Adderley is remembered for his 1966 soul jazz single “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy“, a crossover hit on the pop charts (it was also covered by The Buckinghams). He worked with trumpeter Miles Davis, on his own 1958 Somethin’ Else album, and on the seminal Davis records Milestones (1958) and Kind of Blue (1959). He was the older brother of jazz trumpeter Nat Adderley, a longtime member of his band.
Originally from Tampa, Florida, Adderley moved to New York in 1955. His nickname derived from “cannibal”, a title imposed on him by high school colleagues as a tribute to his voracious appetite.
The Cannonball Adderley Quintet featured Cannonball on alto sax and his brother Nat Adderley on cornet. Cannonball’s first quintet was not very successful; however, after leaving Davis’ group, he formed another group again with his brother.
The new quintet, which later became the Cannonball Adderley Sextet, and Cannonball’s other combos and groups, included such noted musicians as saxophonists Charles Lloyd and Yusef Lateef, pianists Bobby Timmons, Barry Harris, Victor Feldman, Joe Zawinul, Hal Galper, Michael Wolff, and George Duke, bassists Ray Brown, Sam Jones, Walter Booker, and Victor Gaskin, and drummers Louis Hayes and Roy McCurdy.