Born: Jan. 17, 1937 in Port Arthur, Texas
Died: May 29, 1998
Ted Dunbar's musical interest began at age seven after attending a Duke Ellington concert with his mother. By age ten, having become proficient in both guitar and trumpet, he began playing professionally. Dunbar continued to play these instruments in jazz groups while studying pharmacy at Texas Southern University in the late 1950s.
After graduation, Dunbar took a job with the Hook drug chain in Indianapolis. There he heard a performance by influential jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery. He began studying with Montgomery and Dave Baker. While continuing to work as a pharmacist, Dunbar moved to New York City in 1966 and gained experience playing wherever he could.
In 1972, Dunbar became the first "jazz professor" at Rutgers University. His former students include Kevin Eubanks, leader of the house band for the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He also performed with the Rutgers Livingston Jazz Professors, touring the U.S. and Africa.
While continuing to practice pharmacy and teach at Rutgers, Dunbar achieved success as a composer, creating twenty-five original pieces, arranging several albums and publishing four volumes concerning jazz. He toured the U.S. and abroad, performing at such venues as Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, performing and recording with the likes of Gil Evans, Billy Taylor and Sonny Rollins.
Like Wes Montgomery, Dunbar used his thumb to pick the strings of his guitar, creating a subtler sound that led some listeners to overlook his idiosyncratic music. His best showcase is Jazz Guitarist, a 1982 solo guitar recording in which he took on several demanding pieces written for piano. His honors include the Outstanding Guitarist Award from Downbeat Magazine and nomination in Ebony Magazine's "Black Music Poll" of outstanding musicians.