Born in Racine, Wisconsin, Gerald’s initial inspiration was his father Benjamin, a guitarist, who bought him his first electric bass at the ripe young age of 10. He began playing bass in his father’s group ‘The Gospel Expressions' and he never looked back. Gerald attended The University of Wisconsin at La Crosse where he met jazz great Milt Hinton. This meeting not only changed Gerald’s major in college from physical education to music, it also changed the rest of his life.
Gerald transferred to the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in Milwaukee, where he spent the next four years studying jazz bass, classical bass and piano. He also studied art at Marquette University, which nurtured a natural talent and love of painting. Outside of school, Gerald began working as musical director with singer and mentor Penny Goodwin. This experience led to the creation of his own quintet ‘Gerald Cannon’s Jazz Elements,’ which laid the foundation for a solid reputation as a leader and composer in his own right.
At age 28, Gerald arrived in New York City. He immediately began earning his living playing bass in the subway and jamming at the Blue Note with renowned musicians Russell Malone, Winard & Philip Harper and Justin Robinson. From there, prestigious gigs arose with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Dexter Gordon, Cedar Walton Trio with Billy Higgins, Jimmy Smith, Little Jimmy Scott, James Williams, Hamiett Bluiett, Ed Thigpen, Frank Foster, John Bunch, Eddie Harris, Stanley Turrentine and Bunky Green.