Jack Sheldon Interview by Monk Rowe – 2/15/1999 – Los Angeles, CA

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My name is Monk Rowe and we are in Los Angeles
filming for the Hamilton College Jazz Archive. I’m very pleased to have Jack Sheldon with
me today, who is a trumpet player, vocalist and I’ve heard, outgoing personality. JS: Oh good, thank you. MR: So was that all right? JS: Yes, very good. MR: Good, good. Welcome. JS: Thank you, I’m so glad to be here. I think this is such a great thing you’re
doing. MR: Thank you. JS: The jazz history. MR: Uh huh. The history of jazz as told by the people
who do it. JS: Yeah. MR: You’re a product of the early 1930s in
Jacksonville? JS: Well I was born in 1931 in Jacksonville,
Florida, at the St. Vincent’s Hospital. MR: Can you tell me, as a young kid, what
kind of music was kind of seeping into your consciousness at that time? JS: Well the first thing I remember, then
I moved to Michigan, I moved to Saginaw, Michigan. We were following my father, but we never
caught up with him, but we were following him though. And so I got to Saginaw, Michigan and my mother
brought home a record of Clyde McCoy playing “The Sugar Blues.” So this sent me. When I heard that, I wanted to play the trumpet,
and it was great. And then also I saw Harry James in the movies. And he was playing with Betty Grable and he
had his band and everything, and Dick Haymes I think was singing with him. A great time, great music. And so I was poor then and I couldn’t really
get a trumpet, so I made a trumpet out of tinker toys, these wooden toys that you put
together, so I’d stand outside the Y where I swam and would compete, and was a diver
and all. Then finally I got a scholarship to a school
called Cranbrook, in Bloomfield Hills, and there I checked out a trumpet, and I got a
trumpet and I started playing the trumpet. Then I moved back to Florida, and then the
war was on then. So I started working right away with Gene
Brant’s band. MR: Interesting you say that. A lot of the musicians went in the service,
did that open some opportunities for a young guy like you? JS: Yeah it was great for me, yeah. I was young and I got in a union, I went down
with a pipe. Gene Brant got me, and this was a great guy,
a trombone player, and he worked at the George Washington Hotel, sort of a society band I
guess, I really don’t remember now what it was we played. Although I don’t know, he always thought he
was jazz I’m sure. And he taught me how to read. He struggled with me to teach me syncopation
and get me so I could read the stuff. Then I went in and I guess I got a suit, I
got a blue suit, and I went in and started playing when I was about 12, or the same year
that I got the trumpet. I started working right away. MR: Were they paying you as a 12 year old
the same money that they were giving the adults? JS: I think so. I never really asked. I never knew. But I think they thought I was an adult, with
that suit you know. I could go up to the bar, I remember I got
a whiskey sour, and it was much harder to play, after I kept seeing a lot of different
clusters of notes. MR: I see. JS: But that didn’t bother me though. MR: What really sold you as far as being – at
what point in your career as a youth did you say “I’m going to be a musician all my life.” JS: Oh always. I knew that before I got the trumpet. I wanted to play and that was to me – Harry
James, to see him, I just loved Harry James and I wanted to be like that, and I wanted
to play the trumpet, and I loved the trumpet. That was always what I wanted to do. So I always knew what I wanted to do. That was a great thing I guess, not wondering
or anything. And I always loved all kinds of show business. I liked the playing and the singing and acting. MR: Yeah. So it wasn’t purely just the music. It was the whole spectrum. JS: The acceptance. Yeah, being in front of an audience and getting
the reaction from the people, I guess getting that love, and wanting that love and wanting
to play. I was always lucky, I always got to hang around
with the greatest musicians of the time. Down in Florida, now when I was started, well
Ross Tompkins was a little after me, and he was down there, and there were some – Bobby
Banks, he was an alto player that was in Jacksonville, Florida, and he introduced me to Charlie Parker,
which sounded strange to me at first, very strange. And Dizzy Gillespie sounded strange to me
then too. I liked Al Killian and Roy Eldridge and Coleman
Hawkins and those guys. But then I came to Los Angeles and I got a
job at the Central Market downtown, and right next to the Million Dollar Theater, where
Dizzy Gillespie was appearing, and Sammy Davis Jr. with the Will Maston Trio. So I went backstage and Dizzy was warming
up, and I said, “Dizzy, will you get me in? I’m a trumpet player too.” So he got me in every day to see his big band,
which was just incredible – well you know that band, just incredible. So I was just in heaven with that thing. Now Dizzy never recognized me after that. I’d see him in the years after that when I
was actually playing and working and everything, and he’d always say, “You’re that golf player,
aren’t you? A golfer?” He always thought I was a golfer. Then on Merv Griffin he finally got to he
know who I was. MR: Why did you come to Los Angeles? JS: Well my aunt had come out from Florida,
and she was teaching swimming at the Ambassador Hotel, so I came to teach swimming and go
to college, I wanted to go to USC, and I went there and I went to City College and UCLA. MR: Were you studying music? JS: Yeah. Always music. And I started working right away on Main Street
downtown, little jobs. And I met Lennie Niehaus and a lot of great
players, Irving Bush who’s a friend of mine still, we’ve been friends for 50 yeas now. He was the first trumpet player for the Philharmonic,
and he played for Nat Cole and all, a great trumpet player. So we met in college at City College, and
I’ve known him all that time. MR: Someone told me a story about you working
on the sidewalk with your case out in front of you? JS: Yeah. I did that when I was doing the Merv Griffin
Show, which I was making good money and everything but Stanley, the guitar player, what’s his
name? MR: Stanley Jordan? JS: Yeah, Stanley Jordan came on. He had made a living outside doing that. So I wanted to do it. So I went and I played and I put a hat out,
and I made money, and I really had a lot of fun. And I had a little thing like this, with backgrounds
that I made, with a synthesizer and a drum machine. And so it was a real good way to practice,
and then people would give me money and I’d get crowds of people. I did that for a while, but then people would
think I was destitute and people came up and said, “You poor thing.” I loved doing it. I’d do that today but it’s so dangerous now
too, people, you never know, you may have some nuts come around. I’m one of the few people that’s done that
though, right? MR: Yeah. JS: Any of the other guys said they did that? MR: No, no. You know you see it in New York. I’ve never seen it here. They do it in New York. JS: Well people looked at me like I was nuts. But I mean – and that money that I got in
that hat was some of the best money I ever got. I don’t know why. You’d count those dollars after. I made like a 170 bucks sometimes. MR: Wow. And the government never knows about it either. JS: Well now they do, yeah. Well the government won’t check on the jazz
archive, will it now? MR: Well I didn’t mean to skip ahead so far,
because I wanted to make sure I get the story here. How was your experience in the military? JS: Okay. I mean, were you in the military? MR: No, I had a high draft number. JS: Well it’s strange. There’s guys in there that make a career of
the military, and they’re great guys. They’re not like me at all though. But I had fun. All we did was play, so I was in the 503rd
Air Force Band. First I was a permanent party Lackland AFB,
which is a boot camp where everybody goes to become a soldier. This was never successful with me. I got in there, and I went to the boot camp
and I got in places where I could play and so I didn’t have to do everything that they
– you know, wash the dishes and everything. This KP, this was no joke. So I got out of doing that stuff. But I remember that my corporal that was the
flight sergeant, Corporal Bristo, I’ll never forget this guy if he’s still around. I wonder if he’s still going now. But he got so mad at me because I got out
of doing so many things. And I just kept playing, and it was great
in a way, but I wanted to be out. So I had a chance to go with Stan Kenton right
after I got out of the Air Force. Bill Berry was in the Air Force too, and Monty
Budwig. Monty Budwig was in the band that I was in. MR: Most of the fellows who were in the service,
which is almost all of them, seem to be fortunate they got to keep playing music. That most of them didn’t have to just leave
it behind for those two, three, four years. JS: Yeah. We were lucky. We went, a whole bunch of us, Monty Budwig
and we went to Las Vegas to see about that band, but then I wanted to be at Edwards AFB
which is only 100 miles. I went home every night to LA. And we’d play and all, and I’d go back in
the morning. It was not bad for me. MR: Was the Kenton band a band that you had
aspired to be in? Or was it just an opportunity. JS: Well I aspired to be in any band. Stan Kenton was great. I would have played with anybody. I mean I tried to get in Chuck Cabot’s band,
you ever hear of him? MR: No that’s not a name I know. JS: He had a Mickey Mouse band, a real good
one though, but I couldn’t read good enough so I couldn’t get in that. So they sent for me, some guy fainted or something,
I don’t know, but I went and joined, for Bud Billings. So I joined them in Philadelphia, and it was
great playing with Stan Kenton. I loved it. A huge sounding band. MR: I guess. JS: That was a lot of fun. But I didn’t like the road though. That was the main time that I went on the
road. I went on the bus and I couldn’t sleep sitting
up. I used to sleep in the back laying down on
the aisle, and right over the motor so I’d get the fumes. In a couple of days I didn’t know what town
I was in. But I only played with him for four months. And then I would work with him when he came
to town. And then I went with Mel Torme to Las Vegas
and we were working, and then Benny Goodman called me. Russ Freeman got me a job with Benny Goodman. And we went to Europe. And I liked Benny Goodman. Everything was first class with Benny. We made a lot of money. He paid the best of anybody, and not too many
people liked Benny though. MR: Yeah, you’re always hearing, most people
will not bad mouth him, but they say, oh that Benny, he had his way about him. JS: Well I loved him, yeah I really loved
him, he was like my father. He was really good to me. But he could be difficult too though. I mean he gave me a hard time for a month
then he would just stop and he would say, “Jack sing it out.” And he didn’t know exactly, and I tried to
play like Harry James or different guys that had played with him, and I could never get
it. Finally we were doing a record date, and he
stopped the band and he said, “Who invented that style you’re playing?” I said, “I did, you like it?” And then everybody laughed and then he wouldn’t
pick on me anymore, he started picking on Urbie Green. It didn’t matter how good a guy played. MR: Wow that’s interesting. Because I heard a similar story, that someone
came back with something just like that, and then he was off his case. As soon as you kind of one-upped him, he’d
go to somebody else. JS: Yeah, and then – I loved him – and then
he was great to me, he was really – I would go and one time he had a party with the mayor
and everybody, and sort of in my honor in New York, when I was with Merv. And I got him and – who’s that great drummer
– Buddy Rich, got him and they did the show, did Merv’s show, and I’d always handle Benny
when he was on Merv’s show. And yeah, so we had some great times. I loved Benny Goodman. MR: But the Kenton thing kind of made you
decide that I’m not going to seek out bands that do the road thing so much? JS: Oh yeah. I wanted to stay in town. And I always taught swimming at my mother’s
swim school, so I’d teach in the daytime and I’d work at night. Then I started recording a lot and I worked
a lot with Dave Pell and his octet, and we worked a lot of jobs. And I didn’t have time to teach swimming anymore,
so I did a lot of record dates. We did a lot of record dates in the ’50s with
Marty Paich and Hank Mancini, Bill Holman, all those people. MR: It’s really a word of mouth thing, isn’t
it? When you move into an area like L.A.? That you make a good impression on a few people
and I mean you’re working. JS: Yeah I guess so, It’s just like you – and
then you have a certain time you do that. Like Pete Candoli who you just talked to,
he did everything for a while, and now Rick Baptist is doing everything. And Warren Luening and the guy that plays
with my big band, William Bargeron. He’s doing a lot of stuff. It’s different cycles you know, and certain
guys do it. Before that it was Joe and Ray Trisceri did
everything in town. And there’s a few guys, I don’t know maybe
about 50 guys that do everything. MR: Did you consider yourself a lead player? A hot player? JS: Always jazz, I played jazz. I always wanted to play solos and be standing
out in front of the band. And I never wanted to read. I didn’t want to do that work of playing lead. That’s hard work. MR: How about the vocals? JS: Benny Goodman let me start singing. Now Stan Kenton wouldn’t let me sing because
he thought I would say something off color, so he would watch me closely. MR: Oh I can’t imagine you saying anything
off color, come on. JS: I can’t either but I mean Stan was worried
that I might. I don’t know where he got that idea. But Benny, you know Benny didn’t care. I took Benny Goodman to see Lenny Bruce one
time, and I said, “What did you think, Benny?” And he said, “He’s skating on thin ice.” Benny was a very clever guy. I loved Benny Goodman. And so I forget what we were talking about. MR: We were talking about the vocal thing. JS: Oh yeah. So we were working in Atlantic City and Flip
Phillips and I wrote a song, called “My Baby Done Told Me.” And we had a little arrangement and everything. And it’s recorded on some album – some album
made in Europe when we were over there. So I started singing with his band and pretty
soon that was part of the show. Benny was a great band leader because he’d
take whatever band he had and make a show out of it, where this guy would have his number. We had Red Norvo and Jerry Dodgion and Bill
Harris and Flip Phillips. So it had a lot of little stuff inside the
band. We’d have a great little show. MR: Cool. JS: And Benny, he was good at doing that. Well I guess all the real good band leaders,
like Duke Ellington, that’s the way he does it too, he uses everybody to their-
MR: Yeah, he’d write to their sound and their personality. JS: Yeah. Use everybody to the hilt. MR: Yeah. Of course you have to be flexible though,
because the next time out you might not have the same people and you have to have that
ability to tailor the music to the players I guess. JS: Yeah. MR: In the late 50s, early 60s, music was
changing quite a bit in this country with rock & roll coming in. Did that affect your work at all? JS: Well I played a couple of Beatles tunes
with Benny Goodman. I played “She’s a Woman.” My love don’t give me presents – something
like that. MR: No kidding? JS: I was trying to be popular any way that
I could. But that’s kind of a good tune though too. And we did an arrangement of that, we did
it at the Theater in the Round in San Francisco. We were staying on the houseboats in Sausalito. And we had Bill Hood who was playing baritone
saxophone, and we were having kind of an orgy on the houseboat. And it had portholes. And Bill Hood wanted to see what was happening
so – he could have come in the door because it was open but I don’t think he knew the
door was open though – so he went up on the roof and he was looking and he fell down and
broke his leg. And we were working in the Theater in the
Round. So when he came up he was limping. So the whole band limped up to go on. And then even Benny Goodman started limping
up. MR: Oh you guys were so sensitive. JS: That was – Peggy Lee was with us, and
a little dancer. Those were great days. MR: I guess he won’t be peeping in too many
portholes. JS: Well he’s gone now, but yeah. He could have come in, but he broke his leg,
and also he was going with a one legged woman, who was a singer. MR: Get out of here. JS: No she sang at The Trident. She had lost one leg, and I guess she had
a wooden leg or something, or a prosthesis, or however you say it. But she’d take that off when they were making
love, and I don’t know, somehow he was telling us about that, it was kind of interesting. MR: I guess. There’s probably a word for it. JS: She could cry though, when she sang ballads
she could cry, and I guess that’s why. You know you lose your leg it makes you sad. So she’d go into a song. MR: Tell me, it makes me think of-
JS: Did you ever go with a one legged singer? MR: No, not a one legged singer, no. JS: You seemed to identify somehow. MR: I don’t know, maybe there’s a desire there
or something. JS: Well yes. I don’t know, she had some kind of specialty
that she did, Bill seemed to love it, I don’t know. But then he fell off and broke his leg. That was really something. MR: All right. You worked comedy into your repertoire sometime
along here. JS: Yes. I was working with Julie London and Bobby
Troup. Bobby Troup just passed away you know, last
Sunday night. We’re going to do a memorial with my big band,
and Supersax and Page Cavanaugh. But I was working with Bobby Troup and Julie
London. We were working at Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago. And she stopped in the middle of her act and
asked me for a cigarette and then we started talking and I developed a comedy from that. I wrote “The Atomic Bomb,” a song that I used
to do, well I guess I still do it but I haven’t done it in a while though, but that was a
funny song. And we started doing it with them. And then I met Jack Marshall, Frank Marshall’s
father. Frank Marshall is this movie director that
made, with Harrison Ford, what was it, “Indiana Jones,” all those pictures. So he’s doing real good. And Jack was his father, and we wrote comedy
together. This guy was so funny. He was a guitar player, and he wrote arrangements. He wrote the – what was the name of that show
on the television that’s so popular – “The Munsters” yeah. So we did that a lot of time with Manny Klein
and Uan Rasey. Shelly Manne, a lot of good guys. This guy was really funny so we did a lot
of comedy together. We did a comedy album in fact for Capitol
Records. MR: Amazing number of swing musicians, jazz
musicians, found their way into the studios here. Most of them were older than you, weren’t
they? JS: I hope so. MR: Yeah, I hope so too. JS: Because now I’m older than most everybody. MR: You must have kept them young with your
distinctive personality. JS: Yeah, well I used to get a lot of laughs. Marty Paich used to get mad at me if I’d get
too many laughs, but he wanted more serious stuff. Hank Mancini was real good. One time I got late. We were doing “The Pink Panther,” in fact
and I was in San Francisco. I was with Jack Marshall, and he was with
some beautiful Filipino girl. I remember I overslept and I was staying at
the Sausalito Hotel and so I didn’t get to this date. And finally I got to the date and the contractor
was Bobby Helfer, and he took me aside and he says, “This is a business,” you know, “what
happened? You have to straighten up.” And I said, “I was fogged in.” And he said, “I called the airport, there
was no fog.” And I said, “There is many ways to be fogged
in, Billy.” And this one got famous. Hank Mancini liked him. But he had worked around me, so he didn’t
have to panic. MR: How did your entrance into live T.V. come
about? JS: Well I auditioned for a show – well first
of all I went in with Steve Allen. He gave me my first break and I’d done some
material off the comedy album that I’d done for Capitol Records. And then from that I got a show called “The
Nuthouse,” and I did a routine called “Hunting with a Falcon.” And it’s very clean and all but there was
a part in it where you join a Falcon Club and everybody comes up and asks you how’s
your bird? And at this time, that was cut out of the
routine, because it was so suggestive of bird loving or bird fooling around with. But that’s how things progressed. MR: Times have changed, hey? JS: Yeah they’ve changed, and for the better
I think. And then I went on from that to work on “The
Carol Williams Show,” at CBS, and then I got my own show called “Run, Buddy, Run,” and
after that I got a show with Ryan O’Neil and Lee Taylor called “Under the Yum Yum Tree,”
that was for ABC. And then we did “The Girl With Something Extra,”
for NBC with Sally Field and John Davidson. And right now I’m doing some movies with Burt
Reynolds, three movies, where my name is Trumpet and I play a guy with a bar. MR: What was the show you did where you played
a trumpet player? Didn’t you have a show where you played a
trumpet player? Maybe I’m mistaken
JS: Oh yeah, well that would be “The Girl With Something Extra.” Yeah. And Farrah Fawcett was my girlfriend. And that girl I love – Terri Garr. I’m forgetting names now. It’s old timer’s disease is setting in. Terry Garr, I love her, yeah, she’s nice. MR: This incredibly long list of, not only
people but movies and so forth, the music business requires you to really be on time
and take care of business here. Is that correct? JS: Yeah. They want to start – well it’s very expensive. Everything in the entertainment business is
so expensive now. I think for a minute it costs a hundred thousand
dollars or something for a studio and a big orchestra; and the movies would be even more
than that. So when you’re late it’s not good. MR: I had to ask you about a local T.V. show
you did with Lenny Bruce and someone Meany? JS: Joe Maini. A great alto player if you never heard of
him, he was a great alto player. He finally shot himself. But he went to this guy Ray Graziano’s house
and he was just getting divorced and he was all upset and Ray Graziano bought a 22 pistol
and he said, “Watch out, it’s loaded,” and Joe said “no it isn’t” and shot himself. He hung around for about three days and then
he died. But this guy Ray Graziano, he had a Volkswagen
bus and he was turning right on the Harbor Freeway and he turned right and the bus made
it but he fell out the door. He was a little loaded. So I swear this is how he died. The bus made it around and he fell out. He couldn’t make the turn. MR: And someone ran over him? JS: I don’t know the rest of the story but
I know he died from it though. But I asked his wife, was he drinking or anything? She said no. Either maybe he just forgot, I don’t know,
he just couldn’t make the turn. But anyway, that’s the way with Joe Maini. But Lenny Bruce and I did this show called
“Stars” or something. A guy had a show that he had a car dealership
on Wilshire and Western. And it was Stairway to the Stars or Rocket
to Stardom – Rocket to Stardom, I think that was it. So we went on and at this time there was another
guy, Jay Caruso who stole cars and had been indicted for cheating everybody or doing something
terrible. So Lenny and I went on it. He was starting to sing without a song, but
he couldn’t get the right key, and he was going: withou -with -wi, withou, without a
song. And I was playing stuff in the background. And then he finally says, “Caruso is innocent.” And they chased us out of this place. We ran, and we went back to Pete Jolly’s house,
who you just interviewed. Pete Jolly, we went to his house. Stan Levy and Richie Kamuca were there. They had watched. MR: Get out there for a while, Jez. Lenny Bruce must have been something to hang
out with, if offstage he was anything like on stage. JS: Yeah, well he was a lot of fun, we did
have fun working with him. We worked Joe Maini and myself and Kenny Drew
and Philly Jo Jones and Leroy Vinnegar. We opened this burlesque club called Duffy’s. And we worked there with Lenny and Lenny’s
wife Honey, she sang at the time. She had stripped before but she didn’t want
to strip anymore, or Lenny didn’t want her to. And so we worked there and we opened the place
up. And about two o’clock in the morning, everybody
would be swinging. They closed the club so one time I brought
everybody home to my house. Well Yvonne DeCarlo had come in there with
a gigolo, with a guy with a pinstripe suit and a little moustache, black and white shoes,
slick hair. Looked a lot like you in fact. And so she got up on the stage and they were
fixing the stage at the time and it had a hole in it. And she fell in this hole and just her legs
were sticking up. So I took everybody to my house and I was
married at the time. My wife woke up and kicked everybody out. And she was fighting with a gigolo out on
the lawn, and the cops came, and they got arrested, and they were written up in Confidential
Magazine, which was one of the first magazines back then. I remember Robert Mitchum was in it with Lila
Leeds, getting busted. Went to the road camp out in Malibu. MR: You’ve led a pretty boring life haven’t
you? JS: No I’ve had a great life, I really have
had a great life. Before I did anything I played with Wardell
Gray, that was one of my first jobs, so I worked all over town with him. Then Earl Bostic, I worked a lot with him. And he was a great player, kind of different
than jazz, but- MR: Yeah, kind of rhythmy and bluesy. JS: Huge sound, yeah. He would fill up a hall so he was fun to play
with. MR: You must have matched up pretty well with
him as far as big sound, ey? JS: Yeah. Well I don’t know now, he had a bigger sound. He was really, and he was just famous then
too. And then I worked with Dexter Gordon, I got
to work with some great guys. And then Charlie Parker came out and I got
to play with him. We were playing at a place called Dingbods
on Florence and Normandy. And a bass player had this little club. So we went out there and we had the drums. And we were waiting for Russ Freeman, so I
played the Blues in F and Charlie Parker played and everything. And we got through and he said, “Let’s wait
for Russ.” And so you know, I wasn’t a piano player anyway. So then he drank some brandy, we waited for
Russ and it was a whole different – he was different. But he was a great player, Charlie Parker. Well you know that. MR: Wow, did you have to keep track of him
while he was out here? JS: I didn’t have to, no. But he was around though, and Chet was playing
with him at the Tiffany Club and I think I was in the Air Force at the time but I would
come in every night anyway, so. But I think he died – he died when he was
36 didn’t he? MR: Yes he did. JS: Yeah, real young. MR: Yeah. So it must not have been that long after that. JS: No, it was right after that, yeah. And he was hung up with heroin. MR: Can you recall some of the best moments
of some of this long list of live T.V. things? The fact that it was live, were there some
hairy moments that would come up? JS: Oh like “The Merv Griffin Show?” MR: Yeah. JS: Well there would be just funny stuff,
yeah. I remember, and Pete Candoli, we worked together
on Merv’s show for like twenty years. And Pete, we’d play in Las Vegas, we played
an hour and a half show and it was all acts. And I don’t know, I’d be exhausted playing
third trumpet, and Pete would always hit that high C on the theme song going out. But Pete Candoli’s the one that kind of invented
that thing with Woody Herman of the screaming trumpet, didn’t he? On “Northwest Passage” and all? Yeah he’s a great trumpet player. Mostly anything we did was funny. Nothing was too hairy. MR: Were you on the show when John and Yoko
came on Merv Griffin? JS: No, I think that must have been in New
York. Well I don’t know was it out here? If it was out here I was on it, yeah. MR: I can’t recall actually. Who were some of the guests that you liked
to see come on? JS: Well I always liked George Carlin and
just the real good comics I loved to see, Richard Pryor and Woody Allen and those guys. Well that’s the thing about Merv’s show that
was so great, you got to meet everybody, all the great people. I got to meet Lucille Ball. She was great. She would always say, “You’re not going to
wear those pants on the show are you?” She was very motherly to me. And we got to meet Oscar Peterson I think
on that show. Then we used to go to Canada and he’d come
and sit in with me, and that was a great thrill, God what a great piano player he is. And we got to sing with Ethel Merman and dance
with the other one, the girl that did all the dancing – Ann Miller, yeah. And then Bernadette Peters, I got to work
with her, I love Bernadette Peters, what a great singer she is. MR: Merv Griffin was a pretty powerful man. Was he good to work for? JS: Yeah, great, really great. It was an easy job. We went in at 4:30 and we were through at
8:30. We’d work three days a week I think. MR: So you were filming a couple of shows
a day or something? JS: Yeah. And he never bothered anybody. He let me do anything I wanted to do. He would cut it out if I got too weird, but
that hardly ever happened though. MR: No, I can’t imagine. If you had a conflict, were you able to get
your own substitute? JS: With Merv? MR: Yeah. JS: Yeah. We could always take off and do anything that
happened. He didn’t like it if you took off too long,
I think he got mad at Jake Hanna when he went with Supersax. And then Nick Ceroli started doing it. MR: I see. JS: But if you had to do a record date or
anything – I was doing the series “The Girl With Something Extra” when I did Merv’s show. So I’d take off a lot during that. MR: Did it take a while to get comfortable
in front of the cameras for you? JS: Not for me, no, I just loved it, you know
I love it. And I feel better on the stage than I do anywhere
else really, I’m more at home and more relaxed. It’s such fun for me, it really is fun, and
the cameras being on makes it better. It’s exciting but mostly just fun. MR: Let me ask you about a few of the people
who you’ve been featured soloist with, Count Basie? What was Basie like? JS: Oh well Count Basie, he didn’t need anybody
else in the world, he could just play just by himself. And he was marvelous. So he was just really special. I love Count Basie. I picked him up one night in San Francisco. The band was playing and we went back over
to my place in Sausalito. I got him a girl and we listened to Lucho
Gatiga all night. You ever hear of him? MR: No. JS: Great singer from Brazil. And Count Basie had never heard of him either. Lucho Gatiga. You’ve got to hear this guy. He is really sensational. And so we were all night up with Buckwheat,
some of these guys are all dead now, well Basie’s dead too. And I had a girl drive him back and I said,
“Did you like it, Basie?” And he said, “Smashing.” I love Count Basie. He sat in with Benny Goodman’s band and we
never sounded so good before or after as when Count Basie played with us. MR: Isn’t that amazing? JS: Yeah he just has got it. He just is really something. MR: He somehow makes everyone play better,
because it’s not like he plays a ton all the time. JS: No. Yeah, just a little bit but it’s just right. And he knows how to swing. MR: How about working with Sammy Davis? JS: Oh well now he’s the best entertainer
in a night club that I ever saw. Better than anybody. With him I just recorded with him, but I got
to see him a lot in Las Vegas when I was there with Merv. And when you see him on the stage, he never
could, the TV really couldn’t capture him, because I think he was too big for TV. He was so sensational. He would do impersonations and you would think
those people were there. It was like seeing a whole theater full of
people. He’d do Tony Bennett and he did him so good,
and he did Humphrey Bogart and everything. And he was the best I ever saw. MR: Wow. Have you ever had over the years, had to change
your physical approach to trumpet playing? JS: Well I started taking lessons about ten
years ago I think, something like that, with Uan Rasey. And he’s helped me. I’m still playing about the same way that
I always did, but he’s helped me a lot with my range and everything. I’m still taking from him. I’ll take for the rest of my life now. I studied singing with his daughter, who works
with the L.A. Opera, Luanna. So yeah, he’s changed me. He’d like to change me more and get me to
hit the note right on the head instead of coming up to it, I do that a lot, I have to
watch that. MR: Do you know you’re doing it? JS: No. I mean and then he’ll stop me and say, “No,
hit it right on the head.” I have a tendency, I guess it’s jazz or just
a habit of – getting up to the pitch. And he stops me and he wants it right on the
pitch, which is much more difficult for me. MR: Yeah. It’s almost like an ear thing too, isn’t it? JS: Yeah. And so you hear it first, and I don’t know
where it got in that habit. MR: If you had to list a few of the trumpet
players that influenced you pretty strongly in your formative years, who would they be? JS: Well Harry James and Roy Eldridge and
Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Clifford Brown. MR: All the giants. JS: Yeah. MR: In fact, I think it’s in the Grove Dictionary
of Jazz they said that your playing is reminiscent of Miles Davis. JS: Boy that’s a compliment. MR: Yeah. JS: Yeah. He was so great because he was so simple. And everybody could copy him because it was
so easy what he played, but you know it was so hard to think of that first. MR: Right. Yeah I can do that, well you should have done
it. JS: Yeah I wish I would have thought of that. MR: Isn’t that interesting though, sometimes
it’s not just the playing it’s the thinking of it. It’s not just the playing of it. JS: Well that’s what was so great about Miles,
he just plays melodies. He influenced everybody to change all the
trumpet players I think. Well Dizzy, everybody wanted to play like
Dizzy but nobody could do it. I’m still trying to play some of those Dizzy
thing. Jon Faddis can do it, but that’s about it. MR: Do you get, business wise, do you get
a taste from all these movies you’ve played on? JS: Yeah. MR: That’s good. It’s like an unbelievably long list here. JS: That’s SAG, a great union. MR: What were some of your favorite soundtracks
or writers for the movie thing? JS: Well Johnny Mandel, I love him. We did “The Sandpiper” with “The Shadow of
Your Smile,” and that’s still a great score. MR: And you did a great thing on that, didn’t
you? JS: Yeah. I think I influenced players in the movies
because I hear a lot of guys sound like me, which they didn’t before that. Although Miles made a couple of movies with
Jean Moreau, “The Diary of a Chambermaid,” I think he played in that. And that certainly started it out. I loved Hank Mancini, he was great. And Marty Paich I love. I don’t know if we ever did any movies, we
did a lot of recordings together, Marty Paich. And let’s see-
MR: I see an amazing number of kinds of movies too. Everything from a “Freaky Friday” to “Lovers
and Other Strangers” and “The Munsters.” It must be amazing to hear yourself on T.V.,
on the radio, when these things come back. Or do you forget that you’ve done them? JS: Oh no. Well I forget I’ve done some of them, yeah. But the ones that I had solos in I can usually
remember. But I forget some of them yeah, because they
don’t come out then for a year or so after you make them. MR: Let me ask you about a few of the records
you’ve played. I’m going to work backwards here because I
spotted something about “The Simpsons?” JS: Oh yeah. Well that was because of “Conjunction Junction.” That’s something that I did that got real
famous, with all the “Schoolhouse Rock” things. MR: Oh yeah. I didn’t know you were on that. JS: Well I sing “Conjunction Junction” and
“I’m Just a Bill” and whole bunch of those things, because of Bob Dorough and Dave Frishberg. They started writing them twenty years ago
or so. The first one we did was “Conjunction Junction.” And I played the trumpet. We layed down a track first and then I sang
it. Teddy Edwards and I.
MR: That’s Teddy Edwards too? JS: Yeah. MR: What about, one album I like a lot, with
Bill Berry, “Hello Rev.” JS: Oh yeah. I love that album. That’s live at Concord, with – the trumpet
section was Cat Anderson, Gene Coe and Blue Mitchell and me. Blue Mitchell was marvelous, I love Blue Mitchell. He worked with me a lot after I had him in
a small band with Art Pepper and Cat Anderson and Tricky Lofton and Dave Frishberg and Max
Roach and Joe Mondragon and Jack Marshall. We worked in San Francisco around up there,
and it was a real good little band. I played the electric organ then mostly, and
I played trumpet too, but a lot of electric organ. And I forget, what was the first part of the
question? MR: Well I was just pointing out that album
is a real hot one. JS: Yeah, what is it, which album? MR: “Hello Rev.”
JS: Oh yeah. So I remember we were in Concord and Don Menza
and Richie Kamuca and Jack Nimitz and Marshall Royal was playing lead alto. And Lanny Morgan was playing. And Dave Frishberg and Monty Budwig and Frank
Capp. So we got a hot band. And then I had just brought a girl back from
Cincinnati, Cincinnati Sam. And I had her with me there, and she later
married Dave Frishberg and they have two kids together now. MR: Did she have one or two legs? JS: Two legs. MR: Good. JS: Beautiful girl. And I remember she was in the audience that
night, and so Dave fell immediately in love with her and they got married. They’re divorced now, but it’s keeping him
in Portland. You know Dave Frishberg? MR: I almost got an interview with him, almost. JS: He’s a great mind. MR: A funny man. You two must be something together, that’s
all I can say. JS: Well I’m the one that started him singing,
with my band. MR: Get out. No kidding? JS: Yeah because I always loved the way he
sang and so I used to always make him sing a tune. And now he sings every tune. He’s brilliant, really brilliant. MR: What’s it like to try to put a big band
together these days? JS: Oh it’s a thrill. The musicians are so great. When I do it I just put the rhythm section
– if I’ve got a good rhythm section, I’m happy then, because then nothing much can happen. These kids that you get are sensational. They can read anything, they all play lead
and play jazz and do everything now. It’s a different world. I think now you have to do everything. You have to play lead, play jazz and play
classical, play every which way. Because that’s what the studios want now. They don’t specialize like they used to. MR: Yeah you would get known as, you know,
call this guy- JS: Yeah I was always a jazz player. And now everybody has to do everything. But to put a big band together, it’s always
a thrill. We just got through working the AT&T Golf
Tournament up there with Clint Eastwood, and we had a great show. Diana Krall and Glen Campbell and Michael
Bolton, and Clint Eastwood and his wife and my band, and oh it was sensational. MR: Who writes most of your charts? JS: Tom Kubis. I don’t know if you know him. He’s a young guy. He teaches at Golden West College, a real
genius. Great composer. MR: Is the live jazz scene healthy around
here or not? JS: Yeah it always has been for me. I always work good and there’s a place called
Steamers, a great club in Fullerton wherever that is, somewhere way out somewhere. I worked there. We’re going to record there in April. And I work at Chadney’s every Sunday night
with Ross Tompkins, we do a duet. And then I work with the big band and work
different places with the quartet: Spagitinni’s and different clubs, the Catalinas in Hollywood,
and I work sometimes with Jeff Goldblum, with a movie star band, with Peter Weller plays
trumpet and Jeff Goldblum plays piano. MR: No kidding. JS: And when we work a place you can’t get
in to that place. MR: Is he a good player? JS: Yeah he’s pretty good, for a movie star. MR: He’s good for a movie star. JS: They got their own way of playing, movie
stars. You play a little, you pose a little. I worked a lot with George Segal. MR: George Segal, heck of a banjo player,
isn’t he? JS: Well-
MR: For a movie star. JS: He plays good, yeah. And he promised me he’s going to learn another
chord next year. MR: Maybe even a minor one, huh? JS: I doubt that, I don’t want to hope for
too much. But he’s a good actor though, and he acts
like he’s playing. MR: What’s your advice to a young trumpet
player who aspires to what you do. JS: Well just study all you can. You know when I was a kid there was just – here
in Los Angeles there was just Chet Baker and Conti Candoli and me, and not so many others
that were right here that lived here. And now there’s hundreds of guys that are
sensational. They do everything. And you’ve got to study everything you can
about music. Because all the kids I’ve got in my band they
can read anything and they have all played jazz and the musician caliber is up high. Well you know from teaching, don’t you think? MR: The schools have done that. JS: Oh yeah, the kids are good boy. I’ve got a drummer, Ray Brinker, he graduated
from Texas, North Texas, they’ve had a lot of good people come out of there. And he can read anything. He plays great. This guy’s one of the best I’ve ever heard. MR: Is there let’s say a decade, a ten year
span, where the music of that ten year span was really a favorite for you? JS: Yeah I think when Charlie Parker started
and Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie was going, Lester Young. Maybe the 30s and 40s, back. I don’t know, well then Miles came along. It’s all good, it keeps going, it get going
fast for me though with a lot of the real modern guys. But I guess I’m getting a little older. I love the rhythm music. I love the bebop. That was so new. And I don’t think – nobody that I’ve heard
plays much better than Charlie Parker. Oh but Louis Armstrong too, nobody plays better
than him really, you hear the records he made, that guy. And then these new kids, what is it Roy Hargrove,
he’s great too. There’s just all kinds of talent. MR: What’s the future of jazz look like for
you? JS: Great. MR: You think it’s healthy? JS: I figured out, if I keep improving at
the rate that I am now, I don’t quite have enough time to get good, but I’m working at
it though. MR: I’ll bet if you move a few numbers around
in your formula, I’ll bet you can get good. JS: Well I’m so limited, I mean I’m working
at stuff now, I’m working on my tonguing and I want to get stuff. Well you know, you’re a player, you really
can never get it as good as I want it. There are certain nights where I’m real good
and everything seems to work, but most of the time it’s a real struggle. Do you find it that way? MR: I guess so. Sometimes you’re your own worst critic. JS: Yeah. I mean I got to play a lot with Stan Getz
too, that was one great thrill of my life. We didn’t record anything, well we did “The
Marrying Man,” a movie. But I worked with him some jobs in Palm Springs
and at Stamford and boy, now there was a real virtuoso. I don’t know if he felt that way, because
it seemed to just flow for him. And I asked him if he practiced, he didn’t
practice anymore, he didn’t have to. I have to practice all the time on the trumpet. MR: Yeah, he seemed to have that ability to
directly connect what was coming out of here through his instrument. JS: Oh it was so great. So I got to be with Zoot Sims a lot, which
that was always good. MR: Are you a guy that, when you improvise,
is it possible to describe in words what you’re trying to do or how you do it? JS: Well I’m trying to play those chords,
and play interesting notes in the chords, and rhythm, and I have be really, a lot of
it has to be on automatic pilot, because I can’t think of it. That’s why I have to practice so much, so
that I get my body just kind of playing. And then I can almost listen to it myself,
and things will happen. And I can direct it and everything. But a lot of it is on automatic pilot. And I compose, and I know what the chords
are, and I know what notes I want to hit, and how melodies work out though, it will
happen with my body and my fingers and everything. You know what I mean? Am I explaining it? You know what I mean. MR: Yeah. And you feel you have to be in pretty good
physical shape to make that all happen. JS: Yeah. The better – it’s like a fighter really, you
have to train like that. And the trumpet especially, you lose it so
fast, your lip, it will just go away in a couple of days. Just like you never played. It doesn’t seem right. And then there are some guys, they say Harry
James didn’t practice that much. But he used to go to my teacher, Uan Rasey
when he wanted to – he played duets with him to get back in shape to do stuff. So I mean everybody has to work on the trumpet
hard. MR: What’s your dream project? If you had a project that you had a backer
for in film or live music or recording. Have you got something in your mind that you
would just love to make happen? JS: Well yeah a bunch of stuff. I’d love to have a T.V. show, a comedy show
about my big band with all the stories of all the guys in the band and all the girls
and all the stuff that can happen with a big band, how interesting it can be, and how great
it would be with the music and the jazz and everything. Now that’s a thought, I don’t know if anybody’s
ever even thought of that. They think of the music as it’s hard to hold
the people. But I don’t think that’s true though. I see some old movies with Bing Crosby where
they just have his face in there for two choruses. And I mean it holds it and it’s just a close
up where he’s singing for two choruses and he sings so good. I think if you have everything so good like
that you could do something like that. But we’ll see if that happens. But we just did this thing with Clint Eastwood
and he was loving it and I was loving being on the stage with him. Boy he’s a pleasure to work with. MR: No kidding. JS: Yeah, he’s just very relaxed. And he loves jazz. And you don’t have to hurry to say stuff,
you know you can just stand there and look at each other. Which is nice to have on the stage. Usually a lot of people you work with, you’ve
got to get your lines in fast before they’ll fill up the time. They don’t want any dead air. MR: Well what kind of thing do you do with
him? JS: With Clint Eastwood? MR: Yeah. JS: Well we just talk back and forth, but
it was great. We had nothing, no kind of plan or anything. But we work real well together. We’ve done it a couple of times now and it
always works real good. Because he’s very confident and he’s Dirty
Harry, you know he doesn’t have to worry about anything. And he’s great to work with. And he loves jazz too. MR: I think he has a son who’s a-
JS: Yeah, Kyle, who I worked with, yeah, he plays bass. I worked with him and Roger Kellaway. We did the Film Institute Award for his father,
and Buddy Colette, all guys you’ve interviewed, Ralph Penland. MR: There’s an unbelievable list of people
out here. JS: Oh yeah now we get just everybody. The competition, well it makes everybody play
– everybody is playing great. MR: You ever get back to New York to play? I shouldn’t say back, do you ever go to New
York to play? JS: Yeah. I’ve been there. What was the last time, oh yeah Carnegie Hall
with Rosemary Clooney, yeah that was a thrill, God I loved her. And I’ve done Carnegie Hall with Benny a few
times, we did the 40 year anniversary, and then I did a few concerts with Benny back
then, and I got to go back with Rosemary Clooney, we did a tribute to Bing Crosby. I love here, she’s a great artist. MR: I see you’ve got a couple of albums out
with the Jack Sheldon Orchestra. JS: Yeah. I have a new one coming out, live on the Queen
Mary, so that will be good. MR: Is that the one that parked down in Long
Beach is it? JS: Yeah, it’s not going anywhere, but it’s
nice though. It’s this big boat. And we did something there with the big band,
it was great. MR: Terrific. Anything that you would like to talk about
that I haven’t thought to ask? The floor is open. JS: No. It’s great, you said everything. I’ll be at the Hollywood Bowl on September
15th, but that won’t matter in the archives. MR: Oh that sounds interesting. JS: Yeah, a tribute to Quincy Jones and Johnny
Mandel and Hank Mancini. MR: Ah. What kind of ensemble do they put together
for that? Is it a studio orchestra? JS: No, John Clayton/Jeff Hamilton Band, a
big jazz band. And Shirley Horn will be there and Plas Johnson,
a great player. I forget who else, but other people too, so
that’ll be nice. MR: Did you ever play on rock stuff? JS: Yeah. I’ve done some records and they called me
in and just had me add to it the trumpet, and I don’t know what happened with it. JS: So I’ve done anything. Anything for money. MR: Yeah, sure, why not? JS: Oh Leon Russell, yeah I did a lot of stuff
with Leon. Love him. MR: There’s a talent. JS: Oh great talent. I’ve been so lucky. I’ve really been around the most talented
people. Dave Frishberg, who you know we worked together
and knew each other before he moved to Portland, but he’s a great genius. I got to be around him. And Bill Berry, here’s a guy who got that
band together. And he’s a great band leader too. He does it with no strain at all. And that was a lot of heavyweight guys in
that band boy. MR: I guess. JS: And Jimmy Cleveland was there. I remember, that was really some good band. Yeah I’ve gotten to be around great people. And Art Pepper, I loved Art Pepper a lot. He was great. Kind of crazy but he was a great player though. MR: Do you think the bop phase of jazz confused
the jazz audience that might have been into swing and so forth? JS: Well probably, because it confused me
at first. When Bobby Banks played me that Charlie Parker
solo, but he played it on his alto and it sounded really strange. You know I couldn’t really get with it right
away, so I guess maybe it was confusing. But it was so hip, you know and I wanted to
be hip, I was at the age where I’d do anything to be hip. I think I must have got a beret and glasses
and everything. And so I loved it after it was so hip. But it was confusing at first. I was more Roy Eldridge. You ever heard Roy Eldridge “Rocking Chair”
with Gene Krupa’s band? MR: Yeah. JS: Oh yeah. I’ve got to get a copy of that. MR: I’ll bet I know where we can get one. JS: Oh boy I’d love to get a copy of that. That’s one of the great records of all time. MR: Yeah. You remind me and I’ll get you one. JS: Okay, great. MR: Well this has really been just a treat. When is the next unexpected time I might hear
you on television do you suppose? JS: I’ll be on the 28th, on the Burt Reynolds
movie. It’s called “Hard Time,” on Ted Turner’s network,
TNT. MR: Oh you’re in it? And you play on it? JS: Yeah. MR: Hey man you’ve got it going from both
ends. JS: Yeah. anything for a buck, man. But you know Burt Reynolds is great, he loves
jazz too, and he’s a great guy. And Charles Durning is in it, he’s a great
actor. And it’s so fun, I’ll tell you, I love these
people. It’s great to be around them. You go and you get a big trailer and you go
and you just sit in there and wait and I practice and wait, and go do the scene and everybody
treats you so good, it’s great. Hollywood is a great life, it really is. MR: Good. Well thank you for coming. JS: Okay, thank you, Monk. MR: And I most appreciated getting your stories
and you’ve added some things I haven’t heard before for sure. JS: Okay, good. MR: It was great. JS: Well thank you.

13 comments

  1. Love Jack! His rendition of “Mack the Knife” is the BEST ever, IMHO. I just spoke to a friend of his today who said he’s had a couple strokes in recent years, but he’s hanging in there and still playing. God bless you, Jack!

  2. Wonderful to know he's still alive 😍😍😍 his songs helped me in elementary school and I'm 54!!! I had a tough time due to dyslexia and if song School House Rock in my head to sort the problems out.

  3. Don't forget, he was the voice that many of us grew to love growing up in the 70s and 80s as one of the many singers/songwriters of Schoolhouse Rock! Conjunction Junction, whats your function?

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