Cleveland “Cleve” Eaton II born August 31, 1939, in Fairfield, Alabama, is a legendary jazz bassist, who began his musical studies when he was only five years old. Eaton played with the Ramsey Lewis Trio and later with the Count Basie Orchestra. Eaton was dubbed “the Count’s Bassist” during his 16-year stint with the Count Basie Orchestra. His 1975 recording Plenty Good Eaton is considered a classic in the funk music genre. Eaton is a member of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Over the years, Eaton became a consummate bassist, producer, composer, publisher, arranger and head of his own Birmingham based record company. All together he has lent his talents on over 100 albums and composed about three times as many songs. He has played on four gold singles, including Hang on Sloopy and Wade in the Water, and four gold albums, including Solar Wind and Sun Goddess.
During Eaton’s childhood, he acquired an intense and comprehensive musical background. He was playing his mother’s piano at the age of 5, and by the time he was 8 he had turned his efforts toward the saxophone. Two years later he took up the trumpet and when he reached the age of 15, music teacher John Springer introduced him to the tuba and string bass. Eaton played in a jazz group in college at Tennessee A&I State University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in music, then moved to Chicago and toured with the Ike Cole Trio.
Eaton has played with music greats in nearly all genres including jazz with John Klemmer, Ike Cole, and Bunky Green; R&B with The Dells and Bobby Rush; pop with Minnie Riperton, Jerry Butler, and Rotary Connection; and big band music with George Benson, Henry Mancini, Frank Sinatra, Joe Williams, Billy Eckstein, Sarah Vaughan, and Ella Fitzgerald. Eaton has also performed with Nancy Wilson, Peggy Lee, Meme Hines, Sammy Davis, Jr., Julie London, Bobby Troupe, Brook Benton, Lou Rawls, Nipsey Russell, Morgana King, Gloria Lynne, Herbie Hancock, the Magic City Jazz Orchestra, The Platters (original), The Temptations, and The Miracles. In 1974, he began performing and touring with his own group, Cleve Eaton and Co., and in 2004, his group became Cleve Eaton and the Alabama All Stars. Several other well-known Alabama jazz musicians, including pianist Ray Reach, drummer John Nuckols, trumpeter Tommy Stewart, and saxophonist Sam Williams, are frequent players with Cleve Eaton and the Alabama All Stars.