Gene Ramey: Aspiring Farmer Who Became a Jazz Bassist Aficionado

Gene Ramey

In 1976, after an illustrious musical career, Gene Ramey returned to Austin, Texas from New York, where he had stayed for thirty-two years, and announced his retirement. But after giving lessons to local bassists had led him into a few live shows, Gene was bit by the performance bug and became a full-time musician once again. Though he often talked about becoming a “gentleman farmer,” he continued his true passion by promoting jazz in Austin.

Born in Texas, Ramey attended Anderson High School, where he played trumpet and sousaphone during his years up to college, and performed with George Corley’s Royal Aces. In the early thirties, he made rendezvous with Terrence Holder’s band and the Moonlight Serenaders before he settled in Kansas City. Taught to play string bass by Kansas City’s famous bass player Walter Page, Ramey began to take command of his own bands with his newfound talent.

Gene Ramey was associated with more than a few of the music world’s greats throughout his career. In the thirties, he played with Margaret “Countless” Johnson and Oliver Todd’s band, and worked with Jay McShann between the later thirties and mid-forties. He also worked closely with the most famous and innovative jazz soloists greats, Charlie Player, who also played alto sax in McShann’s band. Ramey moved to New York in the forties and began traversing with many of the era’s legendary performers and prominent bandleaders, such Miles Davis, Ben Webster, Dizzie Gillespie, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Luis Russell, John Hardee, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Tiny Grimes and Oran “Hot Lips” Page.

In the fifties, Gene Ramey did many studio gigs as a freelance bassist, and continued rounds with some of the music world’s greats, including tours throughout Europe. In 1984, Ramey passed away from a heart attack. His name eventually became an addition to the Austin Music Memorial in 2009.

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