I met saxophonist Sam Reed well before he became a legendary figure on the Philadelphia jazz scene. I met him when he was a frequent visitor to the 900 block of Gerritt Street in South Philly, because his childhood friend Albert “Tootie” Heath lived on the block. I also lived on the block and Tootie and I were friends.
Sam lived a few blocks away, and because of his visits, we became friends, and did all the things kids did to entertain themselves, like spinning tops, checkers, marbles—and laughing at Tootie’s craziness—instead of growing into an internationally known drummer, he could have been a comedian. He was always saying and doing goofy stuff. This was all before Tootie and Sam bloomed into great musicians, and of course before Bob Perkins became a jazz radio host.
In later years, I took note of Sam’s musical progress as he started playing saxophone, a time when he, Tootie, Ted Curson, Bobby Timmons and a few other talented musical associates formed a band and became quite popular at home—and several of them became nationally known jazz celebrities.
Sam remained close to home, but did some outstanding work, like fronting the band at Philly’s famed Uptown Theater and thus supporting great stars in the world of R & B. But Sam was versatile and could play music of any genre--he knew jazz music and often played straight-ahead jazz in clubs and in concerts around the city.
He also became associated with Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International Records and had a hand in helping them establish the great Sound of Philadelphia, and also served as music director for the celebrated singer, Teddy Pendergrass.
Sam used to call me whenever Tootie and the Heath Brothers appeared in Philly. I’d show up and he, Tootie and I would go over some of the stuff we did decades before as kids on old Gerritt Street.
There is so much more in the life and times of my one-time childhood friend, Sam Reed that is not contained in this piece, which can be read in tributes to Sam’s passing. These are just a few of my recollections of an outstanding musician and friend, whose name can be mentioned along with other hometown heroes—alive or at rest--like the Heath Brothers, Robert “Bootsie” Barnes, Shirley Scott, Larry Mc Kenna, John Coltrane, “Philly” Joe Jones, Trudy Pitts, Benny Golson, and others, who were rocked in Philly’s jazz cradle.
Read The Philadelphia Inquirer's obituary here.