Ross Tompkins was one of my greatest friends in life. More than that, he was a great pianist and teacher to me. Ross knew every tune ever written, although he used to say to me, “Jack, nobody knows every tune ever written.” He was close though. He just about knew every tune and he showed me the end of “Can’t Get Started,” which I didn’t know and also he corrected me a lot with music. And I corrected him one time on Cole Porter’s “Get Out of Town”; when it goes major on the last half, he didn’t know that. That’s about the only time I ever corrected Ross. But he was a fantastic piano player with a great harmonic sense and a great accompanist. I heard him one time with Sarah Vaughan. They played “If You Could See Me Now” and it was one of the greatest musical experiences of my life. I loved Ross.
We were both from Florida. I was born in Jacksonville and I know he lived in St. Augustine (which is real close to Jacksonville). We both had experience living in Detroit too, ’cause I went to school there. I was older than Ross, but I remember meeting him in Jacksonville and I played with him one time, and he was always immaculate. He dressed to the nines and he was just a kid then…maybe 14 or something, but he was all dressed. Ross looked good. He’d show up sometimes in a tuxedo. Very supportive of me, too. When I’d have different bands he would always be there to support me.