Pearson, S.C.’s jazz ambassador, in treatment for bone cancer

October 11, 2013 

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    To contribute, call the Skipp Pearson Jazz Foundation at (803) 400-1879; send checks, made out to the foundation, to P.O. Box 835, Columbia, S.C., 29202; or visit

Columbia jazz musician Skipp Pearson has been diagnosed with bone cancer and, while he’s still making regular appearances around town, he’s preparing for a return trip to Philadelphia’s Cancer Treatment Centers of America in early November.

“We’re not out of the woods, and we have a long way to go,” Shirley Martin, director of Pearson’s jazz foundation, said Friday evening.

The organization is working to raise $7,500 – by the end of the month – to help with travel and treatment.

Pearson, 75, is South Carolina’s Ambassador of Jazz.

He picked up the horn when he was an 8-year old in Orangeburg, and was playing professionally by the time he was 14.

Over the years, he’s shared the stage with the likes of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Patti LaBelle and Wynton Marsalis.

Martin said he was diagnosed in May but hasn’t allowed illness to alter his schedule much, although he’s no longer playing at the Hunter-Gatherer on Thursday nights.

“Pops can’t live without playing,” she said. “Daily, he puts that horn in his mouth. It’s part of him, an extension of his body.”

And he’ll be performing tonight at his LeJazz Cafe in Finlay Park, as he does just about every Friday and Saturday night, Martin said. “When he feels up to snuff, he’s there with the downbeat of the band.”

Pearson was diagnosed with prostate cancer a decade ago, and endured quadruple-bypass heart surgery in 2011.

Martin was guarded with information, but quick to say Pearson is no hard-luck case.

“Pops is a fighter,” she said. “He just needs help with the fight.”

Dawn Hinshaw

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