Drummer Donald “Duck” Bailey Dies at 80

Played with Jimmy Smith from 1956-64

Donald “Duck” Bailey, a drummer best known for his tenure with the organist Jimmy Smith, died Oct. 15 at age 80 in Montclair, Calif. Bailey’s passing was confirmed by posts on his Facebook page. The cause of death was not reported.

Bailey worked with Smith from 1956-64 and appeared on more than 20 of Smith’s albums on the Blue Note label. He also performed with the Three Sounds and recorded at least three albums as a leader.

Donald Bailey
Donald Bailey

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Bailey grew up in Philadelphia, where he played with a young John Coltrane. Following the Jimmy Smith years, while living in Los Angeles, Bailey also contributed as a sideman to bands led by Sonny Rollins, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Kenny Burrell, George Benson, Hampton Hawes and others. Bailey also spent five years living in Japan, after which he settled down in Oakland, Calif., in 1982. He continued to perform there until ill health forced him to quit.

For more on Bailey's life and music, read Shaun Brady's 2009 JT profile.


  • Oct 18, 2013 at 08:35PM Ben Johnson

    Jimmy Smith's Midnight Special was my first Jazz LP..it's easy to still hear Donald's cadence. Sadly he's another under recognized musician.

  • Oct 20, 2013 at 12:36PM Joy Bailey

    Thank you JazzTimes for the love you showed our father for many many years. He was a great disciple and student of jazz but even better he was a wonderful father and a kind human being who will be missed by his 7 children (Donald Bailey, Jr., Woodrow Bailey, Julia Bailey, Deborah Bailey-Harleaux, Joy Bailey, Darlando Bailey); his countless nieces and nephews and a multitude of great children, great grandchildren and a great great grandchild.

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