The Crusaders

The Crusaders were an American jazz-funk band from Los Angeles that was known throughout its first decade as The Jazz Crusaders, which issued a string of post-bop albums on Pacific Jazz during the 1960s. In 1971, they shortened their name to The Crusaders and issued a string of jazz-funk/R&B albums on Blue Thumb. They scored a hit in 1979 with “Street Life,” featuring guest vocalist Randy Crawford.

Members: Joe Sample (piano), Wilton Felder (bass, saxophone), Stix Hooper (drums, 1971-83), Wayne Henderson (trombone, 1971-75), Larry Carlton (guitar, 1971-76), Leon “Ndugu” Chancler (drums, 1984), Sonny Emory (drums, 1986)

The Crusaders had their roots in a post-bop band called The Swingsters, formed in 1954 Houston, Tex., by three teenage schoolmates: pianist Joe Sample (1939–2014), tenor saxophonist Wilton Felder (1940–2015), and drummer Nesbert “Stix” Hooper (b. 1938).

During the late 1950s, they gigged as the Modern Jazz Quartet (not to be confused with the Dizzy Gillespie/Sonny Stitt formation on Norgran). For extra cash, they cut two R&B singles as the Night Hawks: “Chicken Grabber” b/w “Big Top” (Del-Fi Records, 1959) and “Bunny Ride” (b/w “Sweetie Lester”), the latter undated on Pacific Records.

In 1960, the lineup of Sample, Felder, Hooper, and trombonist Wayne Henderson settled in Los Angeles, where they rebranded themselves the Jazz Crusaders. Between 1961 and 1969, they released 15 albums on the Pacific Jazz label. They issued two albums in 1970: Give Peace a Chance (Liberty) and Old Socks, New Shoes…New Socks, Old Shoes, their first of two releases on Hugh Masekela‘s Chisa label. By now, they’d incorporated soul-jazz elements and compositions by The Beatles and Sly & the Family Stone.

In a move to expand their audience, they dropped “Jazz” from their name for the 1971 Chisa release Pass the Plate. After the 1972 album Hollywood on Motown-subsidiary MoWest, The Crusaders began a nine-album run on Blue Thumb Records. 


  • Pass the Plate (1971)
  • Crusaders 1 (1972)
  • Hollywood (1972)
  • The 2nd Crusade (1973)
  • Unsung Heroes (1973)
  • Southern Comfort (1974)
  • Scratch (live, 1974)
  • Chain Reaction (1975)
  • Those Southern Knights (1976)
  • Free as the Wind (1977)
  • Images (1978)
  • Street Life (1979)
  • Rhapsody and Blues (1980)
  • Standing Tall (1981)
  • Live in Japan (1981)
  • Royal Jam (live, 1982)
  • Ghetto Blaster (1984)
  • The Good and Bad Times (1986)
  • Life in the Modern World (1988)
  • Healing the Wounds (1991)


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