Jazz legend Ben Tucker dies after golf cart hit by car

Published: Jun. 4, 2013 at 6:37 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 4, 2013 at 6:37 PM EDT
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Robert William Martin (Source: Chatham Co. Sheriff's Office)
Robert William Martin (Source: Chatham Co. Sheriff's Office)

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - A longtime Savannah jazz legend has died.

Savannah-Chatham Metro Police said Ben Tucker, 82, was struck by a car at 11:44 a.m. Tuesday while riding his golf cart on an access road near the Westin Savannah Golf Resort and Spa. Police said Tucker was the only person in the golf cart at the time of the collision.

Police said Robert William Martin, 52, of Spicewood, TX, was speeding in a Chrysler 300 on Grand Prize of America Avenue and collided with Tucker's golf cart as he was crossing Grand Prize of America from the clubhouse to the employee parking lot.

Martin is charged with racing, first-degree vehicular homicide and reckless driving.

The roadway is a former road race track on the island, according to SCMPD.

Tucker was declared dead at Memorial University Medical Center. SCMPD's Major Accident Investigation Team continues to investigate.

Tucker's name is synonymous with jazz in Savannah.

Tucker wrote "Coming Home Baby'' for his wife in 1961, 11 years before they moved to Savannah. The couple was dating and he was in his Brooklyn apartment practicing his bass, waiting for her to return from work as a secretary.

Tucker then established himself as the first African-American to own a radio station in Savannah.

"I had a pot of oxtails on the stove cooking and I was saying, 'Come on home Gloria, let's have some wine and deal with this gourmet dish I've got going,''' Tucker told WTOC's Tim Guidera in 2007. "And that's how 'Coming Home Baby' came into strong being.''

The next night, Tucker recorded an instrumental version of the song at the Village Vanguard in New York City. Six months later, Bobby Dorough wrote accompanying lyrics, helping make it more marketable.

Over the next four decades, the song was recorded by 156 different artists, including Quincy Jones, Buddy Rich and David Sanborn.

Herbie Mann had the first hit with it. Mel Torme had the biggest. It has also been used in movies such as Get Shorty and Calendar Girls and commercials internationally.

"Coming Home Baby" returned the contemporary music scene when Michael Buble included it on his latest CD, Call Me Irresponsible.

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