Gil Askey (1925–2014) Austin Texas born trumpeter, producer and arranger Gil
Askey was born in Austin, Texas, on March 9, 1925, but left at the age of 17. Taught by East Austin icon B.L. Joyce, the L.C. Anderson High School graduate completed two years of university on a medical scholarship. In 1980 he married Hellen, a lady whom he had met in 1973 and moved to Melbourne, Australia in 1988.
Askey studied music at the Boston Conservatory of Music and the Harnett School of Music in New York. He performed with many famous musicians, some of the biggest jazz legends, including Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie, and even did a duet with Billie Holiday. He worked as a musical director for many well-known acts, including Diana Ross, both with and without The Supremes, the Four Tops, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, Gladys Knight, Keni Burke and Linda Clifford.
Askey played as a jazz trumpeter for almost 25 years before arriving at Motown records to work as a musical director, producer, songwriter and musical arranger for such artists as Billy Eckstine, Gladys Knight, The Temptations, The Supremes, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5 and The Funk Brothers. Askey was also part of Motown's Artists Development crew that included Maxine Powell, Maurice King, Cholly Atkins and Harvey Fuqua.
Askey received his first call from Motown on New Year’s Day 1965 with an offer to produce and arrange six tracks on Billy Eckstine’s “Prime of My Life.” He ended up doing the entire album. When the Supremes’ hits slowed down in 1967, Motown mastermind Berry Gordy decided to make a record that crossed over to an older Broadway crowd. He tapped Askey for “The Supremes Do Rodgers & Hart” and also appointed him the group’s musical director on live shows, including the 1970 performance in Las Vegas that was Ross’ last show before going solo.
He worked with Diana Ross for 10 years and wrote the score for her very first motion picture Lady Sings the Blues that earned him an Academy Awards nomination in 1972. Ross took Askey with her for 1972′s “Lady Sings the Blues,” “Touch Me in the Morning” the next year and “Mahogany” in 1975. “You know, Diana Ross knows what she wants, and we didn’t always agree,” Askey said when asked about Ross’ diva reputation. “She even fired me once, or I quit, I can’t remember. Berry Gordy stepped in and got us back together.” Askey later worked with Curtis Mayfield, writing and arranging for his Curtom Record Company.
He was a good entertainer as well. When things got out hand during a show in Antwerp, Belgium, that starred the Four Tops, Askey leaped on the stage and played trumpet amazingly until the audience calmed down. Askey was the arranger and conductor for The Supremes during their successful runs at the Copa night club in New York. He pretty much put the whole show together.
Whenever Gil Askey visited Austin, he stayed with his stepfather Luther Simond. He always found time to visit his friends. He also carried his trumpet everywhere he went and extemporaneously played at churches and concerts.
After moving to Australia in 1988, Askey returned to performing in 1993 and taught and mentored young aspiring musician.
He continued to perform and played many regular gigs and jazz spots around the country right up to his death from lymphoma in Melbourne on April 9, 2014.
Click below to view Gil's youtube performances: