My dad was the first full time band director at Sherman High School in Sherman, TX in 1939-41. He even wrote the school song and fight song, which is now used only as the school song. I taped him in 1987 giving a talk at the band banquet at the end of the year. He had recorded a tape of his band and what they sounded like in 1940!
My dad only taught band for two years because music had not been his major, but here is what a Texas band sounded like in 1940. We have come a long way with our music education programs!
Al Hirt was a great trumpet player from New Orleans who was my first inspiration, and I wanted to be a trumpet player from the age of 8 on. He made it sound fun, easy, and his sound was the most amazing trumpet sound I had ever heard. I used to go to bed at night and ask God to let me be a great trumpet player someday. However, for some reason that didn’t happen, but I did become good enough to have a 30-year career as a full-time musician. Al gave me the desire to go for it at an early age. I was more destined to have a jazz museum than to be a great player, which is actually a better deal!
You know, Wynton must have been the one God wanted to be the great trumpet player. Al inspired Wynton, too, because Al gave Wynton his first trumpet. Wynton’s dad was playing piano in Al’s band at the time, and Al knew they needed help getting Wynton a horn. The rest is history. Al inspired many, many young trumpet players, and count me as one, but I was no where near the level of a musical genius like Wynton
Al was basically a lead and Dixieland trumpeter, but when he signed with RCA most of the things they wanted him to play were simple pop tunes. You have to look for his good albums, and this one is from 1961. He made a ton of money playing simple pop tunes, but I quit buying his albums out of frustration. It was like having a Corvette and RCA was telling you to only drive 20 mph!
I’ll post more of his good things another time. Just remember that just because he makes it sound easy, it really isn’t. Also, check out his sound, control, and sense of time, which are truly amazing.
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!
I’m back sooner than I thought with “Soon”. This is one of my favorite tunes, and this is a great clarinet feature. There is nothing worse than hearing a bad clarinetist, and nothing better than hearing a really great one, like Eddie Daniels. Someday we may not have any great jazz clarinetists in the world, and we are headed that way. Not too many kids in school today are interested in jazz clarinet, and it’s a shame. Enjoy the sound of this one…. this song and performance never get old to me.
Welcome to The Liner Notes! I will be posting some videos, photos, and comments about some of my favorite music, which is mainly jazz. Also, some stories about the evolution of the Sherman Jazz Museum which I started in May of 2010. As a retired professional musician, I have spent my life listening to and loving jazz. I believe interest in jazz is dying, and maybe it would help if more of us would share our stories and the musical selections we love. In this blog, my plan is to…..wait a minute, there is no real plan. It’s all about improvising as I go, which is precisely what I love about jazz. The performer is the composer, too, so here we go. I have 98 years of jazz recordings to work with, which should be enough! The composer and the performer will be posting soon.