Born Herman Blount in Birmingham in 1914, Sun Ra was a prodigious and renowned musician who reinvented jazz throughout his life with his Sun Ra Arkestra. He also pioneered a unique Afrocentric philosophy coupled with elements of futurism that celebrated African contributions to world culture. Always exploring new approaches and techniques, Sun Ra recorded over one hundred albums prior to his death in 1993.
Herman “Sonny” Blount was born May 22, 1914, in Birmingham. At an early age, Blount showed considerable musical talent, which he developed through participation in school bands and as a hired musician for social club functions. At places such as the Masonic Temple and other clubs vital to the black community, Blount was first exposed to the world of jazz and big band music.
As a student at Birmingham Industrial High School, he was taught by John “Fess” Whatley, a well-respected teacher whose students went on to play for people such as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. The summer after graduating from high school in 1932, Blount traveled the Southeast and Midwest as a pianist with a band financed by Whatley.