The plays and rhythm of his life
By Melanie Maxwell
After a successful 12-season career in the NBA, Wayman Tisdale burst onto the smooth jazz scene shooting No. 1 hits up the charts and endearing audiences worldwide to his musical talents and exuberant spirit. As a bass player, Tisdale released eight CDs, most to critical acclaim, throughout his musical journey that launched professionally in 1995. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in 2002.
As a basketball icon, the three-time All-American for the University of Oklahoma played pro for the Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns. The 6-foot-9-inch Tisdale still holds Oklahoma's career scoring record with 2,661 points and career rebounding record with 1,048, as well as the school's single-game scoring mark, 61 points against Texas-San Antonio as a sophomore, along with career records in points per game, field goals and free-throw makes and attempts, averaging 15.3 points per game during his pro career. The Tulsa, Oklahoma, native was also on the U.S. team that won the gold medal in the 1984 Olympics. And if there were a GRAMMY awarded for Best Smile, Tisdale would surely be the perennial winner. His accomplishments and awards earned on the basketball courts, concert stages and recording studios are many and impressive. But his most cherished prize is his wife of 28 years, Regina, their four children, granddaughter and his family.
Regina and Wayman fell in love with each other at the age of 15 and have been together ever since. Despite Wayman's celebrity, the church-based couple kept their priorities of God and family high above all else. A faithful and committed husband, Wayman was a wonderful father and a great role model for the community that loved him madly.
As his basketball career was winding down, his lifelong passion for music heated up. He segued successfully from pro athlete to smooth jazz star. And despite his two-year bout with cancer--in 2007 he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma located on his right tibia, underwent knee replacement surgery, endured five months of chemotherapy and eventually had his leg amputated--he took his giant smile and positive spirit on tour, always playing from his heart. When he wasn't at home with Regina and the kids in Tulsa, he was always surrounded by friends and his various other families (music family, basketball family, fan family, etc.).
Wayman also developed a “cruise family” with Michael Lazaroff, the Jazz Cruises, LLC staff--Dane Butcher, Pete Clingan, Dave Jetton, Pattie Notch, Paula Gregory and Nancy Walsh--and the passengers aboard the ship. Lazaroff, executive director of Jazz Cruises, LLC, the producer of several jazz cruises, was so taken with Wayman when he first met him several years ago that he asked him to host his smooth jazz-themed cruise. Wayman was excited about the offer, saying that he and Marcus Miller would turn it into the “Soul Boogie Boat.” That seven-day, full-ship charter sells out every year and always has a waiting list (currently there are nearly 1,000 people on the wait list for the 2010 sailing, scheduled for Jan. 17-24).
Then, of course, there are his band brothers, Tom Braxton, saxes and keyboards; Arlington Jones, keyboards; Tommy Organ, guitar; Braylon Lacy, bass; Arthur Thompson, drums, as well as earlier band members Mark Harper and Jason Thomas. He also had his “tour family,” which normally included Dave Koz. This year, however, Tisdale was booked for dozens of dates on Norman Brown's Summer Storm tour, which was scheduled to perform at Smooth Jazz 98.1's Gaslamp Quarter Festival in San Diego on May 23. But sadly, this chapter of Wayman's storybook life ended on May 15, at approximately 8 a.m., when he died from complications of cancer at St. John Medical Center in Tulsa.
As word of Wayman's passing quickly spread to fans, friends and loved ones, shock and grief engulfed nearly an entire nation as media outlets and Internet sites reported the sad news. That day, as Scott Pedersen of Scottland Concerts was preparing for the three-day Hyatt Regency Newport Beach Jazz Festival he produces, he stopped for a while in order to create large poster boards of Wayman, erected them on easels and set them up throughout the lobby, festival grounds and jazz series amphitheater of the Hyatt Regency in honor of his friend. Several artists dedicated their shows to Wayman that weekend, including Koz, who played “Over the Rainbow” as a tribute to his dear friend. The weather had been cloudy most of the day, including when the Koz ensemble featuring Peabo Bryson took the stage. But as soon as they began playing their tribute song, the clouds cleared and the sun appeared. It remained sunny for the entire song, and then the clouds covered the sky once more. A strong presence of Wayman's spirit was felt my most people who witnessed this goose bump-inducing occurence.
**The complete three-segment tribute to Wayman Tisdale can be found in the June issue of Smooth Jazz News. Pick up your free copy at our radio station affiliates (see radio station page for listings), various concerts, festivals and select Southern California outlets. Or you can subscribe and receive 11 editions of Smooth Jazz News per year, mailed monthly (except January), for $35. Click here to subscribe online today.