Quincy Jones

Who Mentored Quincy Jones?

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Watch a public service announcement featuring Quincy Jones in support ofNational Mentoring Month.

Quincy Jones is a music producer and the all-time most nominated Grammy artist with a total of 77 nominations and 26 winning Grammys. He was born on March 14, 1933, in Chicago and was raised in Seattle. His interest in music began as a child and by the age of 12 he was singing in a gospel quartet. As a junior in high school, he began playing the trumpet and continued his musical education at the prestigious Berkelee College of Music in Boston.


Ray Charles is from Florida. When we met I was 14, he was 16. I just looked up to him because he knew how to do it all.

He always used to say to us, “Quincy, play the music the way it was originally conceived because that’s the original soul of the music, and every music has its own soul.” And that stuck with me the rest of my life.


[Count] Basie had a very earthy, down home way–he was like a brother, he was like a father, he was like a manager, advisor, mentor, everything. So, one time, I had a big band together in New York years later, and he said, “You want a gig?” I said, “Of course I want a gig, we have nothing!”

Only 700 people showed up there, the capacity of about 1800, and only 700 showed up. So at the end of it, I’m confused, and we get paid and everything else, and I look up there and there’s Basie, not too far from where we were, and he said, “Give the man half his money back.”

I said, “Are you kidding?! We just played, we died all night, and I have to pay all these guys…”

“Give the man his money back. He put your name out front, and people didn’t show up–that’s not his fault. He might be the man that’ll have to save you three years from now. Give him half the money back.”

I mean, it was stuff like that. It was a lot of integrity really.


Bobby Tucker was another great mentor. He was a musical director. He was the one in “Lady Sings the Blues” that Richard Pryor played–that was Bobby Tucker.

He was with Billie Holiday and he hired us at 14. We were so awestruck with Billie at the rehearsal, she came out and we forgot to play!

He said, “O.K. guys, if you don’t play soon I’m going to make you buy a ticket.”

We couldn’t believe we were playing with Billie Holiday.

And the next year, he came through and he was with Billy Eckstine, and he asked us to play with him again. Now our confidence was built up since he asked us back after we were so stupid the first time–I mean we were still good musicians–and he asked us to play with Billy Eckstine.


That’s what a mentor is all about: one person, who sees that glimmer in your eye, sees the question marks in your eye.

Guys that have just gone through all this stuff and people perceive them at 65 as having to be sent out to a pasture…that’s nonsense.

There’s no need for a generation gap…please. Isn’t it amazing how you can make all those mistakes and then some mysterious metamorphosis happens and suddenly they say, “Oh, she’s got tremendous experience.” That means she’s made a lot of mistakes. And you need the opportunity to make a lot of mistakes, but you need the people who can say, “You don’t need to do that, we already blew that 20 years ago.”