Jazz saxophonist and record business entrepreneur, JOE EVANS died on Friday January 17th. He was 97 years old and reports suggest that he died of renal failure.
Within the soul community Joe Evans is best remembered for founding Carnival Records back in 1961. The biggest names on the label were the Manhattans who joined the Evans’ stable in 1964 and it was at Carnival that they enjoyed their first success with songs like ‘I Wanna Be (Your Everything)’, ‘Searchin’ For My Baby’ and ‘Follow Your Heart.’ Other Carnival artists included The Pretenders, Lee Williams & The Cymbals, Little Royal, The Lovettes, Barbara Brown, Dolores Johnson, Rene Bailey, Harry Caldwell and the wonderfully named Maurice Simon & The Pie Men.
Evans had been involved with music long before Carnival though. Born in Bonifay, Florida in 1916 he learned to play sax after moving to New York City. Gifted on flute and clarinet too, he played in many of the top jazz/dance bands of the 1940s. He also played with Charlie Parker and John Coltrane and provided accompaniment for Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, the Impressions, Sarah Vaughan and Harry Belafonte amongst others. During the early ’60s, Evans joined the Motown Revue on their nationwide tours and played behind Stevie Wonder, the Supremes and Marvin Gaye He also worked in the Motown studios.
When he retired from music Evans earned a Master’s of Education degree from Rutgers University before, bizarrely, starting a new career as a dairy inspector for the state of New Jersey. In 2008 working with Dr. Christopher Brooks, Joe co-authored his 2008 autobiography, ‘Follow Your Heart: Moving with the Giants of Jazz, Swing and Rhythm and Blues.’
Joe Evans is survived by his son Thomas James and two great-grandchildren among other relatives.