“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:

Woehrmann

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

 

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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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