The Troy Street Observer

February 17, 1913: Organist Hillary Rose Born

Pianist, organist, and bandleader Hillary Rose born in Saint Michael Parish, Barbados. Rose’s family emigrated when he was a child, settling in Cambridge, where he studied piano. He later studied at the Boston Conservatory, and privately with Sandy Sandiford, and eventually graduated from Berklee in 1955.

He organized his first band, Hillary Rose and His Rhythm Boys, in 1935. He worked with saxophonist Pete Brown in 1945, and his 1946-51 quartet with saxophonist Tom Kennedy, bassist Lee Farrell, and drummer George “Peanuts” Seaforth was a regular feature at the Savoy, the Hi-Hat, and many Merrimac Valley clubs.

Rose led a short-lived band with trumpeter Joe Gordon in 1952 (“This cat is soulful though he can’t read a note!” Gordon told Jazz Journal), then was on the road through much of the 1950s. When he returned to Boston in 1958, he was playing the organ exclusively. He led trios all over the South End, at the Trinidad Lounge, the Big M, and the Hi-Hat (he led the last house trio at the Hi-Hat, which burned in March 1959). Rose, with drummer Bill Grant, had the house trio at Connolly’s first with tenor saxophonist Dan Turner, then with Jimmy Tyler, from fall 1959 to spring 1962.

Rose led another organ trio at the Gilded Cage on Boylston Street and at the Vagabond on Tremont Street in the Theatre District in the mid-1960s. Unfortunately, Rose left behind no recordings, but he is remembered, along with George Pearson, Hopeton Johnson, and Joe Bucci, as one of the local popularizers of the Hammond organ sound.

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