The Inspiring Story of One Music Pioneer


Twenty three years ago (1988), a saxophone player from Seattle got his big break with an appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  Mind you, these were the days long before YouTube, Facebook, or American Idol.  Johnny’s show was THE place to be seen, just as The Ed Sullivan Show had been before Johnny.  Ironically, it was a saxophone performance on The Ed Sullivan Show that inspired Kenneth Gorelick (now Kenny G) to take up the saxophone when he was 10 years old.  When Kenny’s big day with Johnny arrived in 1988, the genre of contemporary jazz, later known as smooth jazz, was only in its infancy.  It was generally accepted that purely instrumental artists could not find mainstream success, but Kenny, a pioneer and visionary, believed in himself and his music.  Before the curtain went up, he was told that his two songs had been cut to just one.  Production staff told him to drop the instrumental song and go with the one that had vocals.  Kenny thought otherwise.  Instead, he played Songbird, an instrumental and now his all-time #1 hit song.  Seventy five million albums later, he is the most popular instrumental artist of all time.  Nice call, Kenny.

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