Born & Raised: Close to a Century of Coltrane

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Music legend. Veteran. Pulitzer Prize Winner. Venerated Saint. High Point Native. John Coltrane’s legacy continues to permeate the modern music industry, with hundreds of artists citing Coltrane as a primary influence. That legacy is visible in his hometown of High Point as well, with statues, museum exhibitions, historic sites, and an annual international music festival in his honor. 

Coltrane’s family moved to High Point in 1926 when he was just three months old. He and his parents lived with his grandparents and his cousin’s family. His grandfather, Rev. W. W. Blair, was a presiding elder of the AME Zion church, and his father was a tailor. He was surrounded by music from a young age and his parents inspired much of his passion for jazz.

Coltrane’s parents instilled a love of music in their son early on. His father and namesake, John R. Coltrane, played several instruments, including the ukulele and violin, and his mother, Alice Blair Coltrane, was a singer and church pianist. His mother would eventually gift him with his first saxophone setting him on a trajectory to become one of the most recognizable jazz saxophonists. Tragically, Coltrane’s father died from cancer when the future phenomenon was in his early teens.

In 1939, Coltrane joined Warren B. Steele’s community band, starting out on alto horn and later moving to the clarinet. The success of the community band inspired William Penn principal Samuel Burford to start a school band in 1940. Coltrane joined as a founding member of the school band under the direction of Grayce W. Yokely. Later, Coltrane developed an interest in the saxophone, practicing with Charlie Haygood, a restaurant owner on Washington Street. The rest is history.

Coltrane went on to have one of the most successful and influential musical careers in history, playing with the likes of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, and countless others. Coltrane cemented his place in the jazz pantheon after releasing his masterpiece “A Love Supreme” in 1965. Contemporary critics consider it the most important album of post-war jazz.

The City of High Point is full of opportunities to appreciate Coltrane’s legacy, including:

The John Coltrane International Jazz & Blues Festival

Oak Hollow Festival Park

The John Coltrane International Jazz & Blues Festival is held in High Point every Labor Day weekend. Since its inception in 2011, the festival has widely been considered one of the premiere entertainment destinations in the Southeast. The largest musical event in High Point, the Coltrane Festival has succeeded in bringing top names in jazz, blues, and many other genres to High Point, most recently Patti LaBelle, Chris Botti, Kirk Whalum, Kenny G, and others.

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High Point Museum

1859 E. Lexington Avenue | High Point, NC

The High Point Museum houses the John Coltrane Exhibit, featuring various artifacts including the piano that was in his childhood home, sheet music, and photos.

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John Coltrane Statue & Marker

Corner of S. Hamilton Street and Commerce Avenue

An 8-ft. tall bronze statue pays tribute to John Coltrane and is nestled in downtown High Point next to the High Point Theatre. Visitors can listen to some of Coltrane’s greatest hits at the interactive kiosk while admiring the statue. Located to the left of the John Coltrane Statue is a marker that describes much of his life and career. Its inscription provides visitors with the opportunity to learn about and reflect on the life of this influential artist.

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John Coltrane's Childhood Home

118 Underhill Street | High Point, NC

John Coltrane’s childhood home on Underhill Street has been preserved by the High Point Preservation Society and designated as a Guilford County Historic Landmark. A restoration project on the home has begun.

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John Coltrane Mural

1301 N. Main Street | High Point, NC

On the side of the Fowler & Fowler Realtors building visitors can view a John Coltrane mural by famous artist Brian Lewis. The mural features three iconic images of the musician and offers a unique photo op.

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