A successful musician, businessman, and community leader, Ben Tucker has traveled a long road from his roots in Nashville, Tennessee. Given his diverse history of accomplishments, the one thread that runs through the fabric of Ben Tucker’s life and professional career is his outstanding commitment and determination to succeed.
Born to strict Baptist parents who approved only of gospel music, Ben taught himself to play the tuba while in high school. Entering Tennessee State University as a music major, Ben planned to study the bass violin. To his disappointment, the school offered no bass instructor. Undeterred by this obstacle, he set out to teach himself the fundamentals of the instrument, later becoming a world-class musician with a far-reaching reputation. In 1959, Metronome Magazine selected Ben Tucker as one of the world’s Top Ten Bass Players.
He performed with all the top musicians of the day, including Herbie Mann, Billy Taylor, Buddy Rich, Peggy Lee, Cy Coleman, Red Norvel, Tommy Flanagan, Quincy Jones, Gerry Mulligan, Ellis Marsalis, and Sam Cook. He was inspired by the heady New York scene to start composing. Authoring over 300 compositions, he has many commercial successes to his credit.
Multi-talented and eager to expand his repertoire of accomplishments, Ben became involved in the music publishing business. Among the tunes he published, “Sunny” was his greatest success. The song became an immediate sensation and firmly established itself among contemporary standards.
The commercial success of “Sunny” heralded a changing point in Ben’s career. He was now in a position to explore and invest in other business ventures.
In the mid-sixties, Ben formed his own production company, creating commercials for television. He received the prestigious Clio Award (comparable to the film industry’s Oscar) for a Hartford Insurance Company commercial. He produced “Multiplication Rock”, a musical learning tool which received wide acclaim in education circles and national TV broadcasting.
In 1972, seeking a new challenge and business venture, Ben purchased WSOK Radio in Savannah, Georgia. With over 8500 radio stations in the country at the time, he became the 15th black radio station owner in the United States. Within his first year as owner, Ben succeeded in turning WSOK around into the top AM station in the Savannah market. The Wall Street Journal took note of the station’s remarkable “climb to the top of the ratings against tough competition”. The station maintained its #1 status for 13 years, at which time it was sold.
Ben’s success did not go unnoticed. He appeared before the house Sub-Committee on Communications and the Federal Communications Commission with testimony that resulted in changing the economic strata for black entrepreneurs.
He was recognized by both Democratic and Republican Administrations. Ben was appointed to the Selective Service Board by President Carter and reappointed by President Reagan. In 1979, President Carter appointed him to the Advisory Committee on the Arts for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In addition, he served on the Georgia Fair Employment Practices Advisory Board from 1979-1983. An Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humanities was conferred upon Ben from B.F. Lee Theological Seminary in 1976.
The Congressional Record has taken note of Ben’s contributions to the community. Former Congressman Bo Ginn wrote that “Ben Tucker is a black man representative of many of the finest qualities found in America: A sense of pride in country, a drive to succeed through honest, hard work and the ability to inspire the same type of achievement in others.
Ben became the owner and operator of Hard-Hearted Hannah’s, a jazz club, which opened in September 15, 1989. He led the band six nights a week. Hannah’s originally was housed in a restored building in the City Market area. It opened to much critical acclaim and continues to be a highlight of national and international visiting tourists and local Savannahians as well. The club has enjoyed recognition in magazine and newspaper articles, both nationally and internationally. Public Television filmed a live documentary at Hannah’s, which has been broadcast several times statewide in Georgia. From 1990 to 1993, Georgia Peach State Radio would broadcast live each Saturday evening from 9:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. Hannah’s had a featured role in the movie, “Love Crimes”, starring Sean Young. Several scenes from the movie were filmed at the club, featuring live music of Hannah’s band and spotlighting jazz musician Wayne Shorter.
Ben has performed for the Olympic 1996 Committee, the Newport Jazz Festival, Coastal Jazz Society, Hilton Head Jazz Society, Jacksonville Jazz Society, and the Vero Beach Jazz Society. He has also been a world traveler playing the countries of Japan, Columbia, Brazil, Argentina and England.
Ben Tucker has made a life-long contribution to the world of jazz. He has performed over a 30 year span with various artists, including the following, just to name a few:
As a composter of over 300 tunes, following are some the albums that have been recorded with the title tunes being his compositions:
Ben collaborated and produced various educational recordings, as well as TV and radio commercials. He has played jazz and traveled extensively in Canada, South America, and Asia.
Ben discovered and published the song “Sunny” by Bobby Hebb. He is the creator of the Telfair Jazz Society in Savannah. The popular musical group showcased jazz and performed regularly on Sunday afternoons at the Telfair Museum for the Arts and Sciences from 1977 to 1981. The Telfair Jazz Society continued to perform at various venues well into the 1980’s.