Duffy Jackson

By Ron Wynn

NASHVILLE, TN — Though he wasn’t a native and didn’t relocate here until 2000, swing mainstay and prolific drummer Duffy Jackson quickly became part of Music City’s jazz scene. Jackson, who passed March 3 at 67, became a familiar face at both the Nashville Jazz Workshop and also Rudy’s Jazz Room, playing small sets, offering encouragement to other musicians, and generally lighting up the place wherever he was either playing or just in the vicinity. His death came from complications due to hip surgery according to his sister Sandra Anton in a repor featured on the WBGO website.

Jackson was a star from his childhood days. His father Chubby Jackson, was a bass player and bandleader who became a popular children’s television host. Duffy appeared on “Chubby Jackson’s Little Rascals,” which aired on ABC. At age 5, his picture appeared in DownBeat magazine, with a caption noting that “Duff, who has nicknamed himself Jazz Jackson, has only one ambition in life: to run away with Count Basie’s band.”

He became part of the Basie orchestra in his 20s, and at the time became the youngest member hired by Basie. That was only one of many great swing bands featuring Jackson. He also worked with saxophonists Benny Carter, Sonny Stitt and Illinois Jacquet, along with vibraphonist Lionel Hampton and bassist Ray Brown. He was part of Sammy Davis Jr’s, backing band on network television for two years, and spent a year on tour with Lena Horne. Jackson also worked for several years with pianist Monty Alexander. 

Jackson moved to Nashville in the late 2000s, from his previous home base in South Florida. Besides working with the Jazz Workshop and at Rudy’s, he also played residencies at Rudy’s Jazz Room and Acme Feed and Seed and even sat in with the Time Jumpers at 3rd & Lindsley. In addition he did double duty at the Workshop, serving as an instructor and a featured artist.

“Playing with Duffy felt like a glove,” pianist Lori Mechem, cofounder of the Nashville Jazz Workshop, told WBGO. “His groove was infectious, and his sense of swing was flawless. He truly lived to play and loved everyone to the fullest.”

He is survived by his wife, Marina, and two sisters, Myno Tayloe and Jai Jackson.