Posts tagged “gene lees”

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Woody Herman’s “practical joker”

In the March, 1945 Down Beat, under the headline “Herman’s Is Finest Ofay Swing Band,” Frank Stacy wrote this about Woody Herman and his “Herd.”

Woody Herman has the greatest ofay band in the country — bar none! That’s what all the band popularity contests said this year and that’s just the way I feel about it. Out of 1,606 swing fans who named the Herman Herd their favorite dispenser of jive in Down Beat‘s annual contest, undoubtedly some (the bobby soxers) cast their votes that way because they go for the snappy corduroy jackets that Woody sports on the stand. Most fans, however, pick Woody’s crew for its crack over-all musicianship, for its up-to-the-minute presentation of advanced big band orchestrations, for Woody’s superior talents as an instrumentalist, singer, showmanly stick-waver, and, above all, for his grasp of the right band ideas.

In addition to the band’s excellence that Stacy opines on, the band was filled with interesting and humorous personalities — among them the pot head (bassist Chubby Jackson) and the practical joker (trombonist Bill Harris). Check out this story about one of Harris’s best “jokes,” excerpted from […] Continue reading »

Interviews » Biographers

Gene Lees, author of Portrait of Johnny: The Life of John Herndon Mercer

“Moon River,” “Laura,” “Skylark,” “That Old Black Magic,” “One For My Baby,” “Accentuate the Positive,” “Satin Doll,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” “Something’s Gotta Give,” — the honor roll of Johnny Mercer’s songs is endless. Both Oscar Hammerstein II and Alan Jay Lerner called him the greatest lyricist in the English language, and he was perhaps the best-loved and certainly the best-known songwriter of his generation. But Mercer was also a complicated and private man. […] Continue reading »