then he taught the shekere, a West African percussion instrument, at the Griot Institute at Intermediate School 246 in Brooklyn.


Bey died at his home of Brooklyn of stomach cancer at the age of 90.

Source: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia  (2014)

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