Cleveland "Cleve" Eaton

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Cleveland "Cleve" Eaton


Fairfield, Jefferson County, Alabama Music Hall of Fame, Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, Jazz music, Bass (instrument), Big Band music, Ike Cole Trio, Ramsey Lewis Trio, Count Basie


Cleveland "Cleve" Eaton (August 31, 1939 - )

In his long career in music, it is difficult to find a genre or an entertainer or act that Cleve Eaton has either not recorded or toured with. The man dubbed “the Count’s Bassist” because of his long association with Count Basie and his orchestra, Eaton has also worked with such artists as jazz pianist Ike Cole (Nat’s brother), pop artist Minnie Riperton, R&B group The Dells, as well as Julie London, Sammie David, Jr., Herbie Hancock, and The Temptations…and that just touches the surface. Born in Fairfield, Alabama on August 31, 1939, Cleveland Eaton grew up in a house full of musical influence. Between the ages of five to fifteen, Cleve mastered the piano, saxophone, trumpet, and tuba. But it was the string bass with captured Cleve’s interest and, as they say, the rest is history. After earning a degree in music at Tennessee A & I State University, Cleve first connected with Ike Cole in Chicago, become a part of his trio. In 1965, Cleve began a decade-long stint with the Ramsey Lewis Trio, playing bass on such albums as “Wade In The Water” (1966), “Goin’ Latin” (1967), and the number one jazz album “Sun Goddess” (1975). While the Ramsey Lewis Trio was where Cleve made his mark on the national scene, it was his 17-year association with The Count Basie Orchestra that cemented his spot as the preeminent bassist of his time. Eaton’s work with Basie began just two weeks after he left Lewis in a salary dispute. Cleve can be heard on such albums as “Kansas City Shout” (1980), “88 Basie Street” (1983), which won the 1984 Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Big Band, and on Basie’s last album, “Fancy Pants” (1983). Eaton continued his association with The Count Basie Orchestra after Basie’s death in 1984, including on “Big Boss Band” (1990), by George Benson, which featured the Basie orchestra. During this time, Cleve was also heading his own project, Cleve Eaton and Co., which evolved, in 2004, into Cleve Eaton and the Alabama All-Stars. Cleveland Eaton was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in 1979, and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 2008.

Watch and Listen:
"Count Basie, Cleve Eaton"
"Cleveland Eaton in Concert"
"Count Basie - Booty's Blues"
"Cleve Eaton - Slippin' Into Darkenss"


John Griffin, University of North Alabama


“Cleveland Eaton – Alabama Music Hall of Fame” Accessed December 1, 2016
“Cleveland Eaton Official Website” Accessed December 1, 2016
“Cleve Eaton Interview – The Birmingham Times 2/5/15” Accessed December 1, 2016

All images courtesy of Mr. George Lair and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, unless otherwise noted.


Alabama Cultural Resource Survey




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