Spotlight on: Eugene “The Talking Sax” Peebles
Excitement is building in South Placer County in anticipation of the Eugene Peebles Benefit Concert to support the Lincoln High School Music Department this Thursday evening, May 10.
Eugene “The Talking Sax” Peebles is making his mark in the Sacramento region after having relocated to Lincoln with his wife and family in 2006.
Peebles is an accomplished musician who has played with some of the biggest names in Gospel music in his 30 plus years of performing music. He has traveled from coast to coast, internationally delighting audiences with his talents on the Hammond B3 Organ and with his “Talking Sax.”
Peebles was raised by two hard working parents in Kinloch, Missouri, just outside of St. Louis.
The defining incident of his childhood occurred when he suffered a traumatic head injury while riding his bicycle at age 10 that left him unconscious for ten days.
The doctors were not sure that he would survive and feared he would remain in a vegetative state if he did. When Peebles was recuperating from the incident, his family surrounded him with music and singing.
When Peebles recovered, his father made good on a promise made to him in the hospital to purchase the organ he had wanted before the accident. A few months later Peebles received a saxophone and went on to study and learn how to play both instruments.
Peebles dedicated himself to music at an early age starting with the seventh grade beginning band. In eighth grade he was the outstanding band member; in ninth grade, outstanding concert band member. He also performed with the jazz band.
In high school he continued winning awards as the most outstanding band member while participating in the concert band, the marching band, the pep band and the Dixieland band. As a high school senior, Peebles was a member of the St. Louis County All District Band.
During this time period, Peebles was also learning gospel music as an organist and saxophonist at his church home, the Devotional Missionary Baptist Church in Kinloch, Missouri, which featured one of the most sought after choirs and musician rosters in the St. Louis area.
Peebles was awarded a scholarship to study music at Central Methodist College in Fayette, Missouri. He continued performing with college jazz and concert bands before he graduated with a degree in Business Administration with a minor in music.
Peebles entered the world of business after college but always stayed active with his music. In addition to frequent performances, rehearsals and guest appearances with various jazz and gospel musicians and choirs, Peebles served as the minister of music for the Devotional Missionary Baptist Church.
Since relocating to the Sacramento region, Peebles made the decision to devote himself to music full-time as the President and founder of Talking Sax Music Productions.
About two years ago, he formed the Eugene Peebles Jazz Trio with John Armato on drums, Steven Krohn on lead guitar and featuring his own talent on the Jazz Hammond B3 Organ.
The Sacramento Press caught up with Peebles this past Friday. The in-depth telephone interview that follows touched on a variety of topics related to the development of his career and captured the spirit of faith he possesses as a soon to be ordained minister, a family man, an outstanding member of the community and a dedicated musician.
Sacramento Press: How did you come up with the name, “the talking sax” and when did you first begin to use it?
Eugene Peebles: That was something that was really developed by my younger brother. At the time I did not have an email address and he called me one day while I was at work. We started talking about it while I was on a break and he told me he was going to make me an email address. After that, the name just kinda grew on us.
SP: Who has had the biggest influence or inspired your music the most?
EP: I would say a couple of people. There’s Kirk Franklin on the gospel side. And a guy named Kirk Whalum with the sax. As far as the instrumental portion, I‘d have to go with Kirk Whalum. I admire the way he plays the tenor sax, which is primarily what I do also, along with the soprano sax. Then I appreciate the fact that he is an ordained minister and a Christian also. I am pretty much the same. I’m not ordained yet, but I’m working on that too. He’s had a big influence on me.
SP: I have noted that your church home is the Macedonia Baptist Church in Sacramento, and that you are affiliated with a number of professional associations that involve gospel music. How big of an influence has your faith had on you personally or on your career?
EP: I would [say] it has had the biggest influence on me. I’m sure you’ve read the story about what happened to me at the age of 10. After that, things really changed around for me, primarily because of my faith, which has been growing ever since. I definitely want to do songs, live my life and play music that God would smile on.
SP: That sounds very nice. How’s the work coming along towards becoming an ordained minister?
EP: That’s coming along good. I’m hoping to be ordained within the next 12 months.
SP: I’ve noted that you have performed the national anthem on a number of occasions and in a number of venues. How did that get started?
EP: I got the inspiration as a kid from my brother, but now this is an older brother. When he was in high school and I was in junior high school, he was an outstanding singer. He performed the national anthem at one of the high school basketball games. I thought, “Well if he can do that as a singer, then I can do it on the saxophone.” After a few years went by, I got better on the instrument, and when I became a senior, my music teacher encouraged me to do it as a solo for the first time.
SP: What year was that?
EP: That was November of 1981.
SP: Speaking of performances, what is the most memorable or meaningful performance you have given in your career?
EP: There’s so many that I could speak of. There’s about three that stick out to me for different reasons. One that really stands out for me is when I performed gospel music on the saxophone over in Ghana, Africa. I went with a group of gospel evangelists who heard me perform in St. Louis. They then asked me to go with them on a mission trip to perform. I consider that an honor to have went with them and performed over there.
Another one that really stands out for me is when I performed at Power Balance Pavilion, although it was called Arco Arena at that time. I performed at a Sacramento Kings versus the L.A. Lakers game. There was a lot of excitement at the game.
Another one that stands out to me was when I was in St. Louis and performed “God Bless America” at a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game. It made a big impression on me to perform in front of a full stadium with over 50,000 people there.
SP: I’d like to ask you a couple questions about the music business. Do you remember your first professional gig as a musician and how you felt about it?
EP: I don’t remember exactly when it was and I don’t want to tell you wrong. I do recall the first performances I did as a professional was when I was a junior in high school and I played the organ for a large church in St. Louis. I was connected to the organist and I was very happy about that and had a very good time. Then on the saxophone during my junior year I recall I started playing Christmas music at various malls in the St. Louis area.
SP: What was your career path before you went into the music business full-time?
EP: I was an informational specialist for a financial services company before we relocated to California from St. Louis.
SP: What does it mean to be the president/founder of The Talking Sax Music Productions? Just how many hats do you wear?
EP: I do everything from executive functions to serving as the custodian. I manage the artists, I am the producer and I do the bookings and make the decisions. The biggest benefit is that it allows me to work as a solo artist doing what I love to do.
SP: When did you first come to believe that you could become a professional and make a living doing music?
EP: Ever since my senior year of high school I’ve been debating on what I wanted to do. I’ve always had a strong feeling for music. I came to the point after I graduated from high school to have a business job and perform music on the side. It was going very well. I would work from 9 to 5 Mondays through Fridays. I would go to church and perform on Sundays and spend time going to rehearsals and doing shows. After I moved out here to the Sacramento area, I really decided to go into music full-time because that is where my heart is, so that’s what I’m doing now. I officially founded my company about a year ago and I’ve been really working hard on pushing the music.
SP: Speaking of pushing the music, what does Eugene with the talking sax do differently or do better than any other musician out there?
EP: Speaking as Eugene with the talking sax, I wouldn’t say I was better than anyone out there or the best, but I will say that I can perform with anyone in my own capacity.
SP: Is there anything that you do differently?
EP: I wouldn’t say that I do anything particularly different. I do keep my faith first and perform music that will be accommodating and family oriented.
SP: Aside from the Benefit Concert that is scheduled for May 10, what would you like the public to know about your upcoming recording studio projects or any touring that you (and the Eugene Peebles Trio) might be doing in the future?
EP: Just know that if all goes well, in the not too distant future, you will be able to hear two sides of music. One with the Eugene Peebles Trio that will be more focused on jazz. It will be a totally different style when you hear The Talking Sax. Then you will then hear everything from gospel to R&B to jazz.
SP: What advice would you lend to any young musicians who are trying to make a living performing music in this day and age?
EP: My advice is for the individual to keep the faith and believe in yourself. If that’s what you want to do, then work towards that and don’t give up. At the same time, do what you have to do to take care of yourself and your family. Like one well known person is famous for saying, “Keep hope alive!” (laughing)
SP: How did the idea to have a Eugene Peebles Benefit Concert to support the Lincoln High School Music Department develop?
EP: It came about over time after being here awhile in California. After I became aware of the situation with the schools, and not just here in California, I began thinking to myself, “What can I do to help?” As I’m starting to grow more professionally as a musician, even though I’m not where I want to be yet, I asked myself, “What can I do while I’m on my way?” So this was the thought that was given to me – to do a benefit concert to help the school, and the community, and to benefit the music department.
SP: How long has this concert been in the planning?
EP: I would say it has been in the planning stage about two years now.
SP: Here is one last question. Is there anything that you’d like to say to the people of the Sacramento area?
EP: I would like to say thank you. Since I’ve moved out here the community has been very friendly and very accommodating. I would like to say thank you for your support. I would also like to thank the Sacramento Press.
SP: Eugene, I would like to thank you for your time and the opportunity to let everyone get to know you a little bit better.
Those who are interested in attending the Eugene Peebles Benefit Concert to Support the Lincoln High School Music Department may contact Eugene Peebles for more information at 916-209-8274 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are $10.00 and may be purchased at the door.
Disclosure: Some questions and answers have been slightly edited for grammar and punctuation without altering meaning and intent.