Cecil McBee was born in Tulsa/OK, a community of rich and varied musical roots – including Country and Western, Rhythm and Blues, Classical and Jazz.
Mr. McBee’s musical career began in Highschool, where he first played the clarinet. He and his sister Shirley soon thereafter gained statewide fame performing clarinet duets at concerts. By the age of 17 Cecil had begun to experiment with the string bass and played frequently at local nightclubs with top Jazz and Rhythm and Blues groups.
He attended Central State University at Wilberforce/OH, as a clarinet major and received a bachelor of science degree in music education. There the deep Jazz tradition inspired him to focus his attention on the bass, the classics, and Jazz composition.
Throughout college Cecil supported himself by playing the bass professionally. However, his formal studies were interrupted by his induction into the US-army.
He spent two years as a member of the 158th Army Band at Fort Knox Kentucky, which was concluded by his graduating to conductor of the band the last three month of his military responsibilty. There he develloped a personal study of bass composition and improvisation. By the time he graduated from college Cecil realized that although he had prepared for a career in education he was now more inspired by Jazz Improvisation. Because of this Cecil decided to spend time in Detroit after his graduation from university.
Detroit was then one of the most powerful Jazz communities in all the world. Within a year he joined the Paul Winter Sextett and moved to New York City, while a member of the band.