Granville “Mickey” Roker Jr., a legendary R&B and jazz drummer, died on Monday, May 22, 2017, at Pennsylvania Hospital of natural causes. He was 84.
Roker was best known for his association with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie starting in the early 1970s.
He was born on Sept. 3, 1932, to the late Granville and Willie Mae Roker in Miami, Fla. After his mother died when he was 10 years old, Roker was taken by his grandmother to live in Philadelphia with his uncle Walter Bowe, who gave him his first drum kit. Bowe also introduced him to jazz in the city, where Philly Joe Jones became his idol.
After serving in the U.S. Army in the mid-1950s, Roker began playing regularly on the Philadephia music scene. He began getting gigs in 1956, starting out playing R&B with King James, Jimmy Devine and Fred Bullock. He went on to play jazz with Sam Reed, Jimmy Oliver, Odean Pope, Jimmy Heath, Johnny Coles, Danny Turner and others.
Rober began playing in New York in 1959 and moved to the city two years later. During that time, he recorded with Duke Pearson, Stanley Turnstine and Shirley Scott, Frank Foster, Nancy Wilson, Sonny Rollins, Milt Jackson, Lee Morgan, Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Ray Brown and Ella Fitzgerald.
Roker returned to Philadelphia in the early ‘90s. He performed regularly with Scott, an organist and pianist at Ortlieb’s Jazzhaus, in Northern Liberties. During that time, he was a weekly fixture at the club.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Priscilla, and son, Ronald.
He is survived by: his daughter, Debra F. Roker; daughter-in-law, Deborah A. Roker. grandsons, Michael W. Roker and Marcus Bell; a granddaughter, LaToya Roker; sisters, Sadie Bell and Audrey; other relatives; and friends.
Services were held May 31 at New Hope Temple Baptist Church, 312 W. Manheim St. Viewing started at 10 a.m. and services followed at 11 a.m. Burial was private.
Slater Funeral Home handled the arrangements.