Robert “Bob” Tate, Jr.
July 2, 1932 — August 3, 1993
Bob Tate Jr. was a legendary musician who played a vital role in the development of jazz and rhythm-and-blues, in both Arizona and on the West Coast, for roughly 40 years.
Although born in Oklahoma, he moved with his family to Arizona as a young child and was raised in Phoenix, where he attended Carver High School and Arizona State University; during the course of his career, he learned to play tenor, alto and soprano saxophone, flute, keyboards, and to read and compose music, although he performed and recorded primarily as a saxophonist and arranger.
In the late 50’s he moved to Los Angeles, and for the next 15 years or so he played and recorded with some of the most important figures in R&B: Sam Cooke (for whom Bob worked as on-the-road bandleader), Little Johnny Taylor, Don & Dewey, Louis Jordan, T-Bone Walker, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Lou Rawls, Saunders King, and Guitar Shorty (see Living Blues issue #95, Jan/Feb ‘9l, for an article on Shorty in which he describes Bob’s role in his classic sessions of the late 50’s and early 60’s).
The records that Bob appeared on have become highly-sought-after collectors’ items, and a number of them have been reissued on CD and LP; one of his compositions from this period has been covered in recent years by Anson Funderburgh & The Rockets featuring Sam Myers (“The Ways of a Man”, originally recorded by Guitar Shorty in 1959).
After returning to Phoenix in the late 70’s, Bob continued to be an active member of the jazz and blues scene in Arizona, working with Prince Shell, Gary Hughes, Chico Chism and Big Pete Pearson, among many others. Right up until his death he continued to serve as a mentor to younger blues musicians, who benefited greatly from his advice. He will always be missed by those who knew him.