Earl Mckee of High Sierra Jazz Band has Passed

Big Earl McKee of the High Sierra Jazz Band (photo by Amy Heintz)Earl Mckee, a founding member, tubist, and singer for the High Sierra Jazz Band died on April 11th at age 87, on the eve of what was to be his band’s final weekend of performances at their home festival JazzAffair.

He was an expert on his main instrument, and several string instruments besides. He joined High Sierra for their first performance at JazzAffair in 1976. The band has appeared regularly at traditional jazz festivals ever since.  They’ve also played the Sydney Opera House, cruised the Sea of Japan, and enjoyed numerous tours of Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. They even played for Ronald Reagan while he was still Governor of California. Along the High Sierra has released 25 albums.


Mckee was a rancher, who raised cattle and quarter horses all of his life, living in the same house in which he was born. He and his wife Gaynor co-authored two books, the most recent of which has been described as “the most comprehensive work ever produced documenting the people, place, and events of Three Rivers and Kaweah Country.”

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