Pee Wee Ellis was born to play music. In Texas Pee Wee got to see blues greats like Bobby "Blue" Bland and Fats Domino. With clarinet and sax lessons in school, he was skilled on reeds as well as piano when his family moved to Rochester, New York at age 16.
In Rochester he met Sonny Rollins, who agreed to give him lessons.
Pee Wee joined James Brown in 1965 and soon came up with the first pure hardcore Funk hit, Cold Sweat, followed by 26 others that defined what we think of as Funk to this day. Pee Wee has been called The Man Who Invented Funk.
Pee Wee's effect on music was huge, leading directly to George Clinton, Sly Stone and, in a circular twist, Miles Davis' 70's work.
By 1970 Pee Wee worked as arranger and musical director for CTI-Kudu records, the most popular jazz label of the 70s. He worked with Esther Phillips as well as George Benson, Hank Crawford and dozens of other CTI artists.
In 1979 Van Morrison asked Pee Wee to do arrangements for his Into The Music album, an association that lasted for six years and five albums then was repeated for another five years and five more albums in the last half of the 90¹s.
In between, a reunited JB Horns - Pee Wee, Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker - made several albums and toured extensively.
Meanwhile, Pee Wee had found world music, or it had found him. He contributed arrangements for Malian singer Oumou Sangare's album Worotan also for Senegalese singer Cheikh Lo. That led to arranging and playing for two Cuban legends: Cachaito and Miguel ŒAnga' Diaz. He continues to arrange for World Circuit Records, including work on Ali Farka Toure's last album, Savane. Also on Cheikh Lo's latest and funkiest CD "Lampfall".
The Pee Wee Ellis Assembly regularly tours and he has worked with UK jazz singing sensation Clare Teal. In 2005 he visited Japan with the Cuban pianist Omar Sosa and in 2006 they played together again, in South Africa and at Yoshi's in Oakland.
Most recently he has performed with and arranged for the Miami-based Spam Allstars.