Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Woody Herman

May 16, 1913 - October 29, 1987

Woody Herman was born Woodrow Charles Thomas Herrman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 16, 1913. His parents were Otto and Myrtle Herrman. His father had a deep love for show business and this influenced Woody Herman at an early age. As a child he worked as a singer and tap-dancer in Vaudeville, he was billed as The Boy Wonder of the Clarinet. Woody joined the Tom Gerun band in 1929 and remained over two years. He was with Harry Sosnik and Gus Arnheim 1932-3. Woody joined Isham Jones Orchestra as sideman-vocalist from 1934 to 1936. Jones retired briefly in 1936, Woody formed band with several of Jones sideman. Woody Herman's first band became known for its orchestrations of the blues and was billed as "The Band That Plays The Blues". In 1939 Woody had a hit with Woodchopper's Ball which became all-time jazz standard associated with Herman. The bands first theme was Blue Prelude, later Blue Evening, then Blue Flame.

By 1944 the new progressive jazz style caused a sensation. The Herman Herd and later The First Herd featured modern arrangements. In February 1945, the band started a contract with Columbia Records. The first side Herman recorded was "Laura", the theme song of the 1944 movie of the same name. Herman's version was so successful that it made Columbia hold from release the arrangement that Harry James had recorded days earlier. The band played Carnegie Hall concert in 1946 performing Stravinsky's Ebony Concerto, written especially for the band. The band broke up in 1946 and in 1947 Woody formed another band known as The Second Herd. In 1948 jazz hit Four Brothers featured saxman Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Herbie Steward, and Serge Chaloff. Herman's other bands include the Third Herd (1950–56) and various editions of the New Thundering Herd (1959–87). In the 1950s, the Third Herd went on a successful European tour. In the 1960s the band played here and abroad and recorded regularly. In the early 1970s he toured frequently and began to work more in jazz education, offering workshops and taking on younger sidemen. For this reason he got the nickname Road Father.

Herman continued to perform into the 1980s, after the death of his wife, his health was in decline, Woody owed the IRS millions of dollars and was in danger of eviction from his home. Woody died in 1987, his funeral was on November 2, 1987, in West Hollywood, California. He is interred in a niche in the columbarium behind the Cathedral Mausoleum in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Baby Come Home   1947

Woodchopper's Ball   1939

Blues On Parade   1939

Caldonia Live 1964

Blues In The Night   1942

The Music Stopped   1943

Civilization   1947

Four Brouthers   1948

Blue Flame   1941

His Swingin' Herd

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