Features » In Memoriam

“One for (my) Daddy-O”

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Joseph Maita, Sr.

c. 1940

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Besides doing his best to help raise three kids, during my 1960’s childhood my father worked his heart out at two jobs — one of which was as owner of a restaurant on Oakland’s Telegraph Avenue, and the other as a musician, playing trumpet and viola throughout the San Francisco Bay area, mostly on evenings and weekends in “casual” jobs. For years he was part of a strolling quartet that entertained San Francisco’s elite at the World Trade Club — an ensemble that at its peak toured the Philippines, playing to an audience that included “strongman” Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda.   

Prior to that, in the 30’s he traveled the country and led his own band in Sacramento.  In the 40’s, he spent the war years as a member of the Winged Victory Orchestra.  And, in the late 40’s and 50’s, among many musical pursuits (although toned down once he married my mom in 1947), he played in the Jack Fina Orchestra, as well as in Ernie Heckscher’s orchestra, which famously played at the Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill.

He loved his music, and part of my own early appreciation for music came as a result of hearing his practice sessions. To this day I can still very clearly hear the sound of his viola making its way into my bedroom from his basement rehearsal space. It would occasionally even serve as my Saturday morning wake-up call, which meant it was time for me to go to the restaurant and work alongside him. Often, on the drive to work, he would blow into his trumpet mouthpiece, building up his “lip” for his next job.

In the early (and quite ambitious) days of developing Jerry Jazz Musician, my dad was a big fan of my vision.   He even contributed a story about his youthful career experience with the great trumpeter Roy Eldridge. He believed in my work and thought it had the potential to be important, enough so that in 1998 he wrote a heartfelt letter to his old friend Merv Griffin — who he recommended for the job at KFRC radio in San Francisco that served as a springboard to much bigger things — telling him that an investment in Jerry Jazz Musician would be a “wise business decision” because his son had “a tiger by its tail” with the work I was doing. Well, Mr. Griffin went not-so-mysteriously silent, and I knew my dad was disappointed his association with a member of the moneyed elite of his generation couldn’t come through for me. He was 81 years old at the time, and we lost him two years later.

So, I am thinking of my dad today, and devote this space to honor him. Without any more sentimentality, Cannonball Adderley can provide the music – “One For Daddy-O”