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Guitarist Jimmy Ponder Dead at 67

Prolific player recorded on over 100 albums, many as leader

Jimmy Ponder

Jimmy Ponder, a guitarist who appeared on more than 100 recordings, approximately one-third of which featured him as a leader, died Sept. 16 in Pittsburgh, Pa., at age 67. He had suffered from lung cancer for some time. Ponder’s death was confirmed by drummer/engineer George Heid II, a fellow Pittsburgh musician who performed with Ponder for some 15 years.

Born May 10, 1946, James Willis Ponder, who grew up in Pittsburgh, began playing guitar at 11 and frequented that city’s jazz clubs as a teen. By 17, influenced by Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell and others, he was working with organist Charles Earland. During the ’60s, Ponder became a prolific sideman, playing on recordings for leaders such as Donald Byrd, Johnny Hodges, Stanley Turrentine, Andrew Hill, Lou Donaldson, Jimmy McGriff, Shirley Scott, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Houston Person.

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