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‘The Wailing Mailman’

Retired letter carrier, jazz musician dies

Wailing mailman
Roger “Buck” Hill is shown playing his saxophone during his postal career. The inset photo shows Hill a few years before his death. Images: Washington City Paper, DC Jazz Fest

The recent death of a retired letter carrier and renowned jazz musician in the Washington, DC, area is sparking loving tributes from his admirers.

Roger “Buck” Hill died last month at age 90. He was a musician for six decades and also had a 40-year postal career that inspired a memorable moniker: “The Wailing Mailman.”

According to news reports, Hill regularly arrived at his Northeast DC Post Office at 4 a.m. to practice playing his saxophone before sorting and delivering the mail.

When off the clock, he dazzled audiences in jazz clubs around the city, playing alongside legends such as Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins.

Hill also played with Miles Davis in the 1950s, taking the place of Davis’s regular tenor saxophonist, John Coltrane.

Davis was said to be so impressed by Hill that he asked him to join his tour. The letter carrier reportedly turned down the offer because he wanted to keep his postal job — which he did until retiring in 1998.

Hill recorded a dozen jazz albums from 1978-2006, performing well into his 80s.

“Music is captivating [and] compelling,” he once told The Washington Post. “After a while, you just have to do it, and you can’t stop.”

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