The Crusaders

The Crusaders are a renowned American jazz-fusion group, known for their seamless blend of jazz, R&B, and funk. Formed in the early 1960s as The Jazz Crusaders, the band became famous for its innovative sound and exceptional musicianship.

Their goodtime groove made them one of my favorite bands

Timeline of Career Highlights

1961 Formation of The Jazz Crusaders in Houston, Texas, by Joe Sample (piano), Wilton Felder (saxophone), Wayne Henderson (trombone), and Stix Hooper (drums).

1961-1970 Release of numerous albums under the name The Jazz Crusaders, including “Freedom Sound” (1961) and “Lookin' Ahead” (1962).

1971 The band shortens its name to The Crusaders

1972 Release of “Crusaders 1”, their first album under the new name, marking a shift towards jazz-fusion.

1975 The album “Chain Reaction” includes the hit single "Street Life," featuring singer Randy Crawford.

1979 "Street Life" becomes a major international hit

1980s Continued success with albums like “Rhapsody and Blues” (1980) and “Standing Tall” (1981).

Discography Highlights

  1. “Freedom Sound” (1961)
  2. “Lookin' Ahead” (1962)
  3. “The Festival Album” (1966)
  4. “Lighthouse '68” (1968)
  5. “Crusaders 1” (1972)
  6. “Chain Reaction” (1975)
  7. “Those Southern Knights” (1976)
  8. “Free as the Wind” (1977)
  9. “Street Life” (1979)
  10. “Rhapsody and Blues” (1980)
  11. “Standing Tall” (1981)

Grammy Awards

The Crusaders have not won a Grammy Award but they have received several nominations for their work in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Famous Songs/Compositions

"Street Life" – A standout track featuring Randy Crawford that brought the band widespread acclaim.

"Way Back Home" – Known for its soulful melody and enduring popularity.

"Keep That Same Old Feeling" – A staple in their live performances.

Lineup Changes and Collaborations

The original lineup consisted of Joe Sample, Wilton Felder, Wayne Henderson, and Stix Hooper.

I discovered Larry Carlton when I saw them live in '73 He was such a central reason for their crossover to wider rock, audiences. He said

I had the privilege to play on 16 albums for the Crusaders

Over the years, various musicians have joined and left, contributing to their evolving sound.

Randy Crawford, and Arthur Adams (guitar) are notable collaborators who brought additional texture to their music.


Joe Sample on the band's philosophy

We always tried to play music that would bring people together and make them feel good

Wilton Felder on their sound

It's a mix of everything we love – jazz, funk, soul, R&B. It's all in there."

What Makes Them Interesting?

  1. Innovative Sound: The Crusaders are celebrated for their ability to fuse jazz with elements of R&B and funk, creating a unique and accessible sound.
  2. Versatility: Their music appeals to a broad audience, from jazz aficionados to casual listeners, due to its melodic and rhythmic diversity.
  3. Enduring Influence: The band's pioneering approach to jazz-fusion has influenced numerous artists across various genres.

Context in Music History

The Crusaders played a pivotal role in the development of jazz-fusion, a genre that emerged in the late 1960s and gained popularity throughout the 1970s. Their ability to blend intricate jazz improvisations with the groove-oriented sounds of R&B and funk paved the way for future generations of musicians.

Chart Positions and Awards

“Street Life” (1979) was a commercial success, reaching the Top 20 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Their albums consistently performed well on jazz and R&B charts throughout the 1970s and 1980s.


The Crusaders' blend of jazz, R&B, and funk, coupled with their innovative approach and exceptional musicianship, has left an indelible mark on the music world. With timeless hits like "Street Life" and a legacy of influential albums, The Crusaders remain a cornerstone in the history of jazz-fusion, continuing to inspire and entertain audiences around the globe.

Songs: Street Life, Keep That Same Old Feeling

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