The Woody Herman Big Band was always one of my favorite bands. A friend and I tried to hear the band at a nightclub when we were 19, but couldn’t get in. Bill Byrne (5th trumpet player and road manager) got us in, promising we wouldn’t drink, and promising to keep an eye on us. They put us right in front of the band, not more than 15 feet away, so he could keep an eye on us. Woody was standing in front of us all night, playing great, and yelling to the old people next to us to get their fingers out of their ears! He was so happy to see young people enjoying his band, however, and I was in heaven that night.
I took this video of the band in March of 1988. Woody had died five months earlier, and I knew the end of the band would be coming soon. They said I could record the band so I went up to the balcony to film.
Eric Miyashiro was playing lead trumpet, and I decided to keep the camera on him all afternoon. He sounded great….never missed a note all afternoon. I sent him the YouTubes and I think I remember him telling me that this was the only video he had ever seen of him in Woody’s band. He is an incredible trumpet player, and I became a fan that day in 1988. He has only gotten better with age. We heard him play on the Maynard Ferguson tribute concert in 2006 in St. Louis, and he was fantastic. He was the first one out to play that night, and I heard his sound in my head all night as I tried to sleep later.
This road band on this video sounds great. You can’t put together a big band for a night, or two, and have it sound like a road band where the guys are playing together every night for weeks at a time. That’s what we have lost in our society—the road bands and the time they had together to develop into a unit.
I have had many friends play with this band, and I am sorry that when I was asked to go out with Woody, Stan Kenton, Buddy Rich and others, I did not figure out a way to do everything. I had such a good paying gig at Six Flags, it would have been hard to give it up and then return to a gig that was taken by someone else. Also, being married and staying married to Susan was more important to me. The road was never good for a marriage. Enjoy this rare video of the Woody Herman band while they were still touring!