David “Fathead” Newman (February 24, 1933 – January 20, 2009) was an American jazz and rhythm-and-blues saxophonist who made numerous recordings as a session musician and leader, but is best known for his work as a sideman on seminal 1950s and early 1960s recordings by singer-pianist Ray Charles.
The All Music Guide to Jazz wrote that “there have not been many saxophonists and flutists more naturally soulful than David “Fathead” Newman,” and that “one of jazz’s and popular music’s great pleasures is to hear, during a vocalist’s break, the gorgeous, huge Newman tones filling the space . . . .” Newman is sometimes cited as a leading exponent of the so-called “Texas Tenor” saxophone style, which refers to the many big-toned, bluesy jazz tenor players from that state.
Newman was born in Corsicana, Texas, on February 24, 1933, but grew up in Dallas, where he studied first the piano and then the saxophone. According to one account, he got his nickname “Fathead” in school when “an outraged music instructor used it as an epithet after catching Mr. Newman playing a Sousa march from memory rather than from reading the sheet music, which rested upside down on the stand.