*Musician Ben Tucker, who performed with stars from Quincy Jones to Peggy Lee before became one of Savannah, Georgia’s best-known working jazz bassists, was killed in a car crash Tuesday at age 82, reports The Associated Press.
Tucker was driving a golf cart across a road on Hutchinson Island when a car slammed into him at high speed, said Savannah-Chatham County police spokesman Julian Miller. Tucker was pronounced dead at a local hospital. The driver of the car that struck him was charged with vehicular homicide and other criminal counts.
The news stunned musicians and jazz enthusiasts in Savannah, where Tucker had been a musical fixture for roughly four decades. Tucker made his living playing upright bass – an instrument he’d named Bertha and claimed was 240 years old – in all sorts of settings from jazz festivals to wedding receptions, from nightclub gigs to bar mitzvahs.
Before he moved to the Georgia coast, Tucker had some success as a songwriter – perhaps most notably with “Comin’ Home Baby,” a song co-written with jazz vocalist Bob Dorough, which was recorded by Mel Torme, Herbie Mann and more recently Michael Buble. By the end of the 1960s, he had toured with Lee and performed and recorded with jazz greats such as Dexter Gordon, Buddy Rich and Jones.
Paul was a young Army lieutenant scheduled to deploy to Operation Desert Storm when he arrived in Savannah 22 years ago. A friend sent him to a nightclub Tucker operated at the time, and the bassist invited him on stage to play that night and all week.
The Savannah Morning News reported Tucker was also a former owner of radio stations WSOK-AM and WLVH-FM.
Police said the crash that killed Tucker, who was also an avid golfer, remained under investigation. The driver of the car that hit Tucker’s golf cart, identified as 52-year-old Robert William Martin of Spicewood, Texas, was being held without bond in the Chatham County jail on charges of vehicular homicide, racing and reckless driving.
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