Washington Irving Rucker was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on March 5, 1937 and attended local schools through graduation from Booker T. Washington High School, developing a talent for the drums along the way. By his teens, Washington was playing with bluesman Jimmy “Cry Cry” Hawkins and was soon off to UCLA to study and work his way into the Los Angeles music scene. A man of many talents, Washington got a degree in history and had side careers in acting and cosmetology while playing drums with bands in a variety of genres.
Rucker has worked with artists as diverse as Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, gospel artists Reverend James Cleveland and Shirley Caesar; jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt, Hampton Hawes, and Freddie Hubbard; and singers Nancy Wilson and Linda Hopkins. He has an active career as an educator, teaching a master class at USC on the “Art of the Brushes” in drumming and a well-regarded program on jazz history for young students called “Jazz for Wee People.” He has also appeared regularly in film and television as a character actor, most notably in Martin Scorsese’s “New York, New York” and Clint Eastwood’s “Bird.”
Drummer Clarence Dixon once told him “this pair of sticks will take you all over the world if you want to go,” and those words became Washington Rucker’s reality.
He is a 1998 inductee of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.
Interview with Washington Rucker
Müllerhaus Legacy Website Team
Date Created: July 2, 2015
Date Published: November 18, 2015
Notes: Recorded by John Erling in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Digital Audio Sound Recording, Non-Music.
Tags: Harlem Globe Trotters, Marques Haynes, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Louis, Red Foley, Buddy Rich, Jackie Robinson, Lionel Hampton, B. B. King, David Brinkley, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Wilson, Booker T. Washington, Jazz, Music, Drummer