Jazz Drummer Eddie Locke Dies At 79

By Jim Eigo Published September 21, 2009

Edward “Eddie” Locke, a jazz drummer whose 60-year career included long associations with trumpeter Roy Eldridge and tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, died September 7, 2009, at the age of 79. Prominent in New York's jazz scene since the 1950s, he performed with some of the giants of jazz history, and helped to create many memorable recordings. He can also be seen as a young musician in the widely reprinted photograph A Great Day In Harlem, which depicted a veritable who’s who of jazz in 1958.

Locke was born in Detroit on August 2, 1930, the youngest of four sons, and was mostly self-taught. He was a part of the fertile Detroit jazz scene in the late ’40s and ’50s, and with Oliver Jackson he developed a variety act called “Bop And Locke” in which both young drummers also danced and sang. After some local success, they were booked at The Apollo Theatre in 1954, and moved to New York City.

Mentored by Basie drummer “Papa” Jo Jones, Eddie Locke soon became well established in New York, landing a job at the famed jazz club The Metropole. In 1958 he joined the Roy Eldridge Band. He played with Coleman Hawkins and Eldridge through the ’60s, with Hawkins until his death in 1969. During the 1970s, he worked with Eldridge at Jimmy Ryan's, and was the house drummer at Ryan's for the better part of 15 years, until the club closed in the early '80s.

Among the many other notable musicians he has worked with are: Roland Hanna, Ray Bryant, Red Allen, Teddy Wilson, Tyree Glen, Kenny Burrell, Earl Hines, Warren Vache, and The Earl May Quartet. His work is heard on many recordings, and his television credits include The Tonight Show, Dial M For Music, and The Mike Douglas Show.

More recently, Locke continued to perform and tour, and was a teacher who helped and encouraged a new generation of jazz artists. For many years he was also a much loved music teacher at The Trevor Day School in New York City. His personal photo collection, including many of Coleman Hawkins and Roy Eldridge, was purchased by Columbia University and is housed in the Library's Rare Book And Manuscript Collection. Locke is survived by his two sons, Edward Locke and Jeffrey Locke, and two grandsons, Jeffersen Carver Locke and Gunnar Livingston Locke, all of Hawaii, and his companion Mary Ellen Healy, of Ramsey, New Jersey.