Woodrow Charles “Woody” Herman (May 16, 1913 – October 29, 1987), 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 often played music that was experimental for their time. He was a featured halftime performer for Super Bowl VII. Herman was born Woodrow Charles Thomas Herrman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 16, 1913. His parents were Otto and Myrtle Herrman. His father had a deep love for show business and this influenced Woody Herman at an early age. As a child he worked as a singer in vaudeville, then became a professional saxophone player at age 15. In 1931, he met Charlotte Neste, an aspiring actress; they married on 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, 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 his former band, and eventually acquired the remains of the orchestra after Jones’ retirement. 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 and John Fedchock 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. Tiberi leads the current version of the Woody Herman orchestra. 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, 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.” Woody Herman was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987.
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