Trudy Pitts Carney, jazz organist, vocalist

Trudy Pitts Carney
Trudy Pitts Carney
Posted: December 20, 2010

Trudy Pitts Carney, 78, a Philadelphia-born jazz organist, pianist, and vocalist who played with many jazz greats over a career that spanned more than four decades, died of pancreatic cancer Sunday, Dec. 19, at Chestnut Hill Hospital.

She had been living in West Oak Lane with her husband, William Theodore Carney II - Mr. C. - a percussionist with whom she had a long musical partnership and a marriage of more than 50 years.

Mr. C. had a band called the Hi-Tones in the mid-1950s. "He was quite the cat back in the day with his little band," said Bob Perkins, a longtime DJ at WRTI-FM (90.1).

Shirley Scott had been Mr. C's organist, and Trudy Pitts replaced her when Scott left. They married a few years later.

"Trudy was one of my favorites," Perkins said. "I often told her that she mixes genres of music like no one I ever heard. She was classically trained; she played in the church and assimilated jazz. She could put them all together, complementing all and offending none. That was her strong suit. When you have that kind of suit, you don't need anything else."

Mrs. Carney was born in South Philadelphia and stayed in the area all of her life, said her daughter, Anysha.

She played with jazz greats John Coltrane and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, among others, her daughter said. Actually, "she didn't play with them; they played with her. Just about whoever you could mention played with her."

Mrs. Carney was perhaps best known for her work on the Hammond B3 organ, which she helped popularize in the 1950s and '60s.

"She was a major, major artist in the evolution of that instrument," said Pat Martino, a Philadelphia-born jazz guitarist who played with Mrs. Carney and her husband and who was a longtime friend. Martino played on Mrs. Carney's 1967 album, Introducing the Fabulous Trudy Pitts, and its follow-up, These Blues of Mine.

"They were a team, in every way," Martino said of the couple.

Mrs. Carney "was completely fluent in the language of music, in every way," Martino said. "She had the ability to take the shape of whatever she was poured into - she was so good under any circumstance."

Beyond Mrs. Carney's musical abilities, Martino said, "she was an exceptional individual who transcended her gift as an artist and became transcendent as a person. She was magnificent - she radiated the presence of love under every condition I've seen her in."

In addition to her husband and daughter, Mrs. Carney is survived by her son, William Theodore Carney III - TC III, a jazz vocalist.

Funeral arrangements had not been finalized Sunday.


Contact staff writer Dan Hardy at 610-313-8134 or dhardy@phillynews.com.

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