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Speeding car kills jazzman Tucker

Veteran jazz musician Ben Tucker, who performed with stars from Quincy Jones to Peggy Lee, was mown down and killed in a horrific high-speed car crash.

Bassist Tucker, 82, settled in Savannah in the 1970s, where he became one of the Georgia city's best-known working musicians.

The avid golfer was driving a golf buggy across a road on Hutchinson Island on Tuesday when a speeding car struck him, said Savannah-Chatham County police spokesman Julian Miller. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

The car driver, Robert Martin, 52, of Spicewood, Texas, has been charged with vehicular homicide, racing and reckless driving.

The news stunned musicians and jazz enthusiasts in Savannah, where Tucker had been a musical fixture for 40 years.

He made his living playing upright bass - an instrument he had named Bertha and claimed was 240 years old - in settings from jazz festivals to wedding receptions, nightclub gigs to bar mitzvahs.

"One of the most interesting things about playing with Ben was he was so beloved by so many people in Savannah who had met him at his club or whose weddings he had played," said Howard Paul, a jazz guitarist who played and recorded with Tucker for more than 20 years. "You could count on being interrupted at least three times in a song because Savannahians would walk up and shake his hand while we were playing."

Before he moved to the Georgia coast, Tucker had success as a songwriter - perhaps most notably with Comin' Home Baby, a song co-written with jazz vocalist Bob Dorough, which was recorded by Mel Torme, Herbie Mann and more recently Michael Buble.

By the end of the 1960s, he had toured with Peggy Lee and performed and recorded with jazz greats such as Dexter Gordon, Buddy Rich and Quincy Jones.

"He was on the music scene for so many years and performed with many of the greatest names in jazz, yet he spent so much time with local musicians and children as well," Paul said. "I think he grew up in an era of jazz musicians where they felt obligated to give back."

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