Our Inductees

Established in 1978, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame began with the induction of six charter members. Since then, more than 100 musicians have been honored with Hall of Fame status.

Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame Charter Inductees

In 1978, the newly established Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame inducted its six charter members: Frank E. Adams, Amos Gordon, Erskine Hawkins, Haywood Henry, Sammy Lowe, and (inducted posthumously) John T. “Fess” Whatley. Since that date, over 100 musicians have been inducted. 




1978 Charter Inductees

Frank E. Adams, Sr. (1928-2014)

Dr. Frank E. Adams, Sr. – remembered affectionately as “Doc” – received his first, informal musical instruction from his older brother, Oscar Adams, Jr. His formal education began at Lincoln Elementary, where he studied under band director William Wise Handy, and continued at Industrial High School under the direction of John T. “Fess” Whatley. As a teenager, Adams played in Fess Whatley’s professional dance orchestra, as well as in the more experimental group led by Herman “Sonny” Blount, the eccentric and visionary bandleader who would later become famous as Sun Ra.

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John T. “Fess” Whatley (c. 1895-1972)

J.L. Lowe, founder of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, often described the jazz hall as a kind of shrine to “Fess” Whatley, the musical mentor whose influence as educator, bandleader, and community leader proved critical to Birmingham’s unique music history. Born in Tuscaloosa at the close of the 19th century, Whatley’s earliest instruments included a guitar he made from a cigar box and wires. With his father’s hunting horn as a makeshift trumpet, the young Whatley led neighborhood playmates around the block, pretending to be his idol, P.G. Lowery, trumpeter and bandleader with the Ringling Brothers and other circuses.

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