Ace Cannon, born John Henry Cannon on May 5, 1934, was an American saxophonist best known for his instrumental hits in the 1960s. Raised in Grenada, Mississippi, Cannon developed a love for music at a young age, influenced by his father’s musical talent.
Cannon started playing the saxophone when he was only 10 years old, and by the time he was a teenager, he was performing with local bands. He went on to study music at the University of Mississippi and later joined the US Army, where he played in the army band.
In the late 1950s, Cannon joined the Bill Black Combo as a saxophonist. Bill Black, known for his work as Elvis Presley’s bassist, helped launch Cannon’s career. In 1961, Ace left the Bill Black Combo to embark on a solo career. He signed with Hi Records, a Memphis-based label, and began recording his instrumental hits.
Ace Cannon’s music was a blend of R&B, pop, and jazz, characterized by his soulful, melodic saxophone playing. His biggest hit, “Tuff,” reached number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1962. This success was followed by other hits, including “Blues (Stay Away from Me)” and “Searchin’.” Over the course of his career, Cannon released more than 20 albums and received several awards and honors, such as the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame.
Cannon continued to perform throughout the years, often collaborating with other musicians and maintaining a strong connection to his Memphis roots. He was known for his impeccable showmanship and warm, engaging stage presence, which helped make him a popular live performer.
On December 6, 2018, Ace Cannon passed away at the age of 84. His impact on the music world, particularly as a saxophonist, continues to be celebrated, and he is remembered for his unique style and contributions to the Memphis music scene.
Page last updated 3/18/2023.