Jazz bassist Major “Mule” Holley, a Detroit native, began
playing the violin at age 7 and learned the tuba and every
other wind-related instrument in the bass family as well as
piano during a 1940s stint in the Navy. His first professional
gig was in San Diego in 1946 where he performed in an
ensemble led by saxophonists Wardell Gray and Dexter
Gordon. He moved to New York after getting out of the
Holley moved to England in the ‘50’s doing session work at
the BBC. The same decade returning to the states he
toured with Woody Herman in 1958 and with Al Cohn/Zoot
Sims in 1959-60.
In the 1960’s he garnered a distinguished reputation as a
top notch studio player and sideman, playing with Duke
Ellington in 1964 and with the Kenny Burrell Trio, Coleman
Hawkins, Lee Konitz, Roy Eldridge, Michel Legrand, Milt
Buckner, Jay McShann and Quincy Jones.
He taught at Berklee College in Boston from 1967 to 1970
and toured Europe with the Kings of Jazz in the mid-70s.
Holley was noted for singing along with his bass solos, a
technique fellow bassist Slam Stewart had originated