MS Jazz Legend Dies

Willard Tyler Sr., one of the founders and trumpeter for the Mississippi blues and jazz band the Red Tops, has died at the age of 95.

The Vicksburg Post reports that Tyler died Saturday at River Region Medical Center in Vicksburg. Officials with Dillon-Chisley Funeral Home said Monday that funeral arrangements were incomplete.

Formed in 1953, the Red Tops’ performed until 1974. Their music, which featured a mix of blues, jazz and pop, crossed racial lines as they played to integrated southern audiences across Mississippi and neighboring states.

The Red Tops were honored in 2008 with a Mississippi Blues Trail marker in Vicksburg.

Tyler’s musical career began as a teenager playing trumpet in his high school band.

Survivors include his wife, S.C. Austin-Tyler, and two daughters.