By Brett Turner
SPRINGFIELD — With Grammy Awards and a place on one of the greatest shows in television history in his past, you’d think legendary trumpet player and “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” big band leader Doc Severinsen would slow down in his golden years.
Not when he can still play music “Once More With Feeling,” his show based on his bestselling recording.
Severinsen and his 17-piece band will open the Springfield Arts Council’s Broadway and Beyond season at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22 at the Clark State Performing Arts Center.
The show is presented by the Springfield Arts Council.
A frequent performer in Springfield over the years, Severinsen, age 89, is excited to be stopping here once again.
“These are the kind of people who like my music and that makes me want to come back and perform,” he said.
He has an association here beyond music. A quarter horse enthusiast, Severinsen often came here to visit the late Blair Folck, who raised horses, and often enjoyed a meal with the family.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the family at the show,” said Severinsen.
Since “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” left the air 24 years ago, Severinsen and his band have toured all over, mixing a variety of standards including “In a Sentimental Mood,” “Georgia on My Mind,” “Sing, Sing, Sing” and “12 O’Clock Jump.”
Vocalist Vanessa Thomas adds a new dimension on songs such as “When You’re Smiling” and “Singing in the Rain.”
“She’s really a fabulous singer. She comes out on stage and just takes over,” he said.
Expect his usual colorful and offbeat wardrobe, which Severinsen said has become as big a part of his identity as his trumpet.
He’ll begin the concert with one of the most familiar theme songs in television history, “Johnny’s Theme,” which opened “The Tonight Show” for years.
Severinsen said the show was so special, because Carson had the brightest mind of anybody he knew and the band had to be paying attention.
“We went to work every day with no idea what could happen,” he said, laughing.
Living an active life keeps Severinsen going. He still rides horses, works out, watches what he eats, surrounds himself with friends and thinks positive thoughts.
He’s even planning how his 100th birthday in 2027 will go — with friends on an all-day trail ride.
Then Severinsen will likely pick up his trumpet and play.
“My wife asked me about retiring, and I said ‘why,’ because it tells me who I am. My music is my way of life.
“If I’m not playing, I get no fun out of that. Playing and a good cigar is what will get you through the day.”
By Brett Turner
Civic Music debuts new season with no holds barred.
Concert Review, September 22, 2013 By Bob Saar for The Hawk Eye
Burlington Civic Music kicked off its new season Sunday afternoon at Memorial Auditorium with a bang that compelled the huge audience to whimper.
The Doc Severinsen Big Band gave the old building new life, as though it had been waiting 80 years for them to show up.
Severinsen, renowned high-note trumpeter, sideman to Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman, was Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” band director for 30 years.
An elegant intro by Civic Music president Barbara McRoberts, and pow! – Severinsen and his band bopped a piece of the “Tonight Show” theme before leaping into “We’re in the Money.”
What a band. What a band!
“How’re you feeling, folks?” Doc asked the crowd, and they cheered like prison inmates for Miley Cyrus. “Sounds like a riot’s about to break out,” he yelped.
Severinsen introduced the second number as “my impression of an older man tap-dancing his way into eternity,” then drifted sideways into a monologue about aging.
“I am not going quietly into the night,” he said, and the crowd bellowed their approval.
Quite simply, this band is the best musical crew to hit a Burlington stage in decades. We’ve seen great shows at Steamboat Days, The Washington, the auditorium, the Blue Shop, but none have reached the soaring heights of Doc Severinsen and his band.
That’s right, no one. There’s isn’t a touring country or rock act that can generate the raw music power of Severinsen’s group. They were super-tight, super-hip and super grooved. They were pumped, bad and loud, the way big band jazz should be. Plenty of bass. All brass; no wimpy strings in Doc’s band.
They played brawny, fat, in-your-face arrangements and they were tight, very tight.
And Doc Severinsen can play. His face got all red and spotty on his solos, but an 86-year-old man can be excused- he squealed the high notes like a teenage girl at a Beatles concert.
OK, enough of that. They looked good, too.
From the ground up, Severinsen sported black patent leather loafers, lime green slacks, a hunter-safety-orange shirt and a jacket that made one imagine a Mexican peacock caught in a child’s rhinestone dream.
A chile pepper-red scarf poked out of his left pocket like an imp.
The band wore dark suits with matching ties: yellow for the trumpets, orange for the ‘bones, blue for the saxes and pink for the bassist and drummer.
Severinsen started up the Basie bash, “Jumping at the Woodside” with a warning: “All I can tell you, kids, is jump back-you could get burned.”
The band – four trumpets, three trombones, five saxes, piano, bass and drums- made it all look easy. Horn solos were high up in the realm of Doc’s forays, and Mary Louise Knutson’s keyboard work
Ernie Watts’ solo: Yow! Wow! Holy cow! Triplet city! Hot note stampede! What a saxman. What a saxman!
Then they brought out Vanessa Thomas for a few numbers.
She owned the room from the start of “Singing in the Rain.”
Thomas has a rich voice, able to dig deep into the darkest corners of heartbreak and high into the hidden comers of the soul, always floating on a perfect vibrato with enough power to make the horns
work just a little harder to keep up with her.
What a voice. What a voice!
She treated the crowd to the Charlie Chaplin chestnut, “Smile,” while the band cradled her easy, mellow ballad. Then Severinsen shouted, “All right, girl, heat it up now!” and they segued into a hot
jump version of “When You’re Smiling.”
Severinsen’s blues solo on “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Face” mesmerized the audience.
It went on like that until the very end. A snaky “Caravan,” the aching lament of “Georgia,” a drum solo on “Sing Sing Sing” that electrocuted the room.
A medley closed it off: “One O’clock Jump,” “Two O’clock Jump,” and the Tonight Show break, “Twelve O’clock Jump.”
“When you went out to the refrigerator on commercials, that’s what we were doing- we were swinging,” Severinsen said.
This was Severinsen’s third appearance at Memorial Auditorium. He played here in 1965 and ’67 with the Burlington High School Stage Band, led by Maurice White.
“Instead of raising money to take a trip to Disneyland, we raised money to bring a celebrity to play a concert with us,” BHS vibes man Mort Gaines recalled.
Severinsen said he remembers White well.
“I’m still friends with his two boys,” he said.
Craig Smith of Burlington brought his family to the auditorium to experience a legend.
“This was a great opportunity to expose youth to music,” he said. His son, Joshua, is just beginning band in fifth grade and wants to play trumpet; daughter Samantha, in her senior year, is an accomplished trumpet player.
“She was in tears,” Smith said. Everyone who saw the Doc Severinsen Big Band can relate to that, Samantha.
This October, Doc will be hitting the road with the San Miguel 5 for a tour of California with a stop in Las Vegas. Featured will be Doc Severinsen on trumpet, Gil Gutierrez on Guitar, Charlie Bisharat on Violin, Kevin Thomas on Bass and Jimmy Branly playing percussion. You won’t want to miss this fantastic group. Tour cities and dates are noted below.
Doc Severinsen here, asking for your attention about a very important matter!
Clark Terry, the great jazz icon, has had and is having a very serious challenge from a disastrous diabetic condition. Clark has been giving music lessons from the hospital in Arkansas-and when I spoke with him a few days ago-he sounded like the young man I first met when we were kids. Lighthearted, happy, courageous-you know, just like he plays his music.
If you appreciate C.T. as I (and many others) always have, then it is time to step up and pay homage to one of America’s greatest musicians. Send your generous tribute to the Jazz Foundation of America*, and if you’re having a good day—-make it last forever.
PS Please do me a favor, and if you do, it will make you feel better. If you’re planning on sending a dollar or two or five or ten, think about how special Clark is, and double the amount. I thank you.
*Jazz Foundation of America website is www.jazzfoundation.org. Look under How You Can Help, then under Memory/Honor, fill out the form and indicate Clark Terry as the person to whom you would like to pay tribute.
Doc Severinsen talks about when he made some sartorial changes after becoming the leader of The Tonight Show band and Johnny’s reactions to his eccentric outfits. Johnny Carson: King of Late Night premieres May 14. Check your local PBS listings.
by Tom Ineck
Lincoln Journal Star | Posted: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 12:15 am
Contrary to some advance publicity, Doc Severinsen’s appearance Monday night at the Lied Center for Performing Arts was not a program of classical Spanish, movie music or gypsy jazz.
As expected from the 84-year-old trumpeter and his 16-piece big band, the “Once More with Feeling” tour, his first with the big band in five years, is firmly grounded in the grand Swing Era tradition.
Severinsen’s band no longer is comprised largely of “Tonight Show” veterans, but he did have one ace up his sequined sleeve. Longtime band member and tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts was the go-to guy on many occasions during the two-hour concert, attended by 1,600. He was brought to the microphone on the swinging opener and seldom sat down long enough to warm his seat.
Featured singer Vanessa Thomas exhibited impressive pipes on “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Smile,” “When You’re Smiling,” “Everyday I Have the Blues,” and “Mood Indigo,” and young drummer Stockton Helbing did an admirable job on the classic rave-up “Sing, Sing, Sing.”
But it was the big band that delivered the goods on such swingers as “Jumpin’ at the Woodside,” “Flying Home,” “Caravan,” “One O’Clock Jump” and “Sax Alley,” a furious tenor sax blowing contest between Watts and Chip McNeill.
Amazingly, Severinsen proved that he still has the lip and the technique to play with power, precision and stamina, frequently stating the melodies and hitting the high notes on trumpet. He used a plunger-muted horn on “St. Louis Blues,” took the lead on “Georgia on My Mind,” and inserted some well-controlled trumpet blasts on “Here’s That Rainy Day,” which he announced as Johnny Carson’s favorite tune.
Severinsen’s playing and bandleading certainly quashed any doubts that at 84 he might have lost some of his famous panache.
Submitted by The City Wire staff on Mon, 03/12/2012 – 2:58pm
Story and photos by Ruby Dean
ALMA — Johnny’s gone. So is Ed.
But fans of the popular Tonight Show starring the late Johnny Carson and his sidekick Ed McMahon are still enjoying perhaps the most talented personality on the show, legendary NBC Orchestra leader and trumpeter Doc Severinsen.
Doc Severinsen and His Big Band played to a full house at the Alma Performing Arts Center Saturday, March 10.
With good looks belying his 84 years, the Grammy Awrd-winning Severinsen led his 15-piece band and jazz vocalist Vanessa Thomas through a program of hits including tunes Count Basie and Duke Ellington, as well as Latin-inspired jazz. His slim physique was evident beneath the flashy outfits he’s known for wearing.
The local crowd wasn’t stingy with its standing ovations, delivering several for Severinsen and his band and one in particular for Thomas. The program featured every player in the band, many more than once.
The band includes Brad Shermock, Mark Bobnick, Adam Rossmiller and Zack Lozier on trumpet; Michael Nelson and Scott Agster on trombone; Dave Budimir on bass trombone; Mike Migliore and Carlos Vega on alto sax; Ernie Watts and Chip McNeill on tenor sax; Clare Church on baritone sax; Stockton Helbing on drums; Kevin Thomas on bass and Mary Louise Knutson on piano.
The ever vibrant GRAMMY-winning trumpeter and former Tonight Show band leader Doc Severinsen is back on tour – bringing His Big Band on the road for the first time in almost five years. Doc’s “Once More with Feeling” Big Band tour will be hitting the road this winter with concerts in Omaha NE (Feb 25), Manhattan KS (Feb 26), Lincoln NE (Feb 27), Brookings SD (Feb 28), Storm Lake IA (Feb 29) Cheyenne WY (Mar 2), Greeley CO (Mar 3) , Dallas TX (Mar 5), Edmond OK (Mar 8), Stillwater OK (Mar 9), Alma AR (Mar 10) and Springfield MO (Mar 11) with additional cities to be announced soon. Check back often for additional information.
By Mimi Beck Knudsen, Reno Gazette-Journal
Allow me to don my Carnac the Magnificent turban and give my answer first: Wow! The question? Well, there are several. Whatever happened to Johnny Carson’s bandleader, Doc Severinsen, since the legendary late-night show “retired” in 1992? Does an 84-year-old Severinsen still have the lips and lungs to let loose on the trumpet? In its 16th season, does Artown still have the ability to bring in acts that surprise and delight audiences?
Doc Severinsen and the four other members of the San Miguel Five played the Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater in Bartley Ranch Regional Park on Sunday night, punctuating the mid-point of the month- long Artown festival with a giant exclamation point. Looking tan, fit and colorful in bright green leather pants, a neon pink shirt and sparkly white jacket trimmed in gold, the only thing hotter than Severinsen’s ensemble on his back was the ensemble on the stage, the amazing musicians who comprise the San Miguel Five. Guitarist Gil Gutiérrez is founder and musical director of the group. In 2006 Severinsen happened upon Gutiérrez, who was performing in a San Miguel, Mexico, restaurant. They soon forged a friendship and musical partnership that has taken the group to venues from Mexico City to Carnegie Hall. Along with Gutiérrez and Severinsen, the San Miguel Five includes violinist Charlie Bisharat, percussionist Jimmy Branly and Kevin Thomas on bass. While Thomas and Branly provide the heartbeat, Bisharat, Gutiérrez and Severinsen get most of the show-stopping glory, although Branly’s solos, including hand-drumming on Gutiérrez’s guitar, provided some of the evening’s most memorable moments. For two hours, the audience got to savor the band’s delicious fusion of tango, f lamenco, classical, swing and Gypsy jazz, Advertisement ala the great Django Reinhardt. Mild, clear weather, a nearly full, cream- colored moon and a chorus of crickets were the perfect accoutrements for the very enthusiastic — and quite lucky — Bartley Ranch audience. On a personal note, seeing Severinsen allowed me to complete the quadfecta of live trumpet performances. Along with Maynard Ferguson, Chuck Mangione and Herb Alpert, Severinsen certainly is seated first chair among the greatest trumpet
By Jim Beal Jr.
San Antonio Express-News
For a quarter of a century, Doc Severinsen was likely the highest-profile trumpet player and band leader on the planet.
From his spot on the “Tonight Show” stage, the sartorially out-there Severinsen kibitzed with storied host Johnny Carson and sidekick Ed McMahon while leading the Tonight Show Orchestra through hot and cool paces.
When Carson retired in ’92, changes to the late-night show did not include Severinsen and his crew.
“I decided to retire and move to Mexico,” said Severinsen. “I knew I wanted to keep playing trumpet because that’s what I do. I went out to dinner in San Miguel and heard these guys playing. They are world class.
“I introduced myself. They didn’t know me from Adam, but they invited me to play. I figure you always need to be ready to make a change. Change is good. Take advantage of what’s presented to you. With this group, there was no doubt. The minute I heard them I wanted to play with them.”
Severinsen will lead the San Miguel 5 into Boerne on Sunday and Monday. The band, Severinsen, Gil Gutierrez (guitar), Charlie Bisharat (violin), Jimmy Branly (percussion) and Kevin Thomas (bass), has range to go with chops.
“It’s very basic, very organic music,” Severinsen said. “Somebody said it could be considered world music. I said fine, I’ll go along with that. It’s a Latin-based group, but we play the blues, we play some Astor Piazzolla, we play some things styled after Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli.”
Severinsen, 83, moves around.
“Right now I’m in Knoxville. I live part time in Mexico. I’m always a step ahead of the sheriff,” he said.
The trumpet player has kept moving since he grew up in Oregon. The son of a dentist, Severinsen started playing at a young age and never stopped, though he considered alternative careers.
“I decided what I wanted to be was a jockey,” he said. “When I started playing music, my father decided I’d better get some lessons. Later on, when I was playing with the Vaughn Monroe Orchestra on a TV show in New York, I could see the music business could be kinda iffy. So I thought I’d go up to a university and take an aptitude test.
“The violinist, Sal Spinelli, said, ‘You’re crazy. I’d like to have 10 percent of what you’re gonna make.’ I did a self-analysis and decided I was a structured schizophrenic. When I was with Tommy Dorsey, (trumpet player/bandleader/composer) Ziggy Elman gave me some great advice. He said to learn to be as versatile as possible and you can make a good living playing music.”
Severinsen played trumpet because that was the only instrument available in the town in which he was raised.
“I came to love it,” he said. “It’s loud. When you’re a little guy raised in a town surrounded by cowboys and football players, you’d better be able to make a statement.”
The trademark Doc Severinsen wardrobe came from the same statement-making place.
“The cowboys have a pretty independent attitude. I grew up with that,” he said. “It manifested itself in the wardrobe.” So has the Doc made concessions to aging?
“Nope,” he said, quickly. “A psychiatrist was trying to talk me into joining a group of older guys in Hollywood who were having trouble with aging. I said, ‘Nope.’ He said, ‘You’re not going to go quietly, are you?’ I said, ‘Nope.’ I don’t ever turn off what I am. I’m not sure what that is, but I just go and be myself.”
Severinsen also was quick to offer advice to musicians.
“Practice, practice practice,” he said. “Then practice some more. And love what you do.”
Severinsen has high praise for two San Antonio institutions, Mi Tierra restaurant and The Landing jazz club.
“Jim Cullum, and his dad, did a great job of establishing The Landing,” he said. “Jim has a great band playing music that is so identifiable. They have found their niche and they do a beautiful job.”
And when people go see Severinsen and the San Miguel 5, they’re going to want to see some flashy threads to go along with the music.
“I don’t know what I’m going to wear,” he added. “But I know I’ll be the only guy in town wearing it.”