Monday, March 31, 2014


Doc is the word written on the fronts of the black music stands on stage. It is the first time I have been to a performance at the Valley Performing Arts Center on the campus of CSUN. It is a lovely theatre and I hope they continue to have great shows*.

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*I'm at the Valley Performing Arts Center with a group of long time friends watching our long time favorite trumpet player perform. Our group blends easily with the rest of the audience. We are all here to see Doc Severinsen and his Big Band.

If you are the kind of person who likes the tweeted version of life, here it is:
OMG Doc HAGN Friday IMHO  he wz  amazing. 
Tweeters can stop here and ignore the rest of the blog.  Thank you for sparing us a 144  characters of your digital life time. 

Before I continue let me provide full disclosure about my feelings for Doc Severinsen.   As far as I am concerned, there are only two kinds of people in this world, those who love Doc Severinsen's music and people you should not associate with. 
The fact that Doc Severinsen will forever be the musical face of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show is enough to give him Sainthood in my opinion. However, Doc is an extremely talented musician and also happens to be the Father of my friend Nancy. I am nonprejudicial when it comes to talent, I would say Doc is great even if I didn't adore his daughter.

*So here we are at the Valley Performing Arts Center watching Doc's show.  Doc has assembled a talented group of musicians. They perform the same Tonight Show arrangements, with the same instrumentation of Doc's NBC Band. These musicians are amazing. This fact is even more astounding because most of the members of this band weren't even born when Doc was on the Tonight Show. 
At 86 years old Doc is still the hippest guy in the room.  He wears orange leather pants a dark shirt and a light green and yellow paisley sequined jacket for the first act. If you think it odd to see an octogenarian bejeweled in such a way, you don't know Doc Severinsen.  Doc's outfit would have prompted Johnny Carson, upon his entrance, to pantomime some gesture acknowledging the eccentric nature of Doc's wardrobe. Watching Doc play and conduct the band is very familiar to me.  It takes me back to my days as a kid when performing on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson was my dream...the dream had been to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show, but they cancelled it before I got to take a shot.  So the Tonight Show was, for me, the Holy quest of show business.
I rarely missed a Johnny Carson Tonight Show and Doc was always the lead trumpet player and conductor of the Tonight Show Band. The Tonight Show was a comfortable companion  for me as I traveled around working. I watched The Tonight Show in many time zones on many hotel televisions around this country. I noticed that out of the local commercial breaks from the Tonight Show they would cut to a final note from the band and the audience would break into thunderous applause.  The camera would catch Johnny and the guests looking at the band clapping. Johnny would say something like, "How about that Band?" and the audience would clap again.  I knew something was going on in the studio that did not involve the Alpo Commercial I had just seen.  
Years later it was Nancy who got us tickets to actually watch a taping of the Tonight Show and  I understood what was happening while the Television world watches commercials.  Doc's Band would play the greatest music with the finest arrangements done by the best musicians in town for us in the studio audience, the people at home watched boring commercials. Doc's band caused an excitement in the studio that can't be explained.  I am certain Doc's music was a major factor in making the Tonight Show audiences so responsive. 
So Friday night seeing Doc Severinsen live, was an extraordinary experience. Doc channelled some younger version of himself for two and a half hours. His chops are still there changed only by the brilliant gold patina of practice and experience; in some way the music and the moment took me back to a younger version of myself as well.
I am suddenly sitting on the couch next to Johnny Carson listening to Doc and the band play across a small NBC Burbank studio. It is a commercial break and the band is playing just for us in the studio. The set is on the same angle as the band stand.  Johnny Carson's couch is the perfect seat to watch Doc Severinsen and his band. You never forget a moment of doing your first Tonight Show. 
With recordings we will be able to enjoy and appreciate Doc Severinsen the artist/musician for a long time. To see Doc live and in person, is to see an evergreen artist who defines his work as timeless and beautiful.  Here's to Doc Severinsen, an original.
As you were,

1 comment:

Gwyn Oswin said...

Doc became friends with my grandparents when he visited Des Moines, but I have never gotten to meet him. I did, however, win front row tickets to his last show here in town. We were right below him. Fabulous! A bit damp, as it always is when you sit a bit close to a trumpeter, but fabulous. :)