Woody Herman
Woodrow Charles Herman known as Woody Herman, was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 clarinetist, alto and soprano saxophonist, singer, and big band
Big band
A big band is a type of musical ensemble associated with jazz and the Swing Era typically consisting of rhythm, brass, and woodwind instruments totaling approximately twelve to twenty-five musicians...

 leader. Leading various groups called "The Herd," Herman was one of the most popular of the 1930s and '40s bandleaders. His bands often played music that was experimental for their time.

Early life and career

Herman was born Woodrow Charles Thomas Herman 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 in vaudeville
Vaudeville was a theatrical genre of variety entertainment in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s. Each performance was made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill...

, then became a professional saxophone
The saxophone is a conical-bore transposing musical instrument that is a member of the woodwind family. Saxophones are usually made of brass and played with a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet. The saxophone was invented by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax in 1846...

 player at age 15. In 1931, he met Charlotte Neste, an aspiring actress. They later married, September 27, 1936. Woody Herman joined the Tom Gerun band and his first recorded vocals were "Lonesome Me" and "My Heart's At Ease".
Herman also performed with the Harry Sosnick orchestra and Gus Arnheim
Gus Arnheim
Gus Arnheim was an early popular band leader. He is noted for writing several songs with his first hit being "I Cried for You" from 1923. He was most popular in the 1920s and 1930s...

 and Isham Jones
Isham Jones
Isham Jones was a United States bandleader, saxophonist, bassist and songwriter.-Career:Jones was born in Coalton, Ohio, to a musical and mining family, and grew up in Saginaw, Michigan, where he started his first band...

. Isham Jones wrote many popular songs, including "It Had To Be You"http://www.songwritershalloffame.org/exhibit_home_page.asp?exhibitId=295 and at some point was tiring of the demands of leading a band. Jones wanted to live off the residuals of his songs. Woody Herman saw the chance to lead Isham Jones' former band. Woody Herman eventually acquired the remains of Jones' orchestra after Isham Jones decided to retire.

The Band That Plays The Blues and the First Herd 1936-1946

Woody Herman's first band became known for its orchestrations of the blues
Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads...

 and was sometimes billed as "The Band That Plays The Blues". This band recorded for the Decca
Decca Records
Decca Records began as a British record label established in 1929 by Edward Lewis. Its U.S. label was established in late 1934; however, owing to World War II, the link with the British company was broken for several decades....

 label. At first the band served as a cover band, doing covers of songs by other Decca artists. The first song recorded was "Wintertime Blues" on November 6, 1936. In January 1937, George T. Simon closed a review of the band with the words: "This Herman outfit bears watching; not only because it's fun listening to in its present stages, but also because its bound to reach even greater stages." After two and a half years on the label, the band had its first hit, "Woodchopper's Ball
Woodchopper's Ball
"Woodchopper's Ball", also known as "At the Woodchopper's Ball" is a 1939 jazz composition by Joe Bishop and Woody Herman. The up-tempo blues tune was the Woody Herman Orchestra's biggest hit, as well as the most popular composition of either composer, selling a million records.The tune has been...

" recorded in 1939. Woody Herman remembered that "Woodchopper's Ball" started out slowly at first. "[I]t was really a sleeper. But Decca kept re-releasing it, and over a period of three or four years it became a hit. Eventually it sold more than five million copies--the biggest hit I ever had."
Other hits for the band include "The Golden Wedding" and "Blue Prelude". Musicians and arrangers that stand out include Cappy Lewis on trumpet and Dean Kincaide, a noted big band arranger.

In jazz, swing was gradually being replaced by bebop
Bebop differed drastically from the straightforward compositions of the swing era, and was instead characterized by fast tempos, asymmetrical phrasing, intricate melodies, and rhythm sections that expanded on their role as tempo-keepers...

. Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie was an American jazz trumpet player, bandleader, singer, and composer dubbed "the sound of surprise".Together with Charlie Parker, he was a major figure in the development of bebop and modern jazz...

, a trumpeter and one of the originators of bop, wrote three arrangements for Woody Herman, "Woody'n You", "Swing Shift" and "Down Under". These were arranged in 1942. "Woody'n You" was not used at the time. "Down Under" was recorded November 8, 1943. The fact that Herman commissioned Dizzy Gillespie to write arrangements for the band and that Herman hired Ralph Burns
Ralph Burns
Ralph Burns was an American songwriter, bandleader, composer, conductor, arranger and bebop pianist.-Early life:...

 as a staff arranger, heralded a change in the style of music the band was playing.

In February 1945, the band started a contract with Columbia records
Columbia Records
Columbia Records is an American record label, owned by Japan's Sony Music Entertainment, operating under the Columbia Music Group with Aware Records. It was founded in 1888, evolving from an earlier enterprise, the American Graphophone Company — successor to the Volta Graphophone Company...

. Herman liked what drew many artists to Columbia, Liederkrantz Hall, at the time the best recording venue in New York City. 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
Harry James
Henry Haag “Harry” James was a trumpeter who led a jazz swing band during the Big Band Era of the 1930s and 1940s. He was especially known among musicians for his astonishing technical proficiency as well as his superior tone.-Biography:He was born in Albany, Georgia, the son of a bandleader of a...

 recorded days earlier. The Columbia contract coincided with a change in the band's repertoire. The First Herd's music was heavily influenced by Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and big band leader. Ellington wrote over 1,000 compositions...

 and Count Basie
Count Basie
William "Count" Basie was an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer. Basie led his jazz orchestra almost continuously for nearly 50 years...

. Its lively, swinging arrangements, combining bop
Bebop differed drastically from the straightforward compositions of the swing era, and was instead characterized by fast tempos, asymmetrical phrasing, intricate melodies, and rhythm sections that expanded on their role as tempo-keepers...

 themes with swing rhythm parts, were greatly admired. As of February, 1945 the personnel included Sonny Berman
Sonny Berman
Saul "Sonny" Berman was an American jazz trumpeter.Berman was born in New Haven, Connecticut. He began touring at age sixteen and went on to work with Louis Prima, Harry James and Benny Goodman but is perhaps best known for his later work with Woody Herman...

, Pete Candoli
Pete Candoli
Pete Candoli was an American swing and West Coast jazz trumpeter. He played with the big bands of Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, and many others, and worked extensively in the studios of the recording and television industries...

, Billy Bauer
Billy Bauer
Billy Bauer was an American cool jazz guitarist.-Life:Bauer was born in New York City. He played banjo as a child before switching to guitar...

 (later replaced by Chuck Wayne
Chuck Wayne
Chuck Wayne was a jazz guitarist who came to prominence in the 1940s. He is best known for his work with Woody Herman's First Herd, and for being the first guitarist in the George Shearing quintet...

), Ralph Burns
Ralph Burns
Ralph Burns was an American songwriter, bandleader, composer, conductor, arranger and bebop pianist.-Early life:...

, Davey Tough
Dave Tough
Dave Tough was an American jazz drummer associated with both Dixieland and swing jazz in the 1930s and 1940s...

 and Flip Phillips
Flip Phillips
Flip Phillips was an American jazz tenor saxophone and clarinet player. He is best remembered for his work with Jazz at the Philharmonic from 1946 to 1957.-Biography:...

. On February 26, 1945 in New York City, the Woody Herman band recorded "Caldonia".

Neal Hefti
Neal Hefti
Neal Hefti was an American jazz trumpeter, composer, tune writer, and arranger. He was perhaps best known for composing the theme music for the Batman television series of the 1960s, and for scoring the 1968 film The Odd Couple and the subsequent TV series of the same name.He began arranging...

 and Ralph Burns collaborated on the arrangement of "Caldonia" that the Herman band used. "Ralph caught Louis Jordan
Louis Jordan
Louis Thomas Jordan was a pioneering American jazz, blues and rhythm & blues musician, songwriter and bandleader who enjoyed his greatest popularity from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. Known as "The King of the Jukebox", Jordan was highly popular with both black and white audiences in the...

 [singing "Caldonia"] in an act and wrote the opening twelve bars and the eight bar tag." "But the most amazing thing on the record was a soaring eight bar passage by trumpets near the end." These eight measures have wrongly been attributed to a Dizzy Gillespie solo, but were in fact originally written by Neal Hefti
Neal Hefti
Neal Hefti was an American jazz trumpeter, composer, tune writer, and arranger. He was perhaps best known for composing the theme music for the Batman television series of the 1960s, and for scoring the 1968 film The Odd Couple and the subsequent TV series of the same name.He began arranging...

. George T. Simon compares Neal Hefti with Dizzy Gillespie in a 1944 review for Metronome magazine saying, "Like Dizzy [...], Hefti has an abundance of good ideas, with which he has aided Ralph Burns immensely [...][.]"

In 1946 the band won Down Beat
Down Beat
Down Beat is an American magazine devoted to "jazz, blues and beyond" to indicate its expansion beyond the jazz realm which it covered exclusively in previous years. The publication was established in 1934 in Chicago, Illinois...

, Metronome, Billboard
Billboard (magazine)
Billboard is a weekly American magazine devoted to the music industry, and is one of the oldest trade magazines in the world. It maintains several internationally recognized music charts that track the most popular songs and albums in various categories on a weekly basis...

and Esquire polls for best band, nominated by their peers in the big band business. Along with the high acclaim for their jazz and blues performances, classical composer Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

 wrote the Ebony Concerto
Ebony Concerto (Stravinsky)
Igor Stravinsky wrote the Ebony Concerto in 1945 for the Woody Herman band known as the First Herd. It is one in a series of compositions commissioned by the bandleader/clarinetist featuring solo clarinet. Herman recorded the concerto in the Belock Recording Studio at Bayside New York, calling it a...

, one in a series of compositions commissioned by Woody with solo clarinet, for this band. Woody Herman recorded this work in the Belock Recording Studio at Bayside New York.

Throughout the history of jazz, there have always been musicians who sought to combine it with classical music. Ebony Concerto is one in a long line of music from the twenties to the present day that seeks to do this. Woody Herman said about the Concerto: "[The Ebony Concerto is a] very delicate and a very sad piece." Stravinsky felt that the jazz musicians would have a hard time with the various time signatures. Saxophonist Flip Philips said, "During the rehearsal [...] there was a passage I had to play there and I was playing it soft, and Stravinsky said 'Play it, here I am!' and I blew it louder and he threw me a kiss!" In his own original way Stravinsky noticed the massive amount of smoking at the recording session: "the atmosphere looked like Pernod clouded by water." Ebony Concerto was performed live by the Herman band on March 25, 1946 at Carnegie Hall.http://www.centerforjazzarts.org/classical_2c.html

Despite the Carnegie Hall success and other triumphs, Herman was forced to disband the orchestra in 1946 at the height of its success. This was his only financially successful band; he left it to spend more time with his wife and family. During this time, he and his family had just moved into the former Hollywood home of Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey DeForest Bogart was an American actor. He is widely regarded as a cultural icon.The American Film Institute ranked Bogart as the greatest male star in the history of American cinema....

 and Lauren Bacall
Lauren Bacall
Lauren Bacall is an American film and stage actress and model, known for her distinctive husky voice and sultry looks.She first emerged as leading lady in the Humphrey Bogart film To Have And Have Not and continued on in the film noir genre, with appearances in The Big Sleep and Dark Passage ,...

. One reason Herman may have disbanded was his wife Charlotte's growing problems with alcoholism and pill addiction. Charlotte Herman joined Alcoholics Anonymous and gave up everything she was addicted to. Woody said, laughing, "I went to an AA meeting with Charlotte and my old band was sitting there." Many critics cite December 1946 as the actual date the big-band era ended, when seven other bands, in addition to Herman's, dissolved.

The Second Herd and other bands 1947-1987

In 1947, Herman organized the Second Herd. This band was also known as "The Four Brothers Band". This derives from the song recorded December 27, 1947 for Columbia records, "Four Brothers", written by Jimmy Giuffre. "The 'Four Brothers' chart is based on the chord changes of 'Jeepers Creepers
Jeepers Creepers (song)
Jeepers Creepers is a popular 1938 song and jazz standard. The music was written by Harry Warren and the lyrics by Johnny Mercer, for the movie Going Places. It was premiered by Louis Armstrong and has since been covered by many other artists.-Overview:...

', and features the three-tenor, one-baritone saxophone section[...]." The order of the saxophone solos is Zoot Sims
Zoot Sims
John Haley "Zoot" Sims was an American jazz saxophonist, playing mainly tenor and soprano.-Biography:He was born in Inglewood, California, the son of vaudeville performers Kate Haley and John Sims. Growing up in a performing family, Sims learned to play both drums and clarinet at an early age...

, Serge Chaloff
Serge Chaloff
Serge Chaloff was an American jazz baritone saxophonist.The son of noted Boston piano teachers, Margaret and Julius Chaloff, he was among the few major jazz performers on his instrument. Until Chaloff the only prominent baritone player in jazz was Harry Carney of the Duke Ellington Orchestra...

, Herbie Steward
Herbie Steward
Herbert Steward , is an American jazz saxophonist.He is best known for being the tenor saxophone player in Four Brothers, part of Woody Herman's Second Herd.-Discography:...

, and Stan Getz
Stan Getz
Stanley Getz was an American jazz saxophone player. Getz was known as "The Sound" because of his warm, lyrical tone, his prime influence being the wispy, mellow timbre of his idol, Lester Young. Coming to prominence in the late 1940s with Woody Herman's big band, Getz is described by critic Scott...

. Some of the notable musicians of this band were also Al Cohn
Al Cohn
Al Cohn was an American jazz saxophonist and arranger and composer.-Biography:Alvin Gilbert Cohn was born in Brooklyn, New York. He was initially known in the 1940s for playing in Woody Herman's Second Herd as one of the Four Brothers, along with Zoot Sims, Stan Getz, and Serge Chaloff...

, Gene Ammons
Gene Ammons
Eugene "Jug" Ammons also known as "The Boss," was an American jazz tenor saxophonist, and the son of boogie-woogie pianist Albert Ammons.-Biography:...

, Lou Levy
Lou Levy (pianist)
Louis A. Levy , generally known as Lou Levy, was a bebop-based pianist who worked with many top jazz artists, later coming to embrace the cool jazz medium and playing in that style as well .Levy was born to Jewish parents in Chicago and started playing piano when he was 12...

, Oscar Pettiford
Oscar Pettiford
Oscar Pettiford was an American jazz double bassist, cellist and composer known particularly for his pioneering work in bebop.-Biography:...

, Terry Gibbs
Terry Gibbs
Terry Gibbs is an American jazz vibraphonist and band leader.He has performed and/or recorded with Tommy Dorsey, Chubby Jackson, Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Benny Goodman, Louie Bellson, Charlie Shavers, Mel Tormé, Buddy DeFranco, and others...

, and Shelly Manne
Shelly Manne
Shelly Manne , born Sheldon Manne in New York City, was an American jazz drummer. Most frequently associated with West Coast jazz, he was known for his versatility and also played in a number of other styles, including Dixieland, swing, bebop, avant-garde jazz and fusion, as well as contributing...

. Among this band's hits were "Early Autumn," and "The Goof and I". The band was popular enough that they went to Hollywood in the mid-nineteen forties. Herman and his band appear in the movie New Orleans
New Orleans (1947 film)
New Orleans is a 1947 musical drama featuring Billie Holiday as a singing maid and Louis Armstrong as a bandleader; supporting players Holiday and Armstrong perform together and portray a couple becoming romantically involved...

in 1947 with Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday was an American jazz singer and songwriter. Nicknamed "Lady Day" by her friend and musical partner Lester Young, Holiday had a seminal influence on jazz and pop singing...

 and Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong , nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana....

. From the late 1940s to the end of his life, record labels Herman recorded for include RCA
RCA Corporation, founded as the Radio Corporation of America, was an American electronics company in existence from 1919 to 1986. The RCA trademark is currently owned by the French conglomerate Technicolor SA through RCA Trademark Management S.A., a company owned by Technicolor...

, Capitol
Capitol Records
Capitol Records is a major United States based record label, formerly located in Los Angeles, but operating in New York City as part of Capitol Music Group. Its former headquarters building, the Capitol Tower, is a major landmark near the corner of Hollywood and Vine...

, MGM and Verve
Verve Records
Verve Records is an American jazz record label now owned by Universal Music Group. It was founded by Norman Granz in 1956, absorbing the catalogues of his earlier labels, Clef Records and Norgran Records , and material which had been licensed to Mercury previously.-Jazz and folk origins:The Verve...


Herman's other bands include the Third Herd (1950–1956) and various editions of the New Thundering Herd (1959–1987). In the 1950s, the Third Herd went on a successful European tour. He was known for hiring the best young musicians and using their arrangements. By 1968, the Herman library came to be heavily influenced by rock and roll
Rock and roll
Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, primarily from a combination of African American blues, country, jazz, and gospel music...

. He was also known to feature brass and woodwind instruments not traditionally associated with jazz, such as the bassoon, oboe or French horn.

In 1974, Woody Herman's "Young Thundering Herd" appeared without their leader for Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra was an American singer and actor.Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became an unprecedentedly successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, after being signed to Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the...

's television special The Main Event and subsequent album, The Main Event – Live
The Main Event – Live
-Track listing:#Overture: "It Was a Very Good Year"/"All the Way"/"My Kind of Town" // – 3:12 #"The Lady Is a Tramp" – 3:02...

. Both were recorded mainly on October 13, 1974 at Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden, often abbreviated as MSG and known colloquially as The Garden, is a multi-purpose indoor arena in the New York City borough of Manhattan and located at 8th Avenue, between 31st and 33rd Streets, situated on top of Pennsylvania Station.Opened on February 11, 1968, it is the...

 in New York City. On November 20, 1976, a reconstituted Woody Herman band played at Carnegie Hall in New York City, celebrating Herman's fortieth anniversary as a bandleader. By the 1980s, Herman had returned to straight-ahead jazz, dropping some of the newer rock and fusion approaches. Woody Herman signed a recording contract with Concord Records around 1980, now called the Concord Music Group
Concord Music Group
Concord Music Group is a record company owned by Village Roadshow formed in 2004 by the merger of Concord Records and Fantasy Records. In 2005, the company acquired the classics and jazz label Telarc International. On December 18, 2006, Concord announced the re-launch of the soul label Stax;...

. In 1981, John S. Wilson
John S. Wilson (music critic)
John S. Wilson was an American music critic and jazz radio host. He worked as a music critic for The New York Times for four decades, and was notably that paper's first critic to write regularly on jazz and other genres of popular music.-References:...

 warmly reviewed one of Herman's first Concord recordings "Woody Herman Presents a Concord Jam, Vol. I". Wilson's review says that the recording presents a band that is less frenetic than his bands from the forties to the seventies. Instead it takes the listener back to the relaxed style of Herman's first band of the thirties that recorded for Decca.

Last years

Herman continued to perform into the 1980s, after the death of his wife and with his health in decline, chiefly to pay back taxes caused by his business manager's bookkeeping in the 1960s. With the added stress, Herman still kept performing. In a December 5, 1985 review of the band at the Blue Note jazz club for The New York Times, John S. Wilson pointed out: "In a one-hour set, Mr. Herman is able to show off his latest batch of young stars — the baritone saxophonist Mike Brignola, the bassist Bill Moring, the pianist Brad Williams, the trumpeter Ron Stout — and to remind listeners that one of his own basic charms is the dry humor with which he shouts the blues." Wilson also spoke about arrangements by Bill Holman
Bill Holman (musician)
Willis Leonard Holman , known also as Bill Holman, is an American composer/arranger, conductor, saxophonist, and songwriter working primarily in the jazz idiom....

 and John Fedchock
John Fedchock
John Fedchock is an American jazz trombonist, bandleader, and arranger.Fedchock studied at Ohio State University and the Eastman School of Music. He worked for several years in the Woody Herman Orchestra in the 1980s, and was particularly noted for his arrangements during this time...

 for special attention. Wilson spoke of the continuing influence of Duke Ellington on the Woody Herman bands from the nineteen forties to the nineteen eighties.
Before Woody Herman died in 1987 he delegated most of his duties to leader of the reed section, Frank Tiberi
Frank Tiberi
Frank Tiberi is the leader of the Woody Herman Orchestra. He was hand-picked by Woody Herman shortly before Herman's death, to lead the band, and he has been doing it since 1987. He plays the alto and tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute, and the bassoon. He has been performing and recording since...

.http://www.franktiberi.com/bio.html Tiberi leads the current version of the Woody Herman orchestra.http://www.internationaljazzproductions.com/whermanorchestra.html Frank Tiberi said at the time of Herman's death that he would not change the band's repertoire or library. Woody Herman was buried in a Catholic funeral, November 2, 1987 in West Hollywood, California. He is interred in a crypt outside the west end of Cathedral Mausoleum in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, CA.

Concord Music Group's website mentions these awards won by the various Woody Herman orchestras: "Voted best swing band in 1945 Down Beat poll; Silver Award by critics in 1946 and 1947 Esquire polls; won Metronome poll
Metronome All-Stars
The Metronome All-Stars were a collection of jazz musicians assembled for studio recordings by Metronome Magazine, based on its readers' polls. The studio sessions were held in the years 1939-42, 1946-53, and 1956, and typically consisted of two tracks which allowed each participant a chance to...

, band division, 1946 and 1953; won NARAS Grammy Award for Encore as best big band jazz album of 1963; won NARAS Grammy Award for Giant Steps as best big band jazz album of 1973."http://concordmusicgroup.com/artists/bio/?id=1127 Woody Herman was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded by the Recording Academy to "performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording."...

in 1987.http://www.grammy.com/Recording_Academy/Awards/Lifetime_Awards/

External links

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