He was a blind
pianist/keyboardist born Jacob Astor Spell in Sampson County, North Carolina.
He attended a school for the
blind from the time he was 6 years old and had to remain in the dorm as he
was too far away from home to commute. At the time one of his fellow
students was his friend Ronnie Milsap and
together they formed a band. He studied violin and piano there and later
went on to attend the Oberlin Conservatory to concentrate on the piano. He
didn't stay there too long as he decided that he wanted to veer towards
rock and roll and so returned home to North Carolina.
Becoming known, he soon
was making it out in the world of music and has toured and recorded with
many artists that include Judy Collins, Steve Cropper, Jose Feliciano,
Eddie Floyd, Vern Gosdin, Tim Krekel,
John Mayall, Poco,
Jeannie C, Riley, Dan Seals, The Tams, Greg "Fingers" Taylor,
Randy Travis, Conway Twitty and Tammy Wynette to name a few, as well as being a member of the
group Tower of Power.
The countless albums he
appeared on include Son of a Son of a Sailor by Jimmy Buffett, Christmas Album by Canned Heat, Cowgirl's
Prayer by Emmylou Harris,. His time with Jimmy
Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band saw him touring
with him during 1977 and 1978 and also making an appearance in the 1978
He suffered from oesophagal cancer and while receiving treatment several
of his musician friends raised money by holding a fundraising concert.
He passed away in
Jimmy Buffett recordings
in Paradise (Jimmy Buffet)