Gene Ramey

Gene Ramey with his Bass. Texas Music Museum Archives
Gene Ramey with his Bass. Photo by Gary G. Hobbs. Texas Music Museum Archives

Gene Ramey was born in Austin on April 4, 1913. He played trumpet in college and played sousaphone with George Corley’s Royal Aces. In the early thirties, he played with the Moonlight Serenades and Terence Holder’s Band before moving to Kansas City in 1932. He learned to play string bass from the famous Kansas City bassist, Walter Page, and soon was leading his own bands.

During the thirties he also worked with Oliver Todd’s Band, Margaret “Countess” Johnson and Jay McCann, whom he played with off and on between 1938 and 1944. During this period, Gene worked with Jay McCann’s alto sax player, a young Charlie Parker, who was later to become one of jazz’ most innovative soloists.

Gene moved to New York in 1944 and began playing with many of the era’s most prominent bandleaders including Luis Russell, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, John Hardee, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Hot Lips Page, Tiny Grimes, Lester Young and others. In the fifties, Gene played bass for Count Basie, Dorothy Dungeon, Art Blakey, Earth Kit and others.

During the late fifties, Gene played numerous studio dates as a free-lance session bassist. In the sixties, he worked with Muggy Spinier, Teddy Wilson, Dick Well Stood, Jimmy Rushing, Peanuts Hucko, and others including a 1969 European tour with Jay McShan and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. He continued to be active during the seventies when he returned to Texas and fronted the Gene Ramey band in Austin from the early eighties until his death in 1985.