Sun Ra Profiled

Source: The New York Review of Books.

With such a bold, phantasmagoric performer for a namesake, it’s perhaps no surprise that young Herman Poole Blount became a musical prodigy. By age twelve, he was sight-reading piano music and composing his own. As a teenager, he could reproduce from memory the big-band concerts that came through Birmingham, led by greats like Duke Ellington and Fats Waller. While attending the segregated Industrial High School, Herman joined a handful of jazz and R&B bands, including one led by his biology teacher, Ethel Harper. When Harper left the group, Herman took it over and renamed it with his nickname—the Sonny Blount Orchestra—for the rest of the tour.