Trumpet Player Mac Gollehon of New York was born and raised in North Carolina and began playing guitar in blues and what was then called uptown country bands four nights a week at age 10. At around that same time his father Joe Gollehon, a trumpet player with natural ability and tone quality much like Billy Butterfield, started him on the trumpet. At the same time he taught Mac on trombone, euphonium, French horn and a few years later tuba. Mac's dad would always stress focus of tone center and not to over blow past pitch center.
Around age 13, Mac played the circus and the band-leader Merle Evans had returned from retirement briefly. Merle was well known as a great cornetist and on these gigs Mac did with him he was playing a pocket trumpet. Up to this point Mac was always trying to emulate the sounds he was surrounded by so listening and imitating was a valuable experience. Mac continued through high school playing rock, blues, and jazz on all the instruments he had learned and was performing occasionally with the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra. Mac gravitated more toward one nighters and club work just because he found it to be more fun. Also at age 17, Mac briefly raced late model modified stock cars.
At age 18, Mac went to Berklee School of Music in Boston during the day and in the evenings worked what was called the Combat Zone. These clubs were strip joints and the gigs started at 8 pm and ended at 4 am. The band Mac was in was trumpet, drums, and Hammond B3 organ. The B3 players on that circuit were amazing players and most of them rivaled the performance level of the well known giants of that time on B3. Every night was like being on a gig with Don Patterson or Jimmy McGriff. Mac played that circuit for 2 years and it was great for developing endurance, learning hundreds of songs and playing up to the level the organists played every night. Mac also noted that these great players were living in virtual obscurity for various reasons. While in Boston, Mac did some recording for PBS but did not give it much thought to pursue past what just fell in front of him. Mac was real focused on a hardcore jazz life. Mac took some lessons with Dr. Elmer White from Appalachian State North Carolina and went on the road during the summer with Buddy Morrow and later ... Buddy Rich and Stan Kenton.