Keyboardist Anthony Tony" Simmons, who played with many St. Louis jazz, R&B and gospel performers over the last three decades, has died. According to messages from friends on his Facebook page
, Simmons passed away on Saturday, June 7 from a heart attack. He was 50 years old.
Tony Simmons (pictured)
was born in Kansas City, MO and started playing the piano at the age of 5. Afflicted from birth with glaucoma, he lost his vision completely by the age of 7.
Nevertheless, at age 9 he began playing for the children's choir at Zion Grove Missionary Baptist Church, and he continued to be involved with gospel music after moving to St. Louis at age 13 to attend Missouri School for the Blind.
Simmons worked with a number of different congregations and denominations over the course of his career, including the Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America, Church of The Nazarene, United Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist, African Methodist Episcopal, Presbyterian, Baptist, the Light of Christ Ministry, and more.
In addition to his work in church, Simmons did solo and ensemble gigs of just about every description, accompanied St. Louis singers such as Theo Peoples, David Peaston, Denise Thimes, Kim Massie, Bill Tucker, and many others, and wrote and/or produced music for artists including Kirk Franklin, Joe McBride, and Alkesha Brown. He released a solo album, The Master Key
, in 2006.
Simmons had experienced a number of health problems in recent years, and in 2004 was diagnosed with kidney failure, which required dialysis three times a week. Funeral arrangements are pending.