RIP Buddy Childers
Among other section mates he greatly admired were Shorty Rogers and Ray Wetzel. "I'd been in Woody's band with Shorty, he recalled. "Stan asked me to choose the trumpet section for the 1950 orchestra. We already had Conte Candoli and Maynard Ferguson. I suggested Shorty. Stan wasn't keen. 'He's associated with Woody,' implying the [drug] problems of the Second Herd. I told him, 'Shorty's not a doper.' 'How do you know?' he asked. 'He's too cheap to be a doper,' I said. 'There's no way. He sends every penny he makes home to [his wife] Margie every week. He even sleeps on the bus half the time. You'll love him.' Needless to say, Shorty got the job.
Ray Wetzel, said Buddy, was "one of nature's noblemen. Wonderful, wonderful guy. A great trumpet player and a great musician. There is a difference, of course. There are many people who can play the hell out of an instrument, but just being able to play does not automatically make you a musician. Ray was both. He was complete, and as a human being he was complete....As a trumpet player Ray taught me a lot, and I'm sure he learned a few things from me, too...
"I was driving back from a job in New England somewhere and was listening [on the radio] to someone like Al 'Jazzbo' Collins. [He] took phone calls and this one came in and I heard him say 'What! Ray Wetzel killed?' And that's how I got the news. I just pulled over to the side [of the road] and cried. [Ray] was with Dorsey and was killed in Charlie Shavers' car, and for the rest of his life Charlie never recovered from that.
Even though they seldom had a chance to play together, the legendary trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie was another of Buddy's close friends, primarily because of their shared belief as members of the Baha'i Faith, something neither Buddy nor Dizzy was shy about discussing. It was the foundation on which his character was built, and the nucleus of his relationships with others. Like other musicians, Gillespie (and Garcia) among them, Buddy knew that his strong faith had enabled him to turn his back on the self-destructive habits that had ruined many a promising career.
As playing trumpet was about the only job he'd ever had, Buddy always regarded it as such, and never let it go to his head; in other words, he never saw himself as someone special or "above others. In spite of his remarkable talent, he remained modest and down-to-earth.
Speaking about the great saxophonist Charlie Parker, who had toured with the Kenton orchestra in 1951, Buddy said to Voce, "When you're that good you don't have to be jealous of anyone, and he enjoyed everything. There's a lesson to be learned there. If you get good enough at what you do, part of getting there is enjoying what other people do and learning from it. If you enjoy it enough you're bound to learn something.
People like Buddy Childers, who was indeed very good at what he did, don't come along very often, and he will be greatly missed. Perhaps the most fitting memorial would be to somehow release the album he was working on so the music world could experience his superlative artistry, as Count Basie would say, "one more time.
And that's it for now. Until next time, keep swingin'!
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