Jazz critics agree that "Sweet Poppa Lou" Donaldson is one of the greatest alto saxophonists of all time. He began his career as a bandleader with Blue Note Records in 1952. Already at age 25, he had found his sound, though it would continue to sweeten over the years – earning him his famed nickname.
He made a series of classic records for Blue Note in the '50s and takes pride in having showcased many musicians who made their first records as sidemen for him, including Horace Silver, Clifford Brown, Grant Green, Blue Mitchell, Donald Byrd, Horace Parlan and others. After also making recordings for Cadet and Argo Records in the early '60s, his return to Blue Note in 1967 was marked by one of his most famous recordings, Alligator Bogaloo.
Donaldson was awarded an honorary doctorate from North Carolina A&T State University, and a scholarship was established in his name. He was inducted into the International Jazz Hall of Fame and is the recipient of countless other honors and awards for his outstanding Lynne Arriale contributions to jazz.