Bill Black

Birth Name:
William Patton Black Jr.
Birth Date:
September 17, 1926
Birth Place:
Memphis, Tennessee
Death Date:
October 21, 1965
Place of Death:
Baptist Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee
Cause of Death:
Brain tumor
Cemetery Name:
Forest Hill Memorial Park - Midtown
Claim to Fame:
When Elvis Presley cut his first ground-breaking single "That's All Right, Mama" he was backed by Sun Studio musicians Scotty Moore on guitar and Bill Black on bass. With D. J. Fontana later added as drummer, the four hit the road and played every dancehall, fairground and club that manager Tom Parker could book. Black and Moore became Presley's backup group and were paid 25% of his earnings with the group billed as "Elvis Presley and the Blue Moon Boys." Black played on early Presley recordings including "Good Rockin' Tonight", "Heartbreak Hotel", "Baby Let's Play House", "Mystery Train", "That's All Right", and "Hound Dog", and eventually became one of the first bass players to use the Fender Precision Bass (bass guitar) in popular music, on "Jailhouse Rock", in the late 1950s. But what could have been the first great rock 'n' roll band fell apart when Parker paid and treated the other musicians as just the hired help. In 1959, Black joined a group of musicians which became Bill Black's Combo. The original lineup was Black (bass), Joe Lewis Hall (piano), Reggie Young (guitar), Martin Willis (saxophone), and Jerry Arnold (drums) although there were several personnel changes over the years. The band released blues instrumental "Smokie" for Hi Records in December 1959 and the follow-up "Smokie, Part 2" became a No. 17 U.S. pop hit, and made number one on the "black" music charts. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA. During his brief career the Bill Black Combo released 22 singles, 14 albums, and sold over 5 million records before Bill succumbing to brain cancer.

Fun Facts

Early in 1963, Black sent from two to five different versions of the Combo to different regions of the country at the same time, while staying off the road himself, wanting to concentrate on his business, family and his health.

Bill Black’s Combo created musical history in 1964 when they became the opening act for the Beatles (at their request) on their historic 13-city tour of America after their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Black himself was not well enough to make the tour.

Black’s main stand-up bass is today owned by ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, who received the instrument as a birthday present from his wife Linda in the late 1970s. The bass can be seen in the video clip to McCartney’s song “Baby’s Request”.

In 2007, Black was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum and on April 4, 2009, Bill Black was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2020, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him as 40th greatest bass player of all time.

Cemetery Information:

Final Resting Place:

Forest Hill Memorial Park - Midtown

1661 S. Elvis Presley Blvd

Memphis, Tennessee, 38106


North America


Map of Forest Hill Memorial Park - Midtown Memphis in Tennessee
Map of Forest Hill Memorial Park - Midtown Memphis in Tennessee

Grave Location:

Section 15

Grave Location Description

As you enter the cemetery make your way towards the center, looking for a large, single story mausoleum (the very same mausoleum that once housed Elvis Presley). Park at the intersection of Sections 8, 9 and 19. Walk to the center of Section 15 and look for the Morrison monument and music legend Bill Black is buried 10 feet away next to his father.

Grave Location GPS

35.093544, -90.024002



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