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Earland was born in Philadelphia and learned to play the saxophone in high school. He played tenor with Jimmy McGriff at the age of 17 and in 1960 formed his first group. He started playing the organ after playing with Pat Martino, and joined Lou Donaldson's band from 1968 to 1969.
The group that he led from 1970, including Grover Washington, Jr., was successful, and he eventually started playing soprano saxophone and synthesizer. His hard, simmering grooves earned him the nickname "The Mighty Burner".
In 1978, Earland hit the disco/club scene with a track recorded on Mercury Records called "Let the Music Play", written by Randy Muller from the funk group Brass Construction. The record was in the U.S. charts for five weeks and reached number 46 in the UK Singles Chart. With Earland's playing on synthesizer, the track also has an uncredited female vocalist. He had several moderate Billboard R&B chart hits in the mid-1970s and early '80s on Mercury and later Columbia Records.
Earland traveled extensively from 1988 until his death in 1999, performing throughout the USA and abroad. One of the highlights of his latter years was playing at the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1994. Among the musicians that performed with him at the Berlin Jazz Festival was the Alabama-born Chicago resident, Zimbabu Hamilton. on the drums. Earland died in Kansas City, Missouri, of heart failure at the age of 58.
With Lou Donaldson
With Rusty Bryant
With Willis Jackson
With Boogaloo Joe Jones
With George Freeman
With Houston Person