I just found the link to Al Hirt's tribute website, and am grateful for the opportunity to read about him and some of the comments of fellow fans, especially his widow.
I played trumpet (my choice of instrument) from the beginning in the school band, from fifth grade through the tenth grade. I quit just two weeks before my junior high school was to begin. I had completed my sophmore playing second trumpet in the high school band. I had practiced long and hard all summer as I planned to challenge the first chair player for his seat when school year started.
I lost all of my upper teeth to gum disease that summer, and lost all motivation to continue playing. I stayed in band my junior year, trying the trombone, percussion, and finally the baritone. Just couldn't get passionate with any of them, not like I was with the trumpet.
Last November (2010), at age 62, I picked up the trumpet and started practicing again, and have persisted since. I continue to practice regularly and listen to my favorite CDs and tapes by none other than my most favorite musician, Al Hirt. I met with a professional trumpeter and intructor this past Febraury for a lesson and direction. I am dedicated to getting more instruction over time, and getting my skills up, and joining a band once again.
It took me forty some years to come to realize that I was born to play the trumpet; I had picked it several times over the years for short periods, only to put my horn aack in the closet. I thank God that I held onto the KingSilverTone I received as a gift in middle school. I'm playing it once again.
I am grateful to Al Hirt for being an inspiration to me, and my condolescenses to Beverly for her loss, though belatedely.
Clarence - Norfolk, VA
To All --
I think many baby boomers heard of Al Hirt, but like myself, did not know just how great he was. I re-discovered the Green Hornet Theme (on a youtube fitness clip, of all things), and finally understood the stratospheric skill and musicianship of that performance. But I still didn't realize that was Al playing!!
You don't really expect such virtuosity on a cops'n'robbers show, and GH had two -- Al and Bruce. I listen to the GH theme virtually EVERY day -- it makes my exercise routine "do-able", it prepares me for the day.
The little I've read suggests that Billy Mays arranged the GH theme in part to show off Al's virtuosity. He succeeded.
RIP, Al. What a treasure your overall musical contribution has been and continues to be.
I fondly recall my grandparents in Virginia Beach, Virginia listening to Cotton Candy, Fancy Pants and Java many times back in the early 70's. I love listening to Al's music because it sounds like he really felt it as he played. My young children listen to the CD's of Al's best when we are in Florida and riding in the car. No one will ever come close to his perfection. I am attending Mardi Gras this year for the first time and I can imagine years back how many people would have given anything to see him in New Orleans. - Wes G, Virginia
I just came along your website of dedication to Al Hirt. I guess I'm big into jazz, and some of my friends are too. They don't have much good to say about Al Hirt. I don't know why... they must be crazy or something. I own about 4 of his CDs, and I love every song on every one of them. He could play just about any style... and his volume was incredible. My only regret is that I never saw him in person. Al Hirt live, that would've been amazing.
I've been playing trumpet for 4 years now. I started on saxophone, but then my dad played "Fly Me To The Moon" and I was instantly hooked. I had to switch instruments. I've never tried to imitate Al, because I know I would never be able to come close. But listening to his records inspires me to go practice until my chops fall off.
Again, thanks for making a page dedicated to Al Hirt. He truly was the greatest. - Chuck Vilcinskas, Raleigh NC
My condolences to the Hirt family. In the 1960s, growing up in the Bronx,N.Y., I saw a TV commercial, with Al on top of this cabin cruiser play his trumpet with all the bravado in the world! I never for got his sound! I now am a trumpeter due to his influence, not just a trumpet player but also an entertainer. He is to me and will always be Mr. New Orleans. No disrespect to Louie Armstrong. Al along with herb Alpert of the Tijuana Brass, Burt Bacharah, and Louie with Hello Dolly keep Jazz alive when most of the world was going nuts with the British invasion. He was the first white man I thought was cool. For a Puerto Rican kid it was cool to like Al. He had passion in his playing, a zest for life. I'll always remember Al. - Miguel
To Al Hirt's widow...
Dear Beverly: I want to thank you for sharing your home with me many years back--around 1985. I have been a fan of Al's many years and have worn the grooves off his dixieland albums. One day I was in New Orleans with a freind who knew you and we went over to your house to see you--I was just tagging along, I didn't even know who you were or where we were going. You graciously opened your house to us and you showed us around, and kept talking about Jumbo.
For a fan, its embarrassing not to have known that Al's friends called him that, but I didn't. Anyway, just as we left and said our goodbyes I noticed you were wearing a gold trumpet on the end of a chain. As the door closed on your front porch, it all came together, the sheet music room, the instruments, jumbe--I WAS IN AL HIRTS HOUSE!!!. I just about walked to the levee and jumped in--to have been inside Al Hirt's house and not to have known! The story of my life--anyway, thanks for the memory. - S.D. Smith, Columbia, SC
To The Widow of Al Hirt
I wish to thank you from the depths of my heart for sharing Mr.Hirt and his God given talent. Many was the time my parents would awake me, bring me down to the tv and watch Al Hirt on the Ed Sullivan show. His music has had and will continue to have a profound influence upon my life.
I will never live to see a greater talent on the the trumpet in my life time. I can only hope that in the new heaven and new earth, whose time is fast approaching, that I too will be written in the Book Of Life and once finally here the notes from a horn that once gave my fallen nature the worth for living. - Most Respectfully, Peter J. Brown
I've been playing trumpet for forty years now but I probably would have quit after about one year if I hadn't been blown away by a new-comer to the national scene, Al Hirt. His rich tonal brilliance, ease of technique and mastery of range blew me away and he immediately became my "teacher".
I saw Al three times in Tulsa, once with a combo including Pee Wee, and twice with the symphony. I then heard him at his club when I lived in New Orleans. I never got to do a concert with him but I did get to visit with him a couple of times. One concert I attended was on his birthday and the whole audience sang Happy Birthday to him. He really enjoyed that. Afterwards, I was able to give him a studio recording of my playing, for no reason but just a token to show him how he inspired my work.
One time, Severinson was supposed to play a concert in Tulsa but became ill at the last moment. Al showed up at moment's notice to fill in. Tulsa loves Doc but when word got out that The King was pinch-hitting, crowds began to line up at the ticket office to see if there were any extra seats.
I am a bit irked that some folks try to find fault with his playing, musicianship or impact on the world of music. Marselis, fabulous as he is, mentions every trumpeter of reknown when lecturing but, it seems to me, he virtually ignores Hirt. I doubt Wynton himself would be playing today if it wasn't for Jumbo.
I could go on but, hey, I think you see by now I loved the guy and his music. He may have gone on but we've still got his music and the memories. - Lowell Burch, Tulsa
My name is Michael Phillippe and I have been playing trumpet now for about 41 years. I heard Al Hirt when I was in 4th grade for 3 minutes on TV and never ever wanted to do anything else.
I have played lead for The Russ Morgan Orchestra, Stars of The Lawrence Welk Show and many other bands from the 30's & 40's. None of this would be possible without the great first impression and influence of Al Hirt.
I had backed up Rafael Mendez, played opposite Harry James, and seen all the greats of each era, but no one can jump in different bags of music, like Al Hirt. Wonderful Technique, the ability to achieve your "own sound," not just style but just the sound man!. Al Hirt had that, most do not. I remember seeing him 2 nights in a row at Ricks Cafe in Chicago, not playing just the commercial tunes, but standards, bossa nova's, etc, it was great. And another important lesson I learned, and that is don't switch mouthpieces. I have the last mouthpiece that Bill Ratzenburger made , the Al Hirt Jet Tone with the A rim. I remember Al telling me " I don't know much about mouthpieces, Bill made this for me and it feels great"
I must have 60 albums, lots of doubles, cassettes, CD's, and my favorite is Raw Sugar released about 1974!. I have worn out the LP listening to the chops on "the raw sugar cut. Al, you made it seem easy, thats what great players do, yet I have some of your transcriptions and no matter how long I would woodshed, they never would have that fluidity. I am proud to be in a club of all trumpet players and to have met you I truly feel blessed. - mjtrumpetman
Hi, My name is Philip Ruisi, And I have been playing the trumpet now for over twenty years Thanks to Al Hirt. The first time I heard Al play, I know that I wanted to play the trumpet. I had the pleasure of meeting Al in person three times. Once when my Daughter was about seven years old my wife and I took her to see Al at Fats Tuesday,s in New York city. When Al saw her in the front row, he just stoped playing and came over to her and picked her up. He played a song for her, It was her Birthday. The other two times were at The Westbury Music Fair in Long Island. Al was there with Pete Fountain. When the show was over we went backstage to see Al. It was nice that Al rememberd us from the last time we met. Each time I play one of Al's records, I feel very sad that such a Great man is no longer with us. He truly is The World's Greatest Trumpet Man. - Philip Ruisi, Islip Long Island
I am 48 years old. All my life I wanted to meet Al Hirt. I did in 1996 at the Cris Owens club. He was in his late 70s. He didn't have much range or endurance but it was a trill to listen to him play. He signed an 8x10 portrait of himself and he autographed a 23x36 poster. We talked for a few minutes. Al asked me if I was a trumpet player. I said yes. I will never forget that night. He shook my hand and we said goodbye. I have a snap shot of Al and me. I will always keep that picture. I hope someone will write abook about his life. - Unsigned
I just discovered your marvelous tribute page to Al Hirt. As a young trumpeter in my high school band in the 1960's (mired in the "3rd trumpet" section) I discovered the sounds of "Java", "Cotton Candy", and "Sugar Lips" and I was hooked. I was lucky enough to see Al in concert twice and was even more awestruck. I will also remember seeing Al on "The Tonight Show" and watching the expressions on Doc Severinsen's face as Al was wailing away. He truly was and always will be "The King". - Don Higgins, Manchester, NH
I was extremely pleased to see that I am not the only trumpeter left in the world who thought Al Hirt was one of the very best ever. It is about time that other players start to remember him in the press and online.
As a trumpet player, and leader of a New Orleans style Jazz Band in Buffalo, NY, I try to keep his spirit alive by playing in the same style that he did. (I am in no way near the trumpeter he was, but I do my best to emulate and pay tribute to him.)
I did get the chance to meet him after a concert/club date in Buffalo about 15 years ago...it was truly a thrill. He was most kind a gracious to me. His approach and style of playing meant more than you could ever imagine to me, and his memory lives on every time I pick up my horn. You can hear his influence on my playing by clicking on the link below, which brings you to a review of my CD. The tune is "That's A Plenty"
- Lewis D. Custode, Jr., Niagara Falls, NY
Hello! My name Is Joshua Marius. I was just admiring your page. It is very nice. I am also a trumpet player, but I have only been playing the trumpet for 5 months, which means I have a long way to go. Most of the time I listen to the trumpet in Salsa and Jazz.
I am from the Dominican Republic. To tell you the truth, I picked up the trumpet because of my grandfather's tragic death. He was one of the nest salsa/trumpet players in my country. After he died he was given many awards.
I am very serious about the trumpet. And one day my father introduced me to Al Hirt's music. The first piece I listened to was "Java", which my father claimed that was my Grandfather's favorite piece. Al Hirt amazed me. He is too good to be true. Arturo Sandoval is also good. I congratulate you for your excelent page and you have my full support. Thanks! - Joshua Marius
I was 11 years old andhad been playing trumpet for three years. My Dad took me to see Al at the Bushnell in Hartford, Connecticut. I had a few of his albums and couldn't believe the control this man had over the horn.
My dream was to be half the player Al was. The concert left me in awe but the best was yet to come. I asked my Dad if I could possibly get an autograph. Went to the green room and my hopes faded at the sight of the crowd. Al was everything I would later learn of him. Kind, courteous and cracking jokes he spent time with all of us. I was one of the last in line, When I told him I played trumpet he moved me behind him and told asked me to wait.
I was staring down at this man's horns IN AWE. Al finished up and started to grill me about practicing. I told him I was serious about the trumpet and wanted to play like him. With that he put his trumpet in my hands and I play! ed for Al Hirt with Pee Wee smiling and encouraging me to go on. "Sugar Lips" (what I could remember) never sounded so good to me. What a thrill. Al laughed, smiled then buried my hand in his. August 2002 will mark my 42nd year as a trumpeter. I've been blessed with a mean set of chops and as long I can have fun doing this I'm not about to retire. Al, thank you for the inspiration.
At 11 I hoped to play like you. At 50 I honor your memory. You instilled in me that playing music has to be fun. Anyone can learn to play notes, but you got to feel it from within. It's been a tough fight at times and my career has had its ups and downs but I won't play unless I can put my heart and soul into a performance. George W. Salzer
I never met the man like so many of the folks at this website, but of the few jazz records my parents had, Al Hirt Swingin' Dixie at Dan's Pier 600 was the one I liked most to play my drums along with. Of course, at 7 years old I had only one "real" drum...a cheap snare drum from Sears and I used my mom's pot lids as cymbals! My floor tom tom was an old wood-hooped Ludwig parade drum without the snares that my great uncle left me and I can remember playing along with Al Hirt's "Caravan" on that thing for hours at a time...only pausing in my performance when my parents got tired of the thumping downstairs and told be to quit. Al's playing got so ingrained in me that he basically spoiled me for anyone else's dixieland trumpet. Try as I might to like folks like Louis Armstrong, I couldn't shake the memory of the lightening fast technique of Al Hirt! (Sorry Sachmo fans!) I've taken great pleasure over the years introducing people to his dixieland trumpet...folks who just know him as that guy who did "Sugar Lips" and "Cotton Candy". His "pop" stuff doesn't hold a candle to when that group of his would make you hold on with both hands as they latched onto those breakneck speeds on songs like "Hold that Tiger" and "Deep River". Anyway, thanks, Al for "blowing me away" back then...and "blowing me away" today. It's music I NEVER grow tired of! Dave Drui, UNprofessional drummer, Music appreciator
I have been playing trumpet for 35 years semi professional and have seen and heard many great trumpet players.I have been a fan of Al Hirt since I started playing trumpet and have had the privilege of seeing him twice in concert. Al always had complete control of the horn and I have an even deeper appreciation for his playing the older I get. He was able to play every type of music from pop, to jazz to symphony work and of course Dixieland.It is often said that Al Hirt never received the recognition he so deserved, however, I can assure everyone that for the folks that know trumpet playing, there was never a greater true virtuoso on trumpet than Al Hirt. Dr. Bill DiMino
I am just barely 18 years old and I love to listen to my Al Hirt records. I have been playing trumpet for 7 years. My grandfather gave me a record of his and I play it nonstop. He was definitely the greatest trumpet player that I will ever hear. He is an inspiration to me to become better and strive for excellence in my playing ability. It is just so sad how I never even met the guy. I wish I could but it's OK because I will always enjoy his music. Jeremy Adams, Springfield, Oregon, University of Oregon Marching Band Member
I am a Trumpet and Flugelhorn player in a local Jazz band. When I was a kid, my dad had a large record collection. He had a few of Al Hirt's albums. I remember listening to those as well as hearing Al play "The Green Hornet Theme" on TV. I recently started collecting his albums on CD and heard for the first time what a virtuosso he really was. I never understood this as a kid, but as a Trumpet player I understand how great a player he was. Sadly, he was always underrated compared to other Jazz musicians. He also gave Wynton Marsalis (another hero of mine) his first Trumpet at the age of six. I hope the record companies continue to release his albums on CD. I love listening to him! Tim Powers Morocco, Indiana
It was in the late 60's when my parents took me and my two brothers to hear Al and his Dixieland group as they performed at Will Rogers' Coliseum in Ft. Worth, Texas.
During intermission, my Dad got us backstage where we met the great musician. He was an emormous man to me and very cordial. When he shook my hand, my little paw disappeared into his.
I had been playing the cornet for about two years at that time, and remember telling Al that I was a player. He asked, "Do you practice every day?", and I replied, "Yes." "Even on Sunday?", he retorted. That question took me somewhat by surprise, and Al let out a huge laugh, breaking up the others there, which included clarinetist, Pee Wee Spitilera and also Wayne DeVillier. All signed my program, which I now proudly display on my studio wall.
Many years after this first encounter, Al's glorious shadow crossed mine again as I performed in Virginia City, Nevada, at a small club called, 'The Silver Stope', with a Dixieland band led by pianist Merle Koch. I knew that both Al and Pete Fountain often performed there. I was to find out later that Al was present on the evening after my performance, and I was told that he listened to our recording and critiqued it favorably.
Today, I am entering my 35th year as a professional musician and also a school band director. I attribute much of my inspiration to him and those early encounters and his many enduring recordings, as did millions of other youngsters like me. Thank you, Al. We miss you.
Hello, and thanks for the wonderful web site for Al Hirt. My name Is Rick Colgrove, and I am Dale Colgrove's brother, (whom was generous enough to donate the wonderful autographed photo of Al).
I remember also the great honor to meet Mr. Hirt and the band back stage at Will Roger's Coliseum. I was around the age of 11 or 12 years old, and beginning my studies on the Clarinet. I also was honored to receive the great musician's autograph, on a handkerchief. Sadly, I have misplaced it through the years, but the memory will linger on of that exciting evening.
I continue the music on Clarinet, and Sax. I am a great fan of Al Hirt and Pete Fountain. I was proud to be the guest of honor at Pete's club at the Hilton Hotel back in the early 80's, when I met him and his band, and his son Jeffery, as I am a huge collector of Pete and Al's records, I had some albums of Pete Fountain in which Mr. Fountain wanted for his own collection. I also have many video recordings of Pete Fountain and Al Hirt in which I cherish, due to the beauty of Watching the great artists perform.
I am in the search for a good copy of Summerfest '79 at Wolftrap Farm Park, as mine is a poor recording and incomplete. If there is someone out there that has this, and would be interested in the possibility of making a trade, I would appreciate it very much.
My E-mail is email@example.com Thanks again to the host of this tribute to Al Hirt.
Sincerely, Rick Colgrove
Thanks for a web site on Al Hirt. I am always searching for any information about his life. I keep hoping some one would write a bioghraphy that is fitting to his impact on the trumpet world. I would really like to see more of his albums on cd or best of all a complete recording collection. thanks again! -- David Cooper
I very much enjoyed your tribute to Al Hirt. A big fan, I have most of his records and was fortunate enough to see him live on two occasions in New Orleans--l978 and 79. His l962 album Horn a plenty with the Billy May band is outstanding! Amazing power and control. -- Michael N.
Hello, my name is Charles Thomas Kelly III. I've been playing trumpet for about six years now. I enjoy playing very much. I have hopes and dreams to make it one day. I dream of going to the top, just like Al did. Although I was upset to hear of "Jumbo's" death, it only inspired me to play even more. In my mind and through my playing, I feel as if a part of him lives in me. In fact, I'll be playing the song Java at a fund raiser in New Orleans on the 22nd of August. It's a fund raiser held by Dr. Frank Manyard. He has also helped guide me and keep me motivated to play. I had the honor of playing with Al at this fund raiser. He changed my life, and the way I think of music. I have most of all his CD's. My grandmother still has two of his original records. Anyway, I felt I needed to write to you because you said that you play because of him. Now I feel as if I need to play for him. I, like many other people, will never forget Al Hirt. His playing will live on through myself, and many other musicians who keep his spirit alive, as well as his style. -- a fan, Charles T. Kelly III
I never became a professional but learned the trumpet because of Al Hirt. It is sad that he has passed on as I will be going to New Orleans and would have gone to see him play. Thank you for the Web Page. -- Jim (jimS@stones.com)
I first met Al in l964 when he played a concert at Symphony Hall in Boston. After the concert he took the time to talk with a fledgling trumpeter (myself) and he was my musical inspiration ever since. I was fortunate to meet him many times after that, and, as a professional trumpeter for many years I modeled my style around his. Any musician with the proper training can play any piece the way it is written, but to play it as you feel it, that is the mark of an artist. Al Hirt was an artist supreme. I currently own 74 albums by Al, and I'm still looking. I also have an extensive scrapbook on Al, that dates back to the fifties. Anyone wishing any info on his recordings, or just wanting to share memories of Al, please E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I sincerely hope that someone makes a video or a book of Al's life. I think he never got the recognition he deserved. - -- Brian Adams, Bronson, Florida
An inspiration to me and my music. I style myself after him. Thank you Al for good music and good leadership. Unsigned
Thank you for your tribute to the late great Al Hirt. Al was a family friend, and as a child I remember playing with Mr. Al's children when they visited our house in Uptown N'awlins. Being somewhat robust as a kid I was often teased by Mr. Al about being able to blow a horn. Well Mr. Al gave me a trumpet when I was 8 yrs old and I started playing in school. Music turned out to be one of the main factors in my graduating from high school. I went on to master the entire brass section of the band including the trombone, baritone, french horn and tuba. But the trumpet was the one I enjoyed most. The last time I seen Mr. Al was at my mother's funeral. I was 13 and Mr. Al put his arm around me and told me what a great lady my mother was and that she cooked the best red beans and rice he had ever eaten. I lost touch with Mr.Al after that cause we moved away from Louisiana, but I never forgot him. I no longer have that trumpet he gave me but I have the memories of Mr. Al coming to dinner at our house and being just a down to earth person. He'll be sadly missed. Michael L. Murray, Way Down Yonder in New Orleans
I was shocked to hear about the passing of Al Hirt. I have a video tape of Summerfest '79 when Al and Pete Fountain appeared at Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Virginia. I suspect I have most (if not all) of his albums. I remember when Louis Armstrong passed away and the media's coverage of his funeral. Al always said he wanted "one of them jazz funerals." Did he get his wish? Where is he buried? Who are his children? I believe one was Rachael. Where are they now and what are they doing. Ditto for his first wife. I remember reading somewhere that he lived in Metairie on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. Is that true? If his address is available for release, I would like to send the family a sympathy card. Arnold Scott
Thank you for honoring Al Hirt with your web work. As a Professional musician, I am recalling the times he was the focus of inspiration when I was just a young player in Jr. high & High school. I saw him as a great horn man; confident and not simply a "flashy" soloist, but a true musician. Thanks again for your efforts. -- Don Pope, www.donpope.com
I agree -- thanks for the memorial - New Orleans and the world will miss him--he was one of a kind. -- Ted Borodofsky MD