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Big Band great Woody Herman on his clarinet
Big band great Woody Herman belts out a tune on July 16, 1986 as he celebrates his 50th year as bandleader during a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. For a half-century Herman has been keeping the big-band flame burning. He’s been a bandleader, instrumentalist, catalyst, organizer, guiding force and survivor. At 73, he is still fronting his Thundering Herd. (UPI Photo/David Vondrak/Files)
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Woodrow Charles Herman (May 16, 1913 – October 29, 1987), known as Woody Herman, was an American jazz clarinetist, alto and soprano saxophonist, singer, and big band leader. Leading various groups called "The Herd," Herman was one of the most popular of the 1930s and '40s bandleaders. His bands basically played jazz and blues, often including rather experimental material for their time.

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, then became a professional saxophone 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 and Isham Jones. Isham Jones wrote many popular songs, including "It Had To Be You" 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.

Woody Herman's first band became known for its orchestrations of the blues and was sometimes billed as "The Band That Plays The Blues". This band recorded for the Decca 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" recorded in 1939. Woody Herman remembered that "Woodchopper's Ball" started out slowly at first. "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.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Woody Herman."
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