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Clark: The Autobiography of Clark Terry

Clark Terry
Preface by Quincy Jones
Foreword by Bill Cosby
Introduction by David Demsey
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Compelling from cover to cover, this is the story of one of the most recorded and beloved jazz trumpeters of all time. With unsparing honesty and a superb eye for detail, Clark Terry, born in 1920, takes us from his impoverished childhood in St. Louis, Missouri, where jazz could be heard everywhere, to the smoke-filled small clubs and carnivals across the Jim Crow South where he got his start, and on to worldwide acclaim. Terry takes us behind the scenes of jazz history as he introduces scores of legendary greats-Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Dinah Washington, Doc Severinsen, Ray Charles, Thelonious Monk, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Coleman Hawkins, Zoot Sims, and Dianne Reeves, among many others. Terry also reveals much about his own personal life, his experiences with racism, how he helped break the color barrier in 1960 when he joined theTonight Showband on NBC, and why-at ninety years old-his students from around the world still call and visit him for lessons.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94978-2
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Quincy Jones
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Bill Cosby

    No matter where you see Clark Terry, or what physical condition or mental condition he’s in, he’s always ready to give anybody helpful instructions on how to play better or to find their answer to their playing better. No matter what they play.

    You can come up to him and say, “Mr. Terry.” And he’ll say, “Yes.” You could say, “I play the zither.” And he would say, “Oh, that’s wonderful.” Then you could say, “But I’m having a problem with the zither. I want to play like Milt Jackson.” And he would say, “On the zither? Well, let me...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    David Demsey

    The singular life that Clark Terry chronicles within these pages is not just the story of one of the major pioneers in American and African American culture—a groundbreaking jazz trumpeter and flugelhornist, not to mention one of the original rappers via his infamous alter ego, Mumbles. It is also the life story of one of the original creators of jazz education. His vision, as well as his endless energy and steadfast determination, helped spread jazz from clubs and concert halls to other generations in school band rooms and summer youth camps across the United States and around the world....

  6. 1. Big Dreams
    (pp. 1-2)

    I made my first trumpet with scraps from a junkyard. My friend Shitty helped me find the pieces on a blazing hot summer day in 1931. I coiled up an old garden hose into the shape of a trumpet and bound it in three places with wire to make it look like it had valves. Topped those with used chewing gum for valve tips. Stuck a piece of lead pipe in one end of the hose for a mouthpiece. And for the bell on the other end, I found a nottoorusty kerosene funnel. I was a tenyearold kid, blowing on...

  7. 2. First Instruments
    (pp. 2-8)

    The only person I knew who didn’t love jazz was my old man. He liked country music. He was a short man, just over five feet tall—“Five foot two,” he always said, smoking or chewing on a handmade Hauptmann cigar. He was a strong man. Didn’t take crap from anybody! I remember when his union was trying to get the workers to go on strike at his job. He worked for Laclede Gas and Light Company, and the union wanted better wages, but Pop wouldn’t cooperate. He said, “I got too many mouths to feed to play a white...

  8. 3. Kicked Out
    (pp. 8-11)

    Nobody told Pop about my trumpet. Not even Miss Liza. She helped to buy it, which surprised the hell out of me. That’s when I learned that everything isn’t always what it seems to be. Here I was, mad at her and making fun of her and Mr. Robinson with the gang, and here they were, giving money to help me have a trumpet. I felt smaller than an ant!

    Everybody was encouraging me. That made me feel good. My brotherinlaw, Sy, came by and gave me lessons while Pop was at work. He played tuba in a local jazz...

  9. 4. The Vashon High Swingsters
    (pp. 11-21)

    The fall of ’33 started out like a big drag, getting kicked out of Pop’s house and all. I missed my old friends and Carondelet.

    Sy and Ada Mae lived in a nice apartment. It was the only apartment on the third floor of their building. Nice neighborhood with grass instead of dirt yards. Three doors in the hallway and nice windows inside. A view of the tops of nearby stucco buildings like ours, backyards, and an alley. It was more spacious than Pop’s flat by far. Had a big black gas stove in the kitchen—no need for kindling...

  10. 5. First Road Gig
    (pp. 22-28)

    A few years later—it was June of ’39—my life had taken a serious dive. Just two months before my high school graduation, I was looking forward to marching across the stage at commencement as salutatorian of my class, with two scholarships in track, but I was kicked out of school. I had gotten a girl named Sissy pregnant, and both of us were expelled.

    Today, no one is expelled for this reason, but back then it was a definite no-no! You might as well have committed murder.

    Before Sissy, things were fine as far as sex was concerned....

  11. 6. Nigga
    (pp. 28-32)

    “Step right up, ladies and gentlemen!” That’s what the barker shouted to the crowd walking by our show tent. He stood on the platform yelling, “Get your tickets! The show’s about to start!”

    Our sexy chorus girls were dressed in shiny bras and short skirts. They swayed and smiled and kicked high to the music from our band. We were sweltering, sweating, and playing fast, hot dance music.

    We had a man who was called a shill. He pretended to be an excited customer; rushed up and bought a ticket, encouraging the people to follow. Folks called this whole process...

  12. 7. Ida Cox
    (pp. 33-39)

    When the carnival ended we were in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in the dead of winter. A few members of the show headed to their various homes nearby. Most of us stayed on the train, which was going to Jacksonville, Florida, where the show equipment would be stored until the spring tour. It was late November in ’39, stone freezing cold, and I was more than ready for some Florida sunshine.

    I decided to call Big Mamma just Hut, because she had told me that she was really sensitive about her weight. We had become the best of friends, and I felt...

  13. 8. Stranded
    (pp. 39-41)

    After searching around town I found the old gang in Li’l Mama’s Soul Food Restaurant, which was said to have the best chitterlings around. I knew Turk loved “wrinkles,” which was a nickname for the delicacy. I’d figured he might be there because it wasn’t too far from the Midway grounds.

    When I walked up to Turk’s table, he wiped a few drops of grease from the corners of his mouth and his well-groomed goatee with a napkin pinched between his long fingernails. He said, “Hey, Pepper!”

    We shook hands and I greeted Shorty Mac, Lucy London, one of the...

  14. 9. Lincoln Inn
    (pp. 42-48)

    The Lincoln Inn was my first hope of being able to “put some duckets in my bucket.” I was twenty years old and I needed money in the worst way! It was a small neighborhood bar on Market Street. Ada Mae worked there behind the bar. She was the bar maid, and she had worked there for a long time. The place smelled like old beer and stale cigarettes.

    The bar was up front, near the door. A long bar. Mahogany with brass spittoons on the floor, flanking each end. Smack dab in the middle of the bar was a...

  15. 10. On the Road Again
    (pp. 48-56)

    Playing with Fate’s band that May of ’40 was very tough because his temper was horrendous! He had a highly respected name and was practically a household word as far as the jazz scene was concerned, but he’d been playing on the riverboat for a long time. Been replaced by the newest swinging bands like Dewey Jackson’s and Fats Pichon’s.

    Fate had been reduced to playing at a club near the fashionable downtown riverfront. The joint was patronized by whites only who dressed up in fancy suits and sparkling dresses. They sat at whitelinencovered tables, danced on a highly waxed...

  16. 11. Tennis Shoe Pimp
    (pp. 56-58)

    Feather called me her “tennis shoe pimp” because I didn’t beat her. But there was no reason I’d be mean to her; she was struggling to make it just like I was. We respected each other. She helped me set up my room in Priscilla’s mother’s house on Monson Street, and she kept me happy.

    Each night after gigging at the Grenada, I walked five blocks over to the whorehouse and met Feather. All prostitutes in this house had to go and get tested for diseases each Tuesday. If they passed inspection, they got a clearance paper and kept doing...

  17. 12. Jailed
    (pp. 58-62)

    Sooner or later I knew that I’d go back to St. Louis and join the service because the war was heavy. But I wanted to cop a few more dollars. So a few days later I said a fond farewell to Feather and Peoria and took a gig at the Southern Barbecue, a beautiful place just on the outskirts of Grand Rapids, Michigan. I was getting paid Line Forty-Two for the week, working with Tim Jones on piano, John Cameron on tenor, and a guy named Basie was on bass. It was Beaver Palmer’s gig, and he was a great...

  18. 13. Len Bowden
    (pp. 62-64)

    The war raged and everybody was scared. I imagined Pop saying, “See, now you gonna get drafted! You dead broke from foolin’ around with that damn jazz! You ain’t even got a rotten dime!”

    I moved in again with Ada Mae. I didn’t want to, but with no money to pay for a room, I had no choice. I rubbed my lucky rabbit’s foot and hoped for some kind of miracle to get some money.

    When I got to the union building, I walked through the dank atmosphere and glanced at the cats who were hanging out, eating, drinking, smoking,...

  19. 14. Navy Days
    (pp. 64-69)

    A few weeks later, Len talked about how soon we all might be drafted. He said, “A naval recruiting officer ran it down to me. They have the best plan for coloreds. A new phase of naval service for us. But they need volunteers.”

    I wanted to say, “Volunteers for what?” Still, I was intrigued because I knew that the navy, like the other armed forces, only had openings for Negroes in the kitchen. The “galley,” as they called it. Chefs, cooks, and bottle washers—our slang for dishwashers.

    I said, “What do you mean by ‘a new phase’?”


  20. 15. Gray Clouds
    (pp. 69-73)

    “Dear John, Pop is real bad sick.” The rest of Margueritte’s words became a blur and my stomach dropped. I prayed hard that God would take care of him. I remembered how sick I was after that train trip to Jefferson City with the Drum and Bugle Corps. Since I had gotten well, I felt like Pop would be okay.

    To ease my mind, I dove into my duties and the jam sessions every day. On the weekends, I enjoyed the liberties, which meant sporting my new tailored navy blues—G-clef insignia and all. Decked down and sharp. I’d get...

  21. 16. The Big Apple
    (pp. 73-75)

    Pop’s voice wasstillin my head. All the time. Telling me what to do and what not to do. Sometimes I ignored him. Sometimes I listened.

    Jazz saved my sanity. Which made me love it even more.

    As the weeks passed, I became more and more determined to get a divorce from Sissy. Between jamming, performing, and hanging out, I made a few contacts with some attorneys and got the ball rolling.

    During the next year, thousands of troops came through our camp. We helped Len form fifteen- and eighteen-piece bands, sometimes twenty-five-piece bands. They were all shipped out...

  22. 17. George Hudson
    (pp. 75-80)

    “Germany Capitulates!” That was the newspaper headline. Celebrations began that day in May of ’45. I joined the big crap game at the barracks back at Great Lakes. I knew I’d be discharged and heading back to St. Louis in less than a month. When my turn came, I rolled the dice hoping for fat pockets. When the game ended, I was busted. Lost every cent I had.

    In spite of the temptation of gambling during the next few weeks, I didn’t play any of my twentyfour dollars of weekly pay. I wasn’t going home brokethistime. By the...

  23. 18. The Club Plantation
    (pp. 80-84)

    In George Hudson’s Band, we played with the hottest acts in show business—the Mills Brothers, Patterson and Jackson, Peg Leg Bates, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Nat King Cole, Savannah Churchill, the Ink Spots, Austin Wright, Pete “Public Tapper #1” Nugent, the Dyerettes, Derby Wilson, Holmes and Jean, and Joe “Ziggy” Johnson’s Revue. I was sitting up there with all those top musicians, under all those sparkling lights, playing solos, pinching myself to see if it was real. We were swinging like there was no tomorrow, backing all those sizzling acts.

    They loved working with our band because we delivered....

  24. 19. Galloping Dominoes
    (pp. 85-87)

    The weeks zipped by and I found myself rolling the dice one night in a hot dressing room game. At first I raked it in. Then the tables turned and I was busted. I hurried home, raised up the closet carpet and that heavy brass-bedpost carpet, and I got my “don’t go money.” Then I dashed back, about a five-minute run, and I got back into the game.

    The dice jump into my hands. I roll. “Lick in the doh!”

    Seven. I win. I stuff most of the money in my pocket.

    I roll again. “Bird nuts!” Two aces—Craps....

  25. 20. Tempting Offers
    (pp. 87-90)

    Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson was in St. Louis in ’46 with his band. Volley Bastine, Cleanhead’s cousin, called me and said, “We’ll be recording in the morning. Why don’t you come on by and bring your horn? Eddie might want you to sit in.”

    I was flabbergasted. I fumbled for a smoke, then I said, “Okay.”

    Where the place was, I don’t remember. But I know I showed up early. I was excited! That was my first recording session; plus, Cleanhead had always been one of my favorite singers and players. We made a tune called “Kidney Stew,” with Cleanhead singing...

  26. 21. Lionel Hampton
    (pp. 90-94)

    Ada Mae stood in front of me in her kitchen with a black eye, crying her heart out. Now, I had gone over there to relax and to share the good news about joining Hamp’s band. I’m sitting at her table, looking up at my pretty sister with a big swollen eye holding a towel up to her face. Telling me that she and Red had gotten back together and they had a fight. Man! I wanted to kill that big son-of-a-bitch.

    She said, “John, Red is so mean. Threatening me, saying I need to quit my job and stay...

  27. 22. Road Lessons
    (pp. 94-96)

    When spring of ’46 came, Istillhadn’t heard from Hamp. I had been in and out of the Club Plantation with George’s band, and my pockets were thinner than my old shoe soles in Carondelet. I was barely making ends meet. Trying to turn five into ten, craps still ate most of my pay. Then I got a big chance to sit in with Lucky Millander at the Castle Ballroom. Bright lights and big bread!

    The tree bark that Lucky had “blessed” was selling like hotcakes. It was just a gimmick to fatten his pockets, but everybody thought they’d...

  28. 23. Pauline
    (pp. 96-101)

    Even though I appreciated everything that George had done for me, the bread just wasn’t hitting the mark. I wanted a house, a smooth ride, and a nice lady waiting for me. That cost more money than I could cop working with George. Even though he was a great cat.

    But more than that, I was getting that old empty feeling inside. That kind of loneliness that used to wait for me each day after school when I first moved in with Ada Mae and Sy. All the short-term chippies were nice, but there was norootin that.


  29. 24. Charlie Barnet
    (pp. 102-110)

    I took Henry’s advice to heart and stayed away from the tables. Then one morning, while we were all in the dining room eating a scrumptious breakfast of Henry’s sage-flavored sausage, some hot buttered grits, fluffy scrambled eggs, and some syrup-sopping biscuits, the phone rang.

    A few seconds later, Fannie Mae brought it to me. In those days all telephones were heavy and black. But theirs was covered with red plastic.

    I swallowed a mouthful of sausage and said, “Hello.”

    “Hey, Clark. This is Charlie Barnet.”

    My sausage almost came back up. But I managed to say, “Who?”

    He had...

  30. 25. Count Basie
    (pp. 110-114)

    When my feet hit the St. Louis dirt that October of ’48, all I could think about was asking Pauline to marry me. When I got home, I ran upstairs, where she met me with open arms. Before I could say a word, she kissed me hard. Then she said, “I missed you.”

    I held her tight and said, “I missed you too, baby.”

    Then she started jumping up and down and she said, “Ooooh, and guess what?”


    “Basie called you!”

    I said, “Well, that’s great. I was hoping he would. But what I’d like to do first, I...

  31. 26. Big Debt
    (pp. 115-122)

    Before long, our worst fears were confirmed. The cats and I were huddled backstage at the Howard Theatre staring at Basie’s worried face. He looked at the floor and he said, “The agency said we have to disband for now till I get this thing over.”

    We all knew about Basie’s monumental debts from losing on those damn ponies. And sincewe’dalso been bitten with the sweet and sour sting of gambling, nobody said a word.

    He went on to explain that our booking agent in New York, Willard Alexander, had given the ultimatum—an immediate plan to pay...

  32. 27. Duke Ellington
    (pp. 122-125)

    Duke sent his wife, Evie, to scout me at the Brass Rail. I learned later that she was a former Cotton Club showgirl. Not a dancer but a pretty girl who decorated the stage during a show. Since I loved Basie and the cats, I didn’t give her the time of day. She was very fair-skinned and I didn’t know if she was colored or white. She was tall, shapely, elegant, and quite self-assured. But despite her determination, I wasn’t budging.

    A few days later, Duke sent John Celley, his road manager Al Celley’s brother, to talk to me about...

  33. 28. Leaving Basie
    (pp. 126-128)

    A lie is like a tick that sucks that joy out of your life. That lie I told Basie made me feel like shit. But I just didn’t think he would understand. I knew that he depended on me, and that he’d feel I was betraying him even if I’d told him the truth.

    Duke had told me that it wasn’t proper to steal a man from a friend’s band. I didn’t want to lie to Basie. But I did want to join Duke’s band. I figured that Duke didn’t get to where he was by being dumb. So I...

  34. 29. The University of Ellingtonia
    (pp. 128-132)

    Finally, it came: November 11, 1951—Armistice Day. I rushed to join Duke’s band at the Keil Auditorium in St. Louis, praying that it was all true. The Keil was a brand-new facility with all the latest equipment, from sound to lighting. When I met up with the cats in the dressing room, the air was thick with smoke and with smells of cologne, coffee, and whiskey. I lit a cigarette too.

    Subbing for Duke was one thing, but when he hired me to be a member of his band on a regular basis at the Keil in ’51, and...

  35. 30. Working with Duke
    (pp. 132-136)

    Duke was endowed with a supernatural magic that opened doors and carried him along highways and hallways, through cracks and crevices. He could cuss you out and rarely use a cuss word. He’d chastise you from the piano by hitting a discord and everybody knew what was going on.

    A frequent utterance of his was simply “Aaaaaahhhhh!” It might mean something like, “You’re not paying attention! You’re not listening!” Or it might mean that what you played was beautiful to him. But whenever he made that sound, we all knew where he was coming from.

    He was very firm about...

  36. 31. Duke’s Team
    (pp. 136-142)

    You’d have to read Duke’s bookMusic Is My Mistressto see what an outstanding roster of professionals he had. Absolutely Grade A musicians. Not one single B. He had a certain thing in mind when he recruited: the signature sound of each individual; how they blended; and how they interpreted his arrangements. It was like a choir of masterful voices, or a palette of colors that he’d use to paint a song.

    He wrote something unique foreachmember of the ensemble. He knew exactly what everybody could do and what they couldn’t do. He used characteristic sounds, like...

  37. 32. Duke’s Management Arts
    (pp. 142-143)

    When we recorded Duke’s suite “A Drum Is a Woman,” I had no idea what was in store for me. The suite was written with a flavor of the New Orleans Mardi Gras. Lively, celebratory, and colorful. Just before the recording date, Duke said to me, “Clark, you’re gonna portray the role of Buddy Bolden.”

    I said, “Maestro, I don’t know anything about Buddy Bolden.”

    He said, “Sure you do. Buddy Bolden was suave and debonair. Always traveled with a couple of ladies on each arm. Had a great big sound, a powerful tone. He could tune up in New...

  38. 33. Miles and Bird
    (pp. 143-146)

    While I was with Duke in the early ’50s, we were playing at the Bandbox, and Charlie “Yardbird” Parker was on the bill. We all called him “Bird.” He liked to play fast tempos, as did Jimmy Hamilton, Paul Gonsalves, and me.

    Bird was into the modern harmonies and bebop style, and he did a set with us. I suggested that we play “Scrapple from the Apple,” since it was one of his tunes. It was a song about a dish that was made with parts of a pig—the ears, the feet, the nose, everything all ground up and...

  39. 34. Billy Strayhorn
    (pp. 146-148)

    Duke’s alter ego was Billy Strayhorn. I don’t know the origin of the nickname Duke called him, which was “Sweet Pea.” I referred to him like a lot of the cats did, as “Strays.” He called Duke “Edward.” Like Duke, Strays was an elegant dresser. He liked colors. Not overly flamboyant, but different from Duke, who had a more calm taste—like pastel colors.

    We all wanted Strays on our recording dates because he was an absolute master. He played beautifully and he had a way of calming Duke, of which Joe Morgan was jealous.

    Strays was like a breath...

  40. 35. Endurances
    (pp. 148-152)

    When it came time for handling chaos, Duke knew exactly what to do. I remember one time when we were on a bus tour and Oscar Pettiford—God bless him!—was in a rage. Oscar was one of Duke’s bass players. Great bassist! So, Oscar was walking down the aisle raising an uproar. When the bus stopped, he moved off into the forest, shouting, “I’m an Indian! I understand the wolves and the animals of the forest. Theytalkto me.”

    It was fifteen or twenty minutes before we could locate him, capture him, and bring him back. But when...

  41. 36. Flugelhorn
    (pp. 152-155)

    Being away from Pauline was a drag on both of us. But she knew I had to keep going. By this time, she’d quit her job at the hospital in St. Louis and moved in with me in my hotel room in Manhattan. It was a little cramped, so I got us a small apartment.

    She was pretty cool with the situation—especially since she’d met some of the other “jazz wives” and had gotten involved in some of the charities they supported. She wanted to get a job, but I told her I didn’t want her to work because...

  42. 37. Europe
    (pp. 155-158)

    Duke was uncomfortable with flying. So when he told us that we were going overseas on theÎle de Francein ’58, I thought, My first time to Europe and I’ll be riding on peaceful waters in a beautiful cruise ship—now,that’sthe way to travel! I was also ready to play my new flugelhorn, determined to introduce more people to that mellow sound and, hopefully, give them some appreciation and respect for it.

    Duke knew that I was a crusader for the flugelhorn. Not only did he write a tune about it for me, but years later, in...

  43. 38. Norman Granz
    (pp. 158-160)

    While I was with Duke, Norman Granz booked gigs for us whenever the orchestra was off for a while. That kept us busy, kept money in our pockets, and kept us doing our favorite thing—playing jazz.

    Norman was one of the most important people in the world of jazz. He did more to escalate the respect level of jazz and raise our salaries than anybody else. He absolutely loved jazz and jazz musicians. He managed Basie, Dizzy, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Coleman Hawkins, Zoot Sims, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Roy Eldridge, Charlie Shavers, Louie Bellson, Lester “Prez”...

  44. 39. Norman’s Battles
    (pp. 160-165)

    On one of Norman’s J.A.T.P. tours in Europe, I can’t remember the year, we got off the plane in Germany—two busloads of us—and went immediately to the venue, which was a big tent the size of a baseball park. A common type of setup in Germany. It was close to a few hours before performance, and we just had time to dress.

    Norman asked the impresario, “Where’s Miss Fitzgerald’s dressing room?”

    The man laughed and pointed toward the buses. He said, “You got two dressing rooms there.”

    Norman said, “You don’t understand. We have a tour, an entourage...

  45. 40. Q
    (pp. 165-170)

    When the time comes for change, you can feel it. I knew that I wasn’t like Paul Gonsalves, wanting to stay in Duke’s band until my dying day. Although Duke never had to get a sub for me during the entire eight years I was with his band, I was ready to move on.

    So when Quincy Jones called and offered me a position as straw boss—a kind of assistant music director—for a hot new show he’d gotten involved with, and told me how he had gotten topnotch musicians and that the gig would pay a whopping salary...

  46. 41. NBC
    (pp. 170-173)

    I knew that the Urban League and a whole lot of folks had raised sheer hell for me to be on staff at NBC. Like ABC and CBS, NBC maintained a staff of 175 musicians. Without the civil rights movement, my chances of being there would have been as slim as a toothpick.

    I was grateful, but it also meant that I was representing my race. Pioneering a way for the future. So I minded my p’s and q’s. I wasn’t just on time; I was early. I wasn’t just clean; I was dressed sharp, with a spit shine on...

  47. 42. Jim and Andy’s
    (pp. 173-174)

    Jim and Andy’s was the place to see and be seen. Nice lighting. I’d been hanging out there for years. Real popular restaurant and bar near NBC. The music contractors hung out a lot there, so the musicians were regulars, too. Cats from theTonight Showand other musicians like Alec Wilder, J.J. Johnson, Bob Brookmeyer, Stan Getz, and Zoot Sims. There were composers, arrangers, all types of musicians. Literally everybody came into the place. It was a real melting pot.

    It had the hippest jukebox in town. Huge! Red, white, and blue, with the hottest jazz tunes that you...

  48. 43. Johnny and Ed
    (pp. 174-176)

    Our required time at NBC was between four and eight in the evening. So I had plenty of time to work afterward at my favorite jazz clubs, like the Half Note down on Spring and Hudson. It was owned by the Canterino family, Mike, Sonny, and Judy, and had great Italian food. We loved them all, even their waiter, Al. If somebody pulled out a cigarette, he’d appear out of nowhere with a lighted match, like magic. In response to a “Thank you,” he’d say, “It’s a pleasure to serve you.” After leaving the Note, I’d find a couple of...

  49. 44. Mumbles
    (pp. 176-178)

    On his show, Johnny played a popular game called “Stump the Band,” in which someone in the audience asked us to play a particular tune, and if we didn’t know it, that person would get a prize. We knew how to play most requests, and if we didn’t, we had fun faking it by creating something on the spot. It ended up being fun for everybody.

    One night somebody gave us a title that sounded like an old Girl Scout campfire song. Of course, none of us had heard of it. So I started clowning around, and I came up...

  50. 45. First House
    (pp. 179-181)

    I was making some really nice bread from theTonight Showand all the gigs on the side, so I decided it was time to buy a house. I wanted to live in a residential area not too far from Manhattan. When I started checking out neighborhoods, I zeroed in on Queens.

    There was a nice house in Bayside on a raised lot, with a nice backyard from what I could see as I drove by. I parked my black Cadillac, which I’d bought from George Duvivier. He bought a new one each year, and I liked this black one...

  51. 46. Big Bad Band
    (pp. 182-186)

    In ’67 when Skitch Henderson left, it was rumored that I was up to lead theTonight Showband. But the word came down that if they had a black person in front of the band, it would ruin the ratings in the southern market. So Doc Severinsen got the job. I loved Doc and I was happy for him, but I was also pissed!

    When I opened at the Club Barron in Harlem later that same week, I was introduced as “thereal Tonight Showband leader.” That was cool. But it still didn’t make up for the racist...

  52. 47. Carnegie Hall
    (pp. 187-188)

    Everybody was dressed to the nines in black tuxedos. I wore my blue tux with tails and matching ’gators on my feet. When I stepped out on that stage, heard the applause, and saw my name on the placards in front of the music stands, I declare it was almost better than sex!

    “A one. A two. A little dab will do.” That was how I counted off one of the most emotional concerts of my career. I looked at the faces of my friends. A stellar bunch of cats, seated there in my band, and they seemed as thrilled...

  53. 48. Etoile
    (pp. 188-191)

    Eventually, I got two distribution deals for some of our records—one with a British company and the other with a company from Japan. Things looked promising. But all of that was taking up a hell of a lot of my time, which was alreadypackedwith gigs. So I decided to get some help and the proper setup.

    First thing I did was to get a nice office at 756 7th Avenue, right in the heart of Manhattan. It was a two-room suite on the sixth floor. I copped some nice office furniture for the reception area. Made my...

  54. 49. Jazz Education Arena
    (pp. 191-198)

    In the early ’70s, local schools invited musicians from theTonight Showto come and talk about what we were doing in our careers. So Doc Severinsen, Jimmy Maxwell, Bernie Glow, and I spent time at some schools, playing, talking, and answering questions.

    The students dug it, and I realized what an impact we were having. I saw this as a great way to perpetuate jazz. With rock and roll all over the place, I felt that the big band scene was slowly fading away, and unless we all did something it was going to vanish completely. So I became...

  55. 50. Those NBC Years
    (pp. 198-202)

    No matter what aches and pains I had, physical or emotional, I always kept going. Kept steppin’. During the twelve years that I was with theTonight Show,from 1960 to 1972, I must have recorded more than a hundred albums. Each one was unique and challenging. Like the time I was at a rehearsal in ’60 with Charles Mingus for a record date.

    This was the first time that Charles was bringing his original music to New York. Britt Woodman was from California like Charles was, and they had known each other from childhood. Since Britt was a well-respected...

  56. 51. Storms
    (pp. 202-205)

    Outside my professional life, theTonight Showyears had their share of tragedies. While I was busy running from gig to gig, churches were blown up, children were murdered, there were sit-ins and demonstrations. Racial equality seemed damn near impossible.

    I was devastated when John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., were assassinated. Those events stopped the world cold. They were such great leaders. And each time something like that happened, there was more violence.

    I did the only thing I could, which was to keep playing fund-raisers for the movement, putting my money where my mouth...

  57. 52. Black Clouds
    (pp. 205-212)

    In the spring of ’74 I was gigging in Europe, and one day I called home to see how things were going. When Pauline told me that an early Christmas card had arrived from Duke, with a postmark of April 17, 1974, my stomach did a dive. I said, “A Christmas card inApril?” I knew something was wrong. I knew he had been in the hospital and I’d wanted to go and see him while I was back in the States, but word came back that he didn’t want any visitors. I was hurt, but I imagined that he...

  58. 53. Keep on Keepin’ On
    (pp. 212-220)

    The only way I knew how to keep going was to keep going. I recorded more albums, played more concerts, did more interviews, and then a wonderful thing happened in June of ’80: the Clark Terry Great Plains Jazz Camp.

    For the first time, I had my own jazz camp, and I was totally gassed! It was at Emporia State University in Kansas, a beautiful, hip campus. Dozens of eager young students came there for a week. It was organized by Bob Montgomery, who’d played trumpet in my Big Bad Band. We’d done a few festivals and gigs together in...

  59. 54. New Love
    (pp. 220-224)

    It was January of 1990 and I’d been gigging hard, as usual. I’d met a woman who told me that she knew someone who would be a nice lady for me. Since I’d heard useless predictions like this hundreds of times, I fluffed her off—just like I’d done to Miles years ago in Carbondale, Illinois, when he was asking me about playing the trumpet while I was checking out all the pretty young girls dancing around the Maypole.

    But something kept nagging at me to check out this “nice lady.” So I made a few calls to some friends...

  60. 55. Whirlwinds
    (pp. 224-230)

    Not only did Gwen make it to the gig just fine, but she caused a lot of rubbernecking with her short sexy black dress. Rosalie Soladar, Al Grey’s lady, took a picture of us that night that is still one of my favorite photos.

    Things were great except for the fact that my eyes were starting to give me more hell. Everywhere I looked, it looked like somebody had turned all the lights way down low. Even though the dressing room had bright bulbs all around the mirror, everything seemeddark. To add to my misery, my back pain was...

  61. 56. Through the Storm
    (pp. 230-238)

    Everything I wore had aspirin in the pockets in ’91. Pants, vests, shirts—even my horn bags. I slept in my bed with my legs over an ottoman, a chair, a box, anything I could find to position my back where it didn’t hurt so badly. Nothing helped. The pain was excruciating. Something had to be done because I couldn’t make it much longer.

    Between concert gigs, I had some record dates in New York.Jazzwith Cleo Laine and Johnny Dankworth, Gerry Mulligan, Toots Thielemans, and a bunch of other cats. In January, I didMemories of Louis: Teresa...

  62. 57. Second Chance
    (pp. 239-249)

    Six weeks of commitment finally paid off, and I was released from my physical therapists in the hospital where they’d worked me like a rockbustin’ prisoner! But things were definitely better. I was so glad to get out of therealive. I could walk short distances with crutches and use a wheelchair for everything else. I also had to wear a thick back brace, but I didn’t give a hoot. God had given me a second chance!

    Another great thing was that those students at the University of New Hampshire made that cruise while I was in the hospital. I...

  63. 58. The Biggest Surprise
    (pp. 250-258)

    Searching for a place to retire ain’t easy in the “Golden Years,” better known to me as the “OldenYears.” I checked out Chicago, Florida, St. Louis. Then the possibility of an adjunct professorship came up at a university in Virginia, where the cost of living wasn’t as high as in Jersey. I figured Virginia wasn’t too much of a drive to William Paterson, maybe five hours.

    The daughter of Jim Maxwell, my section mate on theTonight Show,lived near the school in Virginia. Her name was Annie Megabow, and she helped out in the search for a new...

  64. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 259-268)
  65. Honors and Awards
    (pp. 269-278)
  66. Original Compositions
    (pp. 279-282)
  67. Selected Discography
    (pp. 283-302)
  68. Index
    (pp. 303-322)