(Oct. 10, 1921-May 20, 1982). William Howard “Monk” Montgomery was born in Indianapolis. Monk, a member of the musical Montgomery family, was a leading jazz bassist.

Montgomery got his start by playing the upright bass at night gigs in jazz clubs along Indiana Avenue while working a day job at a foundry. His professional jazz career started in the early 1950s when he began touring with Lionel Hampton’s orchestra, where he became one of the first jazz musicians to use the electric Fender Precision bass. He was encouraged by Hampton to make the switch to the electric bass, which Monk made work for the jazz sound by emulating the sound of the double bass.

After playing with Hampton, Monk joined a number of big-name groups. He played with the Anthony Ortega Quartet for a time before returning to Indianapolis to play with his brothers, John Leslie (Wes) Montgomery and Buddy, in the Montgomery-Johnson Quintet. In 1957, Monk and his brothers formed the Mastersounds, later the Montgomery Brothers, and released a number of albums.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Monk continued to grow his musical career. He performed with various groups including The Jazz Crusaders, Cal Tjader, The Red Norvo Trio, and Hug Masekela. In 1969, he released his first solo album, It’s Never Too Late.

Montgomery assembled a 12-piece ensemble to tour South Africa in 1974, making it the first American jazz band to travel there. While there, he recorded another solo album, Monk Montgomery in Africa…Live! A year after this trip, Montgomery began living in Las Vegas.

During his time in Las Vegas, he became an advocate for jazz and jazz musicians. He was one of the founders of the World Jazz Association in 1975 and later founded the affiliate group, the Las Vegas Jazz Society. He also became the founding president of the Western Federation for Jazz in 1981.

Montgomery died of cancer. At the time of his death, he was planning a world jazz festival.

Revised March 2021

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