FAMU Names Julian “Cannonball” And Nat Adderley Music Institute 

From left: Jazz greats Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane. (Photo Credits Darryl Tookes)
Adderley album covers. (Photo Credits Darryl Tookes)

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida A&M University Board of Trustees (BOT) approved the naming of the Julian “Cannonball” and Nat Adderley Music Institute in honor of the two alumni musical giants.

President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., said the Dec. 7 decision marked the first time FAMU has named an academic program for specific individuals. “It’s significant that it’s the first. It probably won’t be the last,” Robinson said. “We set a high bar by naming it after the Adderleys. They have been so impactful in music not just here, but wherever they have gone around the world.”

The Adderley brothers moved to Tallahassee in the 1940s when their parents took jobs at the University.  The Adderley brothers attended FAMU’s high school before entering the University, where Cannonball studied band education, and Nat sociology, with a minor in music. During the 1940s, the Adderley brothers were members of the Marching “100” Band.  Cannonball graduated from FAMU in 1948 and Nat graduated in 1951.

The BOT renamed the Institute for Research in Music and Entertainment Industry Studies to honor the Adderleys at the urging of Director Darryl Tookes, a singer, songwriter, and producer.

Not every post-bop hero from the ‘50s could adapt to ‘70s fusion, But Cannonball Adderley’s understanding of the blues and his ability to unfurl liquid lines of melody made him invaluable in both eras, Tookes wrote in his proposal. “With his trumpeter/composer brother Nat, the Adderley brothers’ contribution to music of the modern era is unsurpassed. From their interpretation of the Great American Songbook, Jazz standards, Showtunes from the Golden Age of Broadway, to their irresistible pop/R&B Grammy Award-winning smash hit “Mercy Mercy,” the Adderley name is synonymous with musical excellence, and social progress.”

“With the Cannonball Adderley Quintet’s Country Preacher Live” at OperationBreadbasket, recorded at a 1969 Chicago meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the multiracial band proved exemplar of musical trends to come, and political change on the horizon,” Tookes said.

In April 2022, Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey proclaimed Nat and Cannonball Adderley Day. Earlier this year, the City of Tallahassee named the Cascades Park Amphitheatre music venue in the brothers’ honor. Renaming the Institute in their name is a natural step, Tookes said.

“Though many of us understood the legacy of the Adderley brothers and their connection to FAMU, I felt a sense of obligation as someone who is perhaps the only person uniquely positioned and ordained if you will – and so this became my ministry to get this done. My mission was to get this accomplished here, for the Adderley brothers, the Adderley family, for FAMU, for the city of Tallahassee, the state of Florida, for musicians everywhere, and maybe more importantly, for God,” added Tookes. “If you’ve ever read the quotation from Cannonball about ‘God smiling on certain individuals…’ – if you’ve never read that, you should. It’s a very humbling feeling to know that we stand in their light. And here we are today.”

The goal is to elevate the FAMU program to its true status of international recognition as a training place for future generations of musicians, executives, managers, publishers, agents, recording engineers, producers, artists, songwriters, and impresarios. The mission of the Julian “Cannonball” and Nat Adderley Music Institute is to propel the Institute upward to the highest echelons of Music Business programs – a level befitting the legacy of these celebrated musicians from FAMU.

Nat’s daughter, Alison Adderley, was elated to hear the news given the family’s connection to FAMU’s musical history.  She said her father and her uncle were not only members of the Marching “100,” and several bands and orchestras during their time in Tallahassee and FAMU, but they often returned to the campus to play with the marching band and other student musicians.

“To receive such an honor from the institution where much of their musical talent and craft and development was cultivated, I think it would be an honor that would fill them with great joy, and would be particularly meaningful and poignant to them,” said Adderley, an economics professor at Valencia College in Orlando.

“The Adderley family is just overjoyed and very grateful that such an honor is being bestowed upon our uncle and father. They have always been so very dear to us, and we have always loved them for the great men they were—intelligent, compassionate, strong, and dedicated. But to see their musical legacy recognized, fills us with so much pride and joy. We are so thankful.”