Russell Procope was a childhood friend of Benny Carter. As a young man, he played with three of the most prominent bands of the pre-big band era: Benny Carter's, Chick Webb's and Fletcher Henderson's.

After World War II, Procope subbed for Ellington one night when saxophonist Otto Hardwick failed to show up. That one night stand turned into twenty-eight years. Procope was still with Ellington when Ellington died.

Though he is pictured here with an alto sax, Procope played clarinet most frequently. He was influenced by the low-register, full-toned New Orleans clarinet style.