LARRY YOUNG JR.
Larry Young Jr. was born Larry John McCoy in
Newark, New Jersey on October 7, 1940 to Agnes McCoy and Larry Young Sr. who was
a professional organist. The rehearsals that took place at his home and the
records he played drew his son into music at a very early age. Larry McCoy
began making music at the family piano as a toddler and soon his father was
versing him in classical music and jazz. Larry McCoy attended Arts High School
in Newark, New
1954. While at Arts High, Larry was a bass singer in a vocal group called the
Challengers, a member of the Operetta Club and the leader of his own jazz combo.
In high school, Larry already had the title of “genius of virtuosity” and would
go to jam sessions even though he was under age. The Challengers members, Dave
Blocker, Lawrence McCoy, Norman Baldwin, Jennifer St.
Luscious Brown and Florien “Lucky” Jenkins, sang and played together from
1954-1960. Larry McCoy started using the name Larry Young Jr. when he and his
father, Larry Young Sr. were both performing in the neighborhood clubs at he
Early influences Art
Tatum, Bud Powell and Monk, was formed during those years. After some basic
tutoring from his father, Larry studied formal classical piano with Mrs. Olga
von Till. In early adolescence, Larry’s interest in music began to wane, but
when he was fourteen; his father opened a Newark nightspot called the Shindig with an organ
permanently installed on the bandstand. Larry began fooling around on the
instrument and was immediately taken with its variety of sounds and musical
possibilities. It opened up his imagination and became his primary instrument,
though he never totally abandoned the piano.
By 1957, music had become a consuming
passion for Larry and he began working professionally, at first with local
R&B bands around Newark
and Elizabeth, New Jersey and switched to the Hammond organ. He had become totally
accomplished on the impossibly difficult Hammond organ, generating more sounds
and music out of the instrument than anyone else around, HAMMOND DUBBED Larry Young
as THE MOST TALENTED INNOVATOR of the Hammond B-3 Organ and presented Larry
with an award. Jack McDuff called him the “Coltrane of the organ”.
August 2, 1960, Larry Young made his first album for Prestige Records, TESTIFYING,
with Joe Holiday on tenor sax, Thornel Schwartz on guitar and Jimmy Smith on
drums. Larry went on and recorded an album with Jimmy Forrest in 1961. In 1962, Larry Young and Dave Blocker formed
a jazz ensemble with Woody Shaw a trumpet player who also went to Arts High,
Bill Brooks on drums. The Trio went to Paris and Dave Blocker remained stateside. Later
that year, he made his vinyl debut as leader with Groove
Street. He procured the services of
top guitarist Grant Green and signed to Blue Note, made classic records with
artists such as Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw, Donald Byrd and Lee Morgan.
In 1965 he visited Europe, playing piano on Nathan Davis’s Happy
Girl. Larry was so taken by John Coltrane’s music, he recorded with
Coltrane and inducted drummer Elvin Jones to record a modal Jazz album with Joe
Henderson, Woody Shaw and Elvin Jones: Unity (Blue Note) is regarded by
many as the best Jazz organ recording. When all of these albums hit the streets
in 1965, Larry Young was instantly seen as a force to be reckoned with.
By late February or early March, Larry was
back in the states and reunited with Grant Green and Elvin Jones on March 31
for the recording of “Green’s Street of
Dreams” with vibist Bobby Hutcerson added. Woody Shaw meanwhile joined the
Horace Silver Quintet in June, sharing the frontline with Joe Henderson.
Larry, Grant and Elvin would work in the New York area whenever possible. Larry Coryell
remembers moving from Washington state and running up to Harlem to hear
them on his first time in town and how powerfully moved he was by the
performance of Larry’s song TYRONE. Tyrone
was recorded in 1964 the same year Ritha was recorded and dedicated to Tyrone’s
mother who passed away in the spring of that year. Tyrone was the nick name of his
son, Larry the 3rd born October 16th 1959.
Larry Jr. dedicated this song to his son. TYRONE was later recorded by Grant Green and Larry Coryell.
In 1966, Larry was recognized by receiving
the LARRY YOUNG ORGAN TALENT DESERVING WIDER RECOGNITION DOWN BEAT JAZZ CRITICS
POLL 1966 award. A few days after Larry’s last Blue Note date, John McLaughlin
moved from London to New York to join Larry and Tony. He played on Miles
Davis’ IN A SILENT WAY soon after
arriving, Miles offered him a gig, but he turned it down because he was so
enthusiastic about Williams’ new band. The band consisted of Tony, Larry and
John and became the Lifetime trio. The
trio recorded a double album (unheard of at the time) on Polydor, which they
recorded on May 26-28 1969.
In the summer of 1967, Larry played piano
in Lionel Hampton’s band for a brief period but
decided to go out on his own. John Spruill who replaced Larry on piano said,”
Larry was played the piano like he was Chopin. He was my mentor and a real
In 1968, Larry recorded Heaven On Earth which included Larry Young
(Organ), Herbert Morgan (TS), Byard Lancaster (AS), George Benson (Guitar),
Edward Gladden (Drums) and Althea Young (Vocal) on “My Funny Valentine”.
On May 14, 1969, Larry played on a long jam session with
Jimi Hendrix, bassist Billy Cox and drummer Mitch Mitchell on “Hells Sessions” and “Nine to the
Universe”. That track finally came out in 1980 as YOUNG\HENDRIX on Hendrix’s “NINE TO THE UNIVERSE” on Reprise
records. On McLaughlin’s U.S. debut album, “DEVOTION”, on Douglas Records, Larry played both organ and
electric piano. On August 20 and 21, he played electric piano on four of the
six tunes which comprised Miles Davis “BITCHES
BREW”. Larry also played on the November 28 Miles Davis session
which produced “THE LITTLE BLUE FROG”,
which was issued on a 45 rpm single, and an untitled unissued piece.
1970 Tony Williams’
next album; “TURN IT OVER”, with the
recording of John Coltrane’s “BIG NICK”,
was a feature for Larry on live gigs.
Writing about the original trio, James Isaacs put it most succinctly, “The
Tony Williams Lifetime sounded like no other band in the world. The were the
first and, with out a doubt, the most honest and creative ensemble in fusion
music. They spawned many imitators, including McLaughlin’s own Mahavishnu
Orchestra. Fusion eventually became a sterile, predictable, manufactured form
of what was first meant to be startling and revolutionary. And everyone went to
the bank, except Larry and Tony. Larry stayed on with Tony after McLaughlin’s
departure in early’71.
1971, Larry Young was rated the #1 Top
Organist in the World. Hammond recognized Larry Young a.k.a as Kahlid Yasin by awarding him the HAMMOND EXCELLENCE AWARD KAHLID YASIN 6-19-1972. Larry appeared on the album EGO and made
a final European tour before leaving. When John McLaughlin and rock guitarist Carlos
Santana, both at the height of their powers commercially and artistically,
joined forces in 1972 to record LOVE,
DEVOTION AND SURRENDER for CBS and follow the album with a tour. Larry
Young was the organist for both events. Larry also recorded “Love Cry Want” on New Jazz label that
year with Nicholas, Joe Gallivan and Jimmy Molneiri.
In 1973, Larry made his next album “LAWRENCE OF NEWARK” for the small
independent label Perception. The album came and went rather quickly because
the label soon folded. September 1973, Larry recorded “Live in Chicago” with Billy Cobham at the Chicago Amphitheatre.
In 1975, Larry recorded with the Lenny
White Sextet with Lenny White, Raymond Gomez, Doug Rodrigues, Onaje Allen Gumbs
and Doug Ranch on the album “Venusian
Summer”. Larry also signed with Arista Records, and made two albums “Larry
Young’s Fuel” and in 1976, “Spaceball”
which did not sell. The experience of playing before huge audiences on other
tours had warped his judgment. He could not understand why musicians of far
less ability and vision were so successful in the commercial marketplace while
his efforts in the same idiom were not.
Larry’s personal frustration was never abated. He could not accept the
economic triumph of lesser music by lesser artists. He knew his worth, his
foresight and his innovations, and that made his lack of recognition all the
He spent much of 1977 working with Houston Person and leading his own group with
tenor saxophone Buddy Terry and drummer Joe Chambers. In November, he made a
beautiful duet album with Joe under Chamber’s name Muse, DOUBLE EXPOSURE with Larry primarily on organ and Joe on drums and
1978 started out a much better year for
Larry. He was working on his music with renewed enthusiasm and developing a new
group. On Tuesday, March 28, 1978, Larry’s new girlfriend gave birth to his second daughter born 3 days
before his death. Larry’s two daughters, Fatimah born in 1977, Aziza born in 1978. Larry’s son, Larry the 3rd
(Tyrone) received a music scholarship at USC and Larry Jr,
a rather lucrative deal with Warner Brothers was finalized and Larry was to
open the night at a New York club with his new band.
Larry returned from California, he suddenly passed away under mysterious circumstances which are
being investigated presently by the authorities. Like Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin and other
artist of that period who passed away under mysterious circumstances appears
that now you can add Larry Young to that category. Larry Young died a needless
death at the age of 37. Larry Young was a wise, kind and loving man whose
imposing stature was betrayed by his deep gentleness and respect to people who
was close to him. He was very versatile, inventive and a pioneering musician
who left the planet with a lot of unfinished musical business. We miss the man
and the music he made very much.
As my father would always say, “ BOINNNNG”.
Larry Young III November