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Roscoe "Rocky" Blunt - Biography
Roscoe "Rocky" Blunt

B: July 29, 1925 - Worcester, MA
Instrument: Drums


by Prof. Richard Falco:

It would be difficult to find a musician who has led as interesting a life as that of Roscoe "Rockie" Blunt, Jr. He is a former pilot, underwater cinematographer and investigative newspaper reporter. Rockie Blunt is blessed with an abundance of musical talent, a great sense of humor and a tremendous memory, all of which make him a gifted storyteller and a delight with whom to be.

On July 29, 1925 Roscoe "Rockie" Crosby Blunt, Jr. was born to Roscoe Blunt, Sr. (d. Feb. 12, 1975) and Matilda (Enberg) Blunt (d. Sept. 1968). Rockie lived in Quinsigamond Village, the predominantly Swedish district of Worcester, MA. He spent much of his early musical career in the predominantly African American area of Worcester, MA, known as the Laurel-Clayton area.

He studied drums at the Lincoln Square Boys Club with a Mr. Jones (first name unknown) where drum lessons cost twenty-five cents per half hour. Rockie Blunt's father greatly encouraged his son's musical interests by supporting his lessons and by taking him to many live music performances. Rockie Jr. reports that "my father totally, 100 percent encouraged me to follow my own path. He was a wonderful and beautiful man. He took me to the Plymouth Theater for every one of the big bands, Front row! We could reach out and touch Fats Waller!" Every single show (jazz acts that came through Worcester), we never missed one."

On the other hand, Rockie's mother was against his musical pursuits, even though she was an accomplished concert pianist in her youth (considered by some to be a prodigy once she began playing at age 5).

In the Clayton-Laurel neighborhood were a number of musicians who were seeking a small, inexpensive rental space for jam sessions. Rockie Blunt, Sr. was instrumental in securing a small storefront for this purpose. Rockie Blunt, Jr. remembers this site as being "a small, poorly-lighted dingy store front." He went on to say that the Saxtrum Club was a Mecca for local and big-time jazz musicians of all colors and persuasions". (See "A Brief History of Jazz In Worcester" by Roscoe Blunt Jr. in the Photo Library).

An invited club membership was considered a musical imprimatur into the elite jazz clique, which grew up around this legendary club.

The club officially started in 1938. The founders included Howie Jefferson, Barney Price, Dick Murray, Ralph Briscott, Jaki Byard, Ed Shamgochian, and Harold Black. Rockie Blunt Jr. was only 12 years old when his father asked if the older musicians would include his son, an aspiring drummer. In an interview with Worcester Magazine, Howie Jefferson is quoted as saying "Man when he (Rockie Jr.) started with us, his feet didn't even touch the drum pedal." Rockie remembers "showing up in shorts, little boy shorts!"

(In an interview with Chet Williamson of Worcester Magazine in 1998, world renowned pianist Jaki Byard claimed to have created the name of this club using the first letters from the instruments of the two prime movers, Howie Jefferson, SAXophone and Barney Price, TRUMpet.)

The Saxtrum Club was located on the corner of Laurel and Clayton Streets in Worcester. For nearly ten years this cooperative hosted nightly jam sessions and was a magnet for invited regional players and visiting national artists as an after-hours jam venue. Worcester natives Barbara Carroll, Emil Haddad, Don Asher, Don Fagerquist and Jaki Byard (who reportedly often played through the night) were regulars at the Saxtrum Club. (see Links)

After their performances in high profile downtown Worcester venues like the Plymouth Theater (late 1930s) and the Warren Hotel (after 1945), many jazz artists of national stature performed with locals at the Saxtrum Club in late night jam sessions. According to Worcester Telegram and Gazette columnist Ev Skehan, such well known jazz figures as Gene Krupa, Roy Eldridge, Chu Berry, Anita O'Day, Cozy Cole, Cab Calloway, Lucky Millander, Fats Waller, Charlie Ventura, Don Byas, Joe Venuti and Frank Sinatra all visited the Saxtrum Club. While stationed at Fort Devens, Al Hirt came regularly for two years to play at the Saxtrum Club. Unfortunately, no recordings were ever made at the club. Howie Jefferson's desire for playing jam sessions with regional and visiting traveling musicians remained a life-long passion.

According to Rockie Blunt's writings regarding this period, "white musicians were performing their version of jazz in almost all the city's (Worcester's) night clubs, beer joints, dance halls and amusement parks such as Lincoln Park, White City Park , Pinehurst in Auburn, Lyonhurst in Marlborough and in the many ethnic social clubs in the area". (See "A Brief History of Jazz In Worcester" by Roscoe Blunt Jr. in the Photo Library.)

Rockie Blunt was inducted into the Army in 1943 where he saw much World War II combat including the Battle of the Bulge.

Toward the end of the World War II, he began playing in army bands and toured with the USO to various US camps throughout Europe. (see Photo Gallery for performance locations.)

He wrote about his war experience in nationally published books, one of which was entitled "Inside the Battle of the Bulge". He also authored two versions of "Foot Soldier: An Infantryman's War in Europe". Rockie was awarded the Purple Heart for war related wounds, the Bronze Star for valor, and was given numerous other military awards. He was the youngest GI in the country to receive the Expert Infantry Badge. Later he earned the Combat Infantry Badge.

Once he returned to Worcester in 1946, Blunt immediately picked up where he left off: performing with Saxtrum Club members.

He later joined the Bob Chester Band. While playing at the Sea Girt in New Jersey, he received a phone call from his mother announcing his accceptancce into the New England Conservatory of Music. He left Chester's band and attended the New England Conservatory from 1946 to 1949, where he majored in percussion and graduated with honors in the History of Jazz Studies.

While at the New England Conservatory, a permanent ensemble was formed around 1947 from players at the Saxtrum Club, which was led by drummer Tommie Collins. Howie Jefferson played off and on with this group for a few years. Eventually this band was taken over and led by drummer Rockie Blunt, Jr. The name was changed to the Rockie Blunt All-Stars. Personnel included Rockie Blunt, Jr. (drums, vibraphone and arranger), Barney Price (trumpet and occasional vocals), Henry Monroe (Piano), Howie Jefferson (tenor saxophone), Morgan Sorrell (bass and vocals) and various pianists including Don Asher and Chet Lavallee. (see Photo Gallery)

Blunt wrote that he "molded the All-Stars into the closest compromise he could: a jazz concert group where the people, rather than dancing, listened to the musical program. A rabid group of loyal followers developed and followed the group wherever it went. Nelson's in Fitchburg started Sunday afternoon jazz that led to packed houses seven nights a week. The tour continued to the Rollstone Lodge in Fitchburg, Seymour's in Shirley, the Maybarton Restaurant in Clinton, the Improvement Club in Oxford and Mickey Green's jazz joint in Shrewsbury and the Fox Lounge in Westborough". (See "A Brief History of Jazz In Worcester" by Roscoe Blunt, Jr. in the Photo Library.)

Aside from the high level of musicianship and inspired performances, this ensemble is historically significant for two reasons:

  1. The Rockie Blunt All-Stars was the first "mixed race group" to play jazz publicly in predominantly White establishments in Worcester, breaking the color barrier. They performed in venues with an audience policy of "whites only" as well as in establishments owned by African Americans and those that allowed for racially mixed audiences. In fact, in October of 1924 (the year before Rockie Blunt was born), there was a large gathering of the KKK and the Kleagles in Worcester. Racial tensions remained high for several decades. (see Photo Gallery for articles.)
  2. This ensemble is believed to be one of the first Worcester based jazz groups to record. In 1948 and 1949, The Rockie Blunt All-Stars made a series of live recordings from the stage of Nelson's Flamingo Lounge located on the corner of Main Street and Lunenberg Street, Moran Sq. in Fitchburg, MA. A Miesnner "flat disc" recorder and a single microphone were used for these recordings. (see Audio Clips)

From 1947 through the 1950's the Rockie Blunt All-Stars played in many concert settings and night clubs for white or black patrons. They sometimes performed in Worcester's predominantly black neighborhood in such jazz venues as the Valhalla (Summer Street) and other popular jazz night spot in the Summer Street area during the 1940s and 1950s such as the Quinsigamond Elks Lodge #173 IBPOE, referred to as the "Black Elks". It is assumed that the All-Stars may have played at other black venues during that time such as Dominic's Cafe (Clayton/Laurel area of Worcester), Tiny's Carousel (Route 9) and the Blue Marlin (Harding Street, Worcester) as well as upscale. white owned establishments.

In the mid 1950's, Blunt found it very difficult to find a pianist whom he thought to be compatible with the All-Stars. This frustration eventually led to his disbanding the group.

Rockie Blunt began a period of freelance playing, much of which was with "general business" pick up groups and not jazz ensembles.

Eventually, he settled into three permanent ensembles, which carried him through the next three decades: The Classic Swing Big Band, the Milestones Big Band, Cedar Swamp Seven and the Ragtime Rowdies, a Dixieland ensemble.

Blunt is as excited about playing today as he has ever been. He feels that his playing is as good as it ever was, although he now needs help getting his drum set to the stage. Once the music hits he swings as hard as he ever has, driving the ensembles with a powerful groove and big smile.

Playing with Rockie Blunt is always a fabulously musical experience, and his spirit lifts every musician with whom he works!



  • "Among the Folks" article. Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Thomas Sweeney. Circa 1938.
  • Crockett, Walter. "Nightwatch" column. Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 4 Feb. 1990.
  • The Landmark. Holden, MA. "Two Generations of Music Lovers". Photo by Steven King.
  • McLennan Scott. "Seminar Proves Jazz Beat Goes On". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 23 Feb. 2001
  • "The Rail Splitter". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 26 Sept. 1945
  • "Saxtrum Club Memories". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 4 June 1992
  • Skehan, Ev. "Worcester Jazz". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 20 May 1969
  • Skehan, Ev. Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Nov. 13, 1987
  • Worcester Historical Museum Library Archives.
  • Williamson, Chet. Personal resource library.
  • Cynthia Carruthers. Personal resource library.


Primary Sources:

  • Song List provided by Rockie Blunt from Nelson's, Fitchburg, MA.
  • Talkin' History: Jazz In Worcester Then and Now (Symposium.Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Worcester, MA). Videocassette WCCA TV, 25 Feb. 2001. Video interviews of Central MA jazz artists. Videocassette of panel presentations.
  • Roscoe Blunt, Jr.'s personal writings (in the form of reflections and memoirs written in his own hand) which he called "A Brief History of Jazz in Worcester". This document was generously shared by Roscoe Blunt, Jr. and used here with his permission.
  • "Blues for Bea" written by Al Mueller for Rockie Blunt's Wife, Bea. Photo provided by Roscoe Blunt, Jr.



  • Rockie Blunt All-Stars. 1948-1949. Recordings provided by Roscoe Blunt Jr. Re-mastered by Michael Drnek. Sept. 2003.
  • Jazz Fest (1992). Live performance. Clark University. Worcester, MA. Re-mastered by Michael Drnek, Feb. 2003.
  • Drum Solo by Rockie Blunt, Jr. 1988. Re-mastered by Michael Drnek, Feb. 2003.



  • Photos provided by Cynthia Carruthers, Chet Williamson, Roscoe Blunt, Jr. and Elwood "Bunny" Price. Personal libraries. Used by permission.



  • Blunt, Roscoe Jr. Personal Interview. 8 Oct. 2003.
  • Blunt, Roscoe Jr. Personal Interview. 8 Feb. 2004.
  • Carruthers, Cynthia.(daughter of Howie Jefferson). Personal Interviews. Oct. 2003.
  • Price, Elwood "Bunny". Personal Interviews. 10 Oct. 2003; 20 Oct. 2003; 24 Oct. 2003.

A VERY SPECIAL THANK YOU to Roscoe Blunt, Jr., Chet Williamson, Cynthia Carruthers and Elwood "Bunny" Price for their generous contributions to this article.