The Crusaders Biography

This remarkably versatile group was formed in Houston, Texas, as the Swingsters. During the 50s, Wilton Felder (31 August 1940, Houston, Texas, USA; reeds), Wayne Henderson (b. 24 September 1939, Houston, Texas, USA; trombone), Joe Sample (b. 1 February 1939, Houston, Texas, USA; keyboards) and Nesbert ‘Stix’ Hooper (b. 15 August 1938, Houston, Texas, USA; drums), forged a reputation as an R&B group before moving to California. Known as the Jazz Crusaders, they were signed by the Pacific Jazz label for whom they recorded a series of melodious albums. In 1970, the quartet truncated their name to the Crusaders in deference to an emergent soul/funk perspective. In truth the group exaggerated facets already prevalent in their work, rather than embark on something new. A 1972 hit, ‘Put It Where You Want It’, established a tight, precise interplay and an undeniably rhythmic pulse. The song was later recorded by the Average White Band, the kind of approval confirming the Crusaders’ new-found status.

Henderson left the group in 1975, and several session musicians, including master guitarist Larry Carlton, augmented the remaining nucleus on their subsequent recordings. In 1979, the Crusaders began using featured vocalists following the success of ‘Street Life’. This international hit helped launch Randy Crawford’s solo career, while a further release, ‘I’m So Glad I’m Standing Here Today’, re-established Joe Cocker. Hooper left the line-up in 1983 and was replaced by Leon Ndugu Chancler, leaving Felder and Sample to continue the group’s now accustomed pattern on a part-time basis. The Good And Bad Times, released in 1986, celebrated the Crusaders 30th anniversary and featured several ‘special guests’ including jazz singer Nancy Wilson. Sample and Felder called it a day following the release of 1991’s lacklustre Healing The Wounds, but during the mid-90s the latter reunited with Henderson to record a series of albums under the Jazz Crusaders name. Sample objected to the use of the name and continued to work with Felder as the Crusaders. Sample and Felder then reunited with Stix Hooper to record 2003’s excellent comeback set, Rural Renewal. They continue to record as the Crusaders. Meanwhile the Jazz Crusaders ‘featuring Wayne Henderson’ also continue in 2004 playing music a little less smooth.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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