David Newman was born in Dallas, February 24, 1932. He has reported no recollection of his family being musically talented, but as an only child he was encouraged to play and listen to music. His mother, in particular, wanted him to take piano lessons. This plan was never brought to fruition because the young Mr. Newman believed he would be teased unmercilessly as a sissy. Instead he requested and received an new saxophone.
His first instructor was the band teacher at Lincoln High School (Dallas, Texas); J. K. Miller. Mr. Newman played in the school marching band concurrent with his private instruction. While in Dallas he also played with a jazz band fronted by Buster Smith.
Following high school Mr. Newman attended Jarvis Christian College majoring in theology. His reason given for not majoring in music was just due to the mere fact that the school did not have a formal music department. In 1951 he began performing with the Lloyd Glenn band where he met Ray Charles. This meeting was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. By 1954 Mr. Newman was playing baritone saxophone in Ray Charles’ band. He continued until 1964 and then the band reunited again from 1970 to 1971. Mr. Newman credits this experience as providing him with the opportunity to learn arranging, an appreciation for all types of music and the means to travel the world.
In 1971 Mr. Newman began playing with Herbie Mann’s band and remained at this post for seven years before heading his own group. He recorded 25 works from 1959 to 1989; three of them being while employed with Ray Charles. He has worked with performers such as Lee Morgan, B. B. King, T-Bone Walker, Lou Rawls and Jewel Brown. His television appearances include reuniting with the Ray Charles band to guest on Saturday Night Live, then later with his own band on the David Sanborn Show and with Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald for a PBS documentary.
Mr. Newman’s business sense has given him a substantial amount of control over his music. After the creation of his own publishing company, he now owns 100% of the copyrights for his later works.
From the guide to the David "Fathead" Newman Collection MSS 375., 1932 to 1989, (Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library)