(Jan. 23, 1931-Dec. 7, 1993). A native of Aberdeen, Mississippi, Robert Lee Gholson moved with his family to Gary, Indiana, in 1938. At age nine, he was permanently blinded in an accident and enrolled in the Indiana School For The Blind where he learned to play trumpet, drums, organ, and piano and mastered piano tuning and repair. A 1957 School of Education graduate of Indiana University and member of the campus Naacp, Gholson performed in Bloomington during the mid-1950s as the leader of The Blue Notes, working with several future Jazz stars including David Baker, Eddie Harris, Freddie Hubbard, and Larry Ridley.

From 1957 to 1984, Gholson taught industrial arts and piano tuning at the Indiana School for the Blind and for much of that time also served as a piano tuner-technician with the Riddick, Wilking, and Wurlitzer companies, maintaining pianos at Indianapolis’ major performance venues including Starlight Musicals, Indiana Roof (see Indiana Repertory Theatre), Market Square Arena, and Murat Temple (see Old National Centre).

Influenced stylistically by Indianapolis pianists Erroll Grandy and Earl Van Riper, Gholson performed in Indianapolis nightclubs for 35 years as a soloist and jazz combo leader, displaying a remarkable technical facility and vast repertoire spanning gospel, rhythm-and-blues, soul, swing, bebop, contemporary Jazz, popular standards, boogie-woogie, and Ragtime.

Revised March 2021

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