Rufus Harley / May 20, 1936 - Aug 1, 2006

The cult jazz artist Rufus Harley started out like any other Philly kid, taking lessons from Dennis Sandole, playing saxophone and other reeds, jamming with Philly scenesters like John Coltrane and Philly Joe Jones and gigging as a professional tenor player in his teens.

But hearing the Scottish bagpipes during JFK's funeral procession got him really obsessed and he became the first bagpiper of jazz. After months of practicing the instrument (he even held them "wrong") to the dismay of his neighbors who would call the pigs (to which he would say "Officer, do I look Scottish to you?"--Harley was in fact African-American and Cherokee) he debuted in Philly with them in 1964.

He got signed to Atlantic and released several great albums playing bagpipe, tenor sax, electric soprano and flute, adapting his 'pipes to jazz, blues, funk, pop hits and standards. He also played on records by Herbie Mann, Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt.

His masterpiece was the crazy 1972 self-released gem Re-Creation of the Gods. He performed in Scottish kilt and a viking hat. After 1972 he worked mostly for the Philly Housing Authority but also did some acting and played on classic albums by Laurie Anderson ("Big Science") and The Roots. He made a comeback late in life.

Check out Rufus on I've Got A Secret!:

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