Herb Ellis

Herb Ellis

Electric Guitar icon Electric Guitar

Age Icon

March 28, 2010 (Age 88) died

Birthday Icon

August 4, 1921 Birthday

Birthplace Icon

Farmersville, Texas, U.S. Birthplace

Social Icon


Shows Icon



Herb Ellis was a jazz guitarist best known for his work with the Oscar Peterson Trio. Ellis began his career in the Jimmy Dorsey swing band in 1945. There he met pianist Lou Carter and bassist John Frigo and the three formed the well respected trio, Soft Winds. The group stayed together from 1947 until 1953 when Ellis joined Oscar Peterson's Trio. The group, consisting of Ellis, Peterson and bassist Ray Brown is one of the most celebrated trios in jazz history. They played together from 1953 - 1958 and in addition to their own dates, served as the backbone of Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic touring series. After leaving the trio Ellis went on tour with Ella Fitzgerald and worked as a studio musician in Hollywood. In the 1970s he returned to the jazz scene, recording with Joe Pass, touring with Great Guitars and leading his own groups. In 1982, Ellis formed the group Triple Threat with Monty Alexander and Ray Brown which continued to perform together into the 1990s. After battling Alzheimer's Disease Herb Ellis died at his home in 2010 at the age of 88.


Herb Ellis played in the bands of Steve Allen’s and Merv Griffin’s television shows. Herb Ellis had a heart murmur and was rejected for military service during WWII. In 1997, Herb Ellis received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of North Texas College of Music.

Early Life

Herb Ellis was born in Texas in 1921 and grew up outside of Dallas. His older brother played the guitar, and after trying out the harmonica and banjo, Ellis settled on the guitar as well. He attended the University of North Texas where he studied the double bass (there were no guitar classes) but left due to financial reasons. After touring and playing with several bands, Ellis joined the Jimmy Dorsey band in 1945.