“I Remember Waldo” (1964) Buddy Morrow/John Woehrmann

“I Remember Waldo”

Composed by John Woehrmann and Buddy Morrow; arranged by John Woehrmann.

Recorded in 1964 by Buddy Morrow, featuring his four saxophones, possibly three tenors and a baritone; piano, bass and drums.

Personnel for this recording is unknown to me. If anyone has information about it or John Woehrmann (*), please contact me. When this recording was first issued in 1980, Buddy Morrow could not recall the personnel. Nevertheless, he did remember that the tenor saxophone solo was played by Dave Figg.

Note: The images that accompany the music above are a combination of photos of Manhattan taken by me over the last few years, and several taken by my daughter Natalie within the last couple of months. The photo at the top of this post is of the spot adjacent to the softball fields near the southwest corner of Central Park where I have spent may afternoons sitting on the benches there reading, people-watching, thinking and savoring New York.

The story:

The number of musicians who have been killed in auto collisions, usually going to or returning from work, is high. In the span of time from the 1920s well into the 1960s, the vehicles musicians rode in were often not the finest. There was not a nationwide system of superhighways, and safety devices in vehicles were unheard of. In addition, musicians were required to travel often hundreds of miles between one-night stands. Sometimes, these strings of one-nighters lasted for weeks on end. The occupational hazards of boredom and exhaustion often led musicians to imbibe alcohol, or puff marijuana, usually as coping tools, albeit dangerous ones, to deal with life on the road. That sometimes ended in tragedy.

One of the musicians who spent an incredible amount of time on the road was the trombone virtuoso Buddy Morrow. Morrow first went on the road in the late 1930s in bands led by Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey and Paul Whiteman. He began leading his own bands in the late 1940s, and continued doing that, with some brief interruptions, until shortly before his death on September 27, 2010 at age 91.

In addition to being a great trombonist, Morrow had a knack for organizing very good bands, and making sure that they played good music. The performance presented with this post is a fine example of Morrow recording for posterity a piece of music that is lovely, and on which he does not play. His intent in recording this composition was to pay tribute to a talented musician, its composer and arranger John Woehrmann, who had worked as a bass trombonist  and arranger in the Morrow band, and to preserve it for future audiences to enjoy. (Above left: On the band bus – Buddy Morrow dozes as his band members clown for the camera.)

In the 1950s and well into the 1960s, Buddy Morrow led a series of excellent bands, toured extensively with them, did a lot of recording with them, but had to take a well-earned rest in the late 1960s, and spend some time in New York working as a free-lance studio musician. The recording presented here was made in 1964 by musicians in Morrow’s touring band using an original composition/arrangement by John Woehrmann. It took a bit of cheek for Woehrmann to submit this piece to Morrow, one of the greatest virtuosos on his instrument, because it has no trombone solo in it for Morrow. Indeed, it has no trombones in it, or trumpets. 

A scene at the middle of The Mall in Central Park.

John Woehrmann was killed in an auto smashup on November 26, 1963, in Chattahoochie, Florida, with another man, Donald Davis, presumably also a member of the Buddy Morrow band, several weeks before this recording was made. I have not been able to find out much about him other than the stark facts in news report of his death, and the obituary that appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer (see note below). He was 33 years old, very talented as an arranger, and received a lot of encouragement from Buddy Morrow before his untimely death. Of the 16 tunes Morrow recorded for radio broadcast in late 1963 and early 1964, he included no less than six composed and/or arranged by Woehrmann. Those sixteen tunes were first issued on a Hindsight LP in 1980.

The music:

“I Remember Waldo” is a floating, dreamy melody, having a touch of melancholy, that features the four saxophones in Morrow’s band (I hear three tenor saxophones and a baritone), piano, bass, and whispering drums. This music, mellow and evocative, will assist you in getting your Zen together. The fine tenor saxophone improvisation is by Dave Figg.  Morrow is listed as a co-composer with Woehrmann, and that is probably because Buddy made some revisions in the original composition/arrangement devised by Woehrmann prior to recording this piece because Woehrmann had died before the Morrow ensemble could record it.

The title “I Remember Waldo” came about as a result of John Woehrmann dedicating this tune to a blind trumpet man who was named after Mr. Magoo’s nephew Waldo. Why, I wonder, are parents not naming their sons Waldo these days? (At right: a lovely lady sits in a niche bench in the parapet outside Belvedere Castle in Central Park – dreaming.)

The recording presented with this post was digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.

Links:

Here are a couple of links to some other very fine music by Buddy Morrow, both of which demonstrate what a great trombonist he was:

https://swingandbeyond.com/2018/11/10/invitation-1963-buddy-morrow/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2016/10/18/gershwins-piano-prelude-2-played-by-buddy-morrow-1964/

Notes:

A friend of mine who is an excellent researcher but who wishes to remain anonymous has obtained information about John Woerhmann’s death. Here it is:

Plain_Dealer_1963-11-28_83 2

Plain_Dealer_1963-11-27_15

Woehrmann

The news item was published in the November 27, 1963 Cleveland Plain Dealer. The obituary appeared the next day.

(*)The story continues: At left is a photo of John Woehrmann – courtesy of Rich Pulin, who met and played along side with Woehrmann (for one rehearsal) in the late 1950s. Here is Rich’s story about that, and about who “Waldo” really was:

“AS FAR AS SOMEONE APPEARING IN THE OVERALL COURSE OF SOMEONE ELSE’S LIFE, IT HAPPENS A ‘ZILLION’ TIMES, AND SO JOHN WOEHRMANN’S APPEARANCE IN MY LIFE WOULD HAVE NORMALLY GONE UNNOTICED IF THE CIRCUMSTANCES WEREN’T SO BIZARRELY UNIQUE!

I GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL ON LONG ISLAND IN JUNE 1959, AND ALTHOUGH MOST OF MY CLASSMATES AND FRIENDS WERE HEADED TO COLLEGE, I WAS A LAST MINUTE TROMBONE SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENT AT A SMALL SCHOOL IN MISSISSIPPI, MISSISSIPPI SOUTHERN COLLEGE (NOW THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI), IN HATTIESBURG MISSISSIPPI…. SO, IN SEPTEMBER 1959, I BOARDED A DELTA FLIGHT AT LA GUARDIA AIRPORT IN QUEENS, BOUND FOR HATTIESBURG MISSISSIPPI, VIA NEW ORLEANS…. MY FIRST MEMORY OF MISSISSIPPI WAS MY CAB DRIVER SPITTING TOBACCO JUICE AT A SPITTOON AND MISSING IT, NOT ONCE BUT EVERY TIME! I BELIEVE THAT HE MISSED ON PURPOSE, WHICH CREATED, A NOT EXACTLY, FRUITY AROMA IN THE CAB…

I SETTLED IN TO COLLEGE LIFE, PART OF WHICH INCLUDED PLAYING IN A BEYOND AWESOME 100 PIECE BAND, WHICH WAS A DRAMATIC DEPARTURE FROM THE FUNKY LITTLE HIGH SCHOOL BAND THAT I HAD JUST LEFT ON LONG ISLAND…..

I HADN’T, YET, EVEN DEVELOPED AN OPINION OF WHAT I THOUGHT OF GOING TO SCHOOL IN MISSISSIPPI, WHEN AN AMAZING THING HAPPENED…DALTON SMITH, A 1958 GRADUATE THAT WENT STRAIGHT INTO THE 1ST CHAIR OF STAN KENTON’S TRUMPET SECTION, HAD SHOWN UP, UN-ANNOUNCED, AT THE SCHOOL….AS IT TURNED OUT, THE KENTON BAND WAS ON A BREAK AND DALTON HAD SOME BUSINESS TO TAKE CARE OF AT THE SCHOOL….AS HE WAS SOON DUE TO RE-JOIN THE KENTON BAND, SOME OF THE GUYS DECIDED TO HOST A PARTY FOR HIM, WHICH TURNED IN TO A JAM SESSION…..AT THE END OF THE EVENING, AFTER PLAYING SEVERAL TUNES WITH DALTON, UPON PACKING UP MY HORN, DALTON WALKED OVER AND SAID, “YOU  SOUNDED GOOD, WHERE DID YOU SAY THAT YOU WERE FROM”? I ANSWERED NEW YORK, AND THEN HE ADDED, “WHEN YOU GO HOME LOOK UP NAT PIERCE. HE’S WOODY HERMAN’S PIANIST AND ARRANGER”………

AND SO IT CAME TO PASS THAT ON RETURNING HOME, I PAID A VISIT TO LOCAL 802, THE MUSICIAN’S UNION,ON A WEDNESDAY, WHICH WAS THE ‘MEET AND GREET’ DAY, AND INQUIRED AS TO THE POSSIBLE PRESENCE OF NAT PIERCE…SOMEONE SAID, “YEAH, I JUST SAW HIM”, AND BEFORE TOO LONG, THERE WAS THIS LARGE MAN STANDING IN FRONT OF ME WHO SAID, “I’M NAT PIERCE, ARE YOU LOOKING FOR ME”…….BUT I  NOTICED HIS EYES FOCUSSED ON MY TROMBONE CASE, AND A SECOND LATER, HE SAID “TROMBONE, YOU PLAY TROMBONE….I HAD BARELY UTTERED YES, WHEN HE LITERALLY GRABBED ME BY THE SHOULDER AND STARTED MOVING ME OUT OF THE ‘ROSELAND BALLROOM’,WHERE THE WEEKLY UNION GATHERINGS WERE HELD, OUT ON TO 52ND STREET AND THEN WE WALKED A HALF A BLOCK AND ENTERED A PLACE WITH A SIGN THAT SAID “NOLA STUDIOS” AND STARTED CLIMBING STAIRS…

AS WE REACHED THE SECOND FLOOR, I BEGAN TO HEAR THE SOUND OF AN INCREDIBLE BAND, AND THEN UP TO THE 3RD FLOOR, AND THERE ASSEMBLED WAS CHARLIE BARNET’S BAND (I RECOGNIZED HIM FROM AN ALBUM COVER)…….NAT POINTED TO AN EMPTY CHAIR IN IN THE TROMBONE SECTION, AND AWAY I WENT….FROM THE FIRST MOMENT UNTIL THE REHEARSAL ENDED, I COULDN’T DOCUMENT ANYTHING THAT HAD JUST HAPPENED! MOST OF THE MUSICIANS LEFT IMMEDIATELY, BUT 2 GUYS WHO WERE TAKING THEIR TIME, REMAINED…THE FIRST FELLOW AND I SHOOK HANDS AND HE INTRODUCED HIMSELF AS ‘CLARK TERRY’

THE SECOND CAT AND I HAD A SIMILAR MEETING A FEW MOMENTS LATER, AND HE SAID HIS NAME WAS ‘JOHN WOEHRMANN’..I HAD BEEN SO ENTRANCED IN PLAYING, THAT I DIDN’T NOTICE THAT JOHN HAD BEEN THE BASS TROMBONIST IN THE BAND!….JOHN SAID THAT HE LIKED THE WAY THAT I PLAYED, AND WOULD I BE INTERESTED IN A GIG WITH THE TOMMY DORSEY BAND, THEN UNDER THE DIRECTION OF WARREN COVINGTON.. I ANSWERED SOMETHING LIKE,”ARE YOU KIDDING”?

FAST FORWARD ABOUT 6 WEEKS AND THERE I WAS ON A BANDSTAND IN QUEENS, NEW YORK,AN 18 YEAR OLD KID, AUDITIONING FOR WARREN COVINGTON AND THE TOMMY DORSEY BAND, ON BASS TROMBONE. WARREN HIRED ME, AND I LEFT ON TOUR WITH THE DORSEY BAND THAT EVENING!

ALTHOUGH I RETURNED TO HATTIESBURG, BRIEFLY, TO PICK UP SOME BELONGINGS, I NEVER LOOKED BACK, AND WENT FROM ONE GREAT BAND TO ANOTHER, AND TO ANOTHER! JOHNNY LONG, TONY PASTOR, LES & LARRY ELGART, THE JIMMY DORSEY BAND, UNDER LEE CASTLE, WOODY HERMAN, CLARK TERRY AND TITO PUENTE…..AND THEN MANY YEARS IN THE DUTCH RECORDING STUDIOS, A WRITING CAREER ENSUED,

I MAINLY WANTED TO DOCUMENT HOW I KNEW JOHN AND WHAT AN INSTRUMENTAL ROLE HE ACCOUNTED FOR IN MY LIFE….

MIKE, I PUT SOME SERIOUS THOUGHT AND TIME IN TO THIS LETTER…I DID IT BECAUSE IN READING THE PIECE THAT YOU WROTE, YOU IMPRESSED UPON ME THE INTEREST AND IMPORTANCE YOU HAD IN FINDING OUT ABOUT JOHN…..SADLY, I DIDN’T GET TO KNOW HIM MORE THAN AN HOUR OR SO, AND THEN SUBSEQUENTLY A COUPLE OF PHONE CALLS COORDINATING THE AUDITION WITH THE DORSEY BAND….I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW ABOUT THIS ARRANGING ACCOMPLISHMENTS UNTIL MUCH, MUCH LATER….

BY THE WAY, “WALDO’ WAS A REAL CAT, THAT EVERYONE THAT CONGREGATED AT ‘CHARLIE’S TAVERN’ ON 52ND ST, KNEW…….HIS NAME WAS BOB “WALDO” CARTER….I RECENTLY DISCOVERED HIM IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA, AND HAD HIM AS A GUEST ON MY RADIO SHOW.

KINDLY,

RICH PULIN

 

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2 Comments

  1. Could the title refer to Waldo Carter, who played trumpet with the Morrow band in the early 60’s and, though not blind, did (at least in later life) sport some pretty thick glasses?

  2. Stuart, that is possible. My source for the Waldo info I posted was the liner notes for that wonderful 1980 Morrow Hindsight LP which includes ” I Remember Waldo.” Presumably, that info came from Buddy Morrow himself. Of course, he couldn’t remember many other details about what was going on in his band in the early sixties then (some 16 years later), so it is possible.

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