Savannah lost a musical icon and a treasured friend June 4, when jazz legend Ben Tucker was killed when the golf cart he was driving on Hutchinson Island was struck by a vehicle.
Tucker, a bassist and composer, moved to Savannah in 1971 from New York City, becoming a mainstay in the local jazz scene while traveling the world and making music with some of the genre's biggest players.
For years, Tucker owned local jazz spot Hannah's East, where he was known to play bass for Statesboro singer and pianist Emma Kelly.
He also was a former owner of WSOK-AM and WLVH-FM.
One of his most notable compositions was the song "Comin' Home Baby," most recently covered by singer Michael BublÃ©.
Tucker, his music and his works touched many in Savannah.
Here's what a few of those who knew him said to the Savannah Morning News and The Associated Press about the passing of our community's beloved musician. Share your memories of Tucker at dosavannah.com.
"You never saw him without a smile on his face. He was just a wonderful guy. He loved music. He loved people and he loved that everybody loved him. He lived life to the fullest, and, oh man, did he love golf."
Jerry Rogers, veteran owner and disk jockey at WRHQ
"He was one of the nicest persons I have ever met in my life. He really cared about his community. Whatever he could contribute to the community, he did so willingly. I consider him and Gloria to be friends of mine. He loved Gloria. He loved his music, and he loved playing golf."
Otis Johnson, former Savannah mayor
"He was an avid golfer. We played golf together a couple times. He just loved golf, and obviously, he loved music. He worked hard to keep music alive and well in Savannah, and for that, Savannah's gonna miss him. It was such a shock, such a tragedy and such a loss. He did a lot for music in this city. I think the entire community, those who knew him and those who were touched by his music, are all very shocked and saddened to hear of Ben Tucker's death."
Ike Carter, station manager for Savannah State University radio
"I had interviewed Ben Tucker by phone many times, and was delighted when I finally got to meet him. What a wonderful person! Warm, friendly - he made me feel like he'd known me all his life. Never once did Ben turn down a request for an interview, even when he was in a hurry
to get to the golf course. It's amazing how many jazz musicians I've interviewed
who've told me that Ben was a mentor, inspiration and friend. His death is going
to cause so much heartache. Savannah has lost one of its greatest treasures, but Ben's legacy will live on in through his music and in the hearts and minds of everyone who knew and loved him."
Linda Sickler, DO writer
"I knew Ben; he was my friend. I'm lucky to have known him as a close, personal friend and to have had the opportunity to capture his exploits in my book. My heart goes out to (his wife) Gloria and his family. I'll keep them all in my prayers."
Charles J. Elmore, retired Savannah State University educator, author of "Savannah Jazz ... From Brass Bands, Vaudeville, to Rhythm and Blues"
"I simply loved watching Ben play - there was such an economy of movement and such a placid expression, but as you got closer, you could see the nimble fingers and sharp eyes. There seemed to be an easy elegance to just about everything he did. I saw Ben perform briefly just a couple of weeks ago at ... the Morris Center. He looked great and sounded great. I was going to stop by the table where he and Gloria were seated, but they seemed to be having such
a nice time in conversation with friends that I didn't want to disturb them."
Bill Dawers, DO columnist
"One of the most interesting things about playing with Ben was he was so beloved by so many people in Savannah who had met him at his club or whose weddings he had played. You could count on being interrupted at least three times in a song because Savannahians would walk up and
shake his hand while
we were playing."
Howard Paul, a jazz guitarist
who played and recorded with Tucker
for more than 20 years
"Savannah has lost its biggest star and will not be the same with his departure. ... Ben would be classified as a hero on the level with (civil rights and civic leader) W.W. Law on the cultural side. There are not many people I would place on that level."
Billy Jamerson III, Savannah dentist
and board chair of the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum
"He was a working musician right to the end. He was so instrumental
in the music life of Savannah."
Julius "Boo" Hornstein, a Savannah psychotherapist and jazz writer