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Mel Dalton


Mel Dalton, Tenor Sax Live at the GR Zoo


Lloyd Price ‘ Where Were You (On Our Wedding Day?) Original 45 RPM w/Mel Dalton throwing in screaming sax breaks



Tenor Saxpphone player Mel Dalton was in 

Forefront of West Michigan Jazz Scene

Published: Monday, April 14, 2008, 5:46 PM     Updated: Monday, April 14, 2008, 5:51 PM

GRAND RAPIDS — Mel Dalton loved to play jazz.

It did not matter if the tenor saxophonist was playing a dance. He would sneak a little bebop into the set.

Press File PhotoMel Dalton, a tenor saxophone player who had a love for jazz, died of cancer.

The only problem was, the dancing stopped.

“They’d just stop and listen,” said trumpeter Willie Singleton, a longtime colleague.

“I could tell he was having fun. His eyes would light up,” Singleton said. “And he’d say, ‘I don’t get to play these tunes.'”

Dalton, 77, died Saturday in Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital after battling cancer.

For more than 45 years, Dalton was a fixture in West Michigan’s jazz scene.

The West Michigan Jazz Society honored him as its Musician of the Year in 2002. But Dalton said he would rather be a sideman than the star.

“I’m not in (the music business) to have my name up there or to have my own group,” Dalton told The Press in 2002. “That never did appeal to me. All I want to do is play.”

A native of Pittsburgh, he went to Westinghouse High School, where his classmates included jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal.

Following military service in Korea, Dalton lived in New York City for 10 years and played with Lloyd Price, the early rock ‘n’ roll musician from New Orleans, who recorded such hits as “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” “Personality” and “Stagger Lee” in the 1950s.

Dalton appeared on TV’s “The Ed Sullivan Show” on a night that also had Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington on the same bill and toured with bands backing such entertainers as Bobby Darin, the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly.

But in 1960, Dalton moved to Grand Rapids for a steady gig at the Blue Note on South Division Avenue and decided this would be a good place to raise his family.

“Mel was a fun guy to be around,” said Elgin Vines, a local bass player who played with Dalton for 30 years. “And he also was a guy dedicated to his musical craft.”

Dalton played his last official dates in December, according to his daughter, Martine.

“He was very positive in spite of the fact of his illness,” Vines said.

Until illness stopped him, Dalton continued to work on his music, Singleton said.

“I would call him and say, ‘Let’s play some tunes,’ and he’d say, ‘OK, I’ll be right over,'” he said.

He is survived by Jeanne, his wife of 50 years; his daughters, Martine Dalton, Barbara Skanes and Frances Dalton; three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Visitation will be 1 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Gillespie Funeral Home, 1865 Eastern Ave. SE. Local musicians will play during the evening visitation.

Funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. Thursday in St. Mary Magdalen Roman Catholic Church, 1213 52nd St. SE in Kentwood, with The Rev. Phil Shangraw officiating.

Singleton’s Gentlemen of Jazz will play this week in Dalton’s memory.

“But without the tenor,” he said.



Tenorman Mel Dalton


Mel Dalton Passes

The Grand Rapids Times

   Grand Rapids – Merritt Alfred Dalton blew his first note on June 28, 1931 and whispered his last one on April 12, 2008.
Known in the music world as “Mel” and “The Silver Fox”, Mel was an extraordinary musician celebrated for his ability on the saxophone, but capable of playing any woodwind instrument.
He was born in Pittsburgh, PA to James and Julia Dalton.
His career started in junior high school when he formed a band with Stanley Turrentine, Dakota Staten and Ahmad Jamal.
Mel performed internationally as well as at the Apollo Theater in New York City and on the Ed Sullivan Show, often with well-known jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, Nancy Wilson, Lloyd Price, Art Blakey and Sil Austin.
He has opened for various musical greats in the local venue of DeVos Performance Hall.
Mel served his military duty during the Korean Conflict, and after being honorably discharged from the US Army, married his sweetheart, Jeanne Audrey Monroe.
Mel moved from New York to Grand Rapids, MI to accept an offer to play with the Doug Cook Band at the Blue Note nightclub in 1959. With two daughters and a third on the way, Mel decided it would be a good gig for raising a family.
Along with that, he worked for Guardsmen Chemical until his retirement in 1985.
He continued playing until illness overcame him this past December.
He was preceded in death by his parents. Mel leaves his wife, Jeanne and their daughters, Frances June Dalton, Barbara Dalton-Skanes, and Martine Julia Dalton.
Also mourning Mel’s passing are his two brothers, James (Glonda) Dalton and Cabel Poindexter; one sister, Martine Rita Dalton; three grandchildren, Brianna Dalton Rodriguez, Bailey Jeanne Dalton and Brandi Jeanne Skanes; one great grandchild, Julian Dalton Aponte-Rodriguez; special friend, Doug Cook; and a host of nieces, nephews and loving friends.

Photo Credit: Special to The Grand Rapids Times, courtesy of N. Webley II.









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