37 Facts About Sonny Rollins


Sonny Rollins was born in New York City to parents from the Virgin Islands.


Sonny Rollins attended Edward W Stitt Junior High School and graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School in East Harlem.


Sonny Rollins started as a pianist, changed to alto saxophone, and finally switched to tenor in 1946.


In early 1950, Sonny Rollins was arrested for armed robbery and spent ten months in Rikers Island jail before being released on parole; in 1952, he was re-arrested for violating the terms of his parole by using heroin.


In 1955, Sonny Rollins entered the Federal Medical Center, Lexington, at the time the only assistance in the US for drug addicts.


Sonny Rollins initially feared sobriety would impair his musicianship, but then went on to greater success.


Sonny Rollins briefly joined the Miles Davis Quintet in the summer of 1955.


Sonny Rollins's widely acclaimed album Saxophone Colossus was recorded on June 22,1956, at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in New Jersey, with Tommy Flanagan on piano, former Jazz Messengers bassist Doug Watkins, and his favorite drummer, Roach.


The title track is the only recording of Sonny Rollins with John Coltrane, who was a member of Davis's group.


In 1957, Sonny Rollins pioneered the use of bass and drums, without piano, as accompaniment for his saxophone solos, a texture that came to be known as "strolling".


Sonny Rollins used the trio format intermittently throughout his career, sometimes taking the unusual step of using his sax as a rhythm section instrument during bass and drum solos.


Sonny Rollins acquired the nickname "Newk" because of his facial resemblance to Brooklyn Dodgers star pitcher Don Newcombe.


Today, a fifteen-story apartment building named "The Sonny Rollins" stands on the Grand Street site where he lived.


Almost every day from the summer of 1959 through the end of 1961, Sonny Rollins practiced on the bridge, next to the subway tracks.


Sonny Rollins admitted that he would often practice for 15 or 16 hours a day, no matter what season.


In November 1961, Sonny Rollins returned to the jazz scene with a residency at the Jazz Gallery in Greenwich Village; in March, 1962, he appeared on Ralph Gleason's television series Jazz Casual.


Sonny Rollins named his 1962 "comeback" album The Bridge at the start of a contract with RCA Victor.


In 2007, recordings from a 1965 residency at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club were released by the Harkit label as Live in London; they offer a very different picture of Sonny Rollins's playing from the studio albums of the period.


In 1969, Sonny Rollins took another two-year sabbatical from public performance.


Sonny Rollins returned from his second sabbatical with a performance in Kongsberg, Norway, in 1971.


Sonny Rollins's runs roared, and there were jarring staccato passages and furious double-time spurts.


Sonny Rollins seemed to be shouting and gesticulating on his horn, as if he were waving his audience into battle.


In 1974, Sonny Rollins added jazz bagpiper Rufus Harley to his band; the group was filmed performing live at Ronnie Scott's in London.


For most of this period Sonny Rollins was recorded by producer Orrin Keepnews for Milestone Records.


Sonny Rollins frequently played long, extemporaneous unaccompanied cadenzas during performances with his band; a prime example is his introduction to the tune "Autumn Nocturne" on the 1978 album Don't Stop the Carnival.


Sonny Rollins added sax improvisations to three tracks by the Rolling Stones for their 1981 album Tattoo You, including the single, "Waiting on a Friend" and the long jam "Slave".


Several days later, Sonny Rollins gave a performance at New York City's Beacon Theatre that reunited him with musicians with whom he played as a teenager, including McLean, Walter Bishop Jr.


Critics such as Gary Giddins and Stanley Crouch have noted the disparity between Sonny Rollins the recording artist, and Sonny Rollins the concert artist.


Sonny Rollins won a 2001 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album for This Is What I Do.


On September 11,2001, the 71-year-old Sonny Rollins, who lived several blocks away, heard the World Trade Center collapse, and was forced to evacuate his Greenwich Street apartment, with only his saxophone in hand.


Sonny Rollins was presented with a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 2004; that year saw the death of his wife, Lucille.


Around 2000, Sonny Rollins began recording many of his live performances; since then, he has archived recordings of over two hundred and fifty concerts.


In 2010 Sonny Rollins was awarded the National Medal of Arts and the Edward MacDowell Medal; in the fall of the same year he celebrated his 80th birthday with a concert at New York's Beacon Theatre that included a guest appearance by Ornette Coleman.


Sonny Rollins has not performed in public since 2012, and retired in 2014, due to recurring respiratory issues.


In February 2023, Sonny Rollins sold his music catalogue to Reservoir Media.


Sonny Rollins has played, at various times, a Selmer Mark VI tenor saxophone and a Buescher Aristocrat.


Sonny Rollins's preferred mouthpieces are made by Otto Link and Berg Larsen.