is born in Milwaukee, Winsconsin. His early life is spent as a vaudeville
entertainer, first as a child singer and, from his early-teens as
the "boy wonder of the saxophone".
A new band, the Second Herd,
is formed and becomes known as the "Four Brothers" band,
a name derived from a Jimmy Giuffre composition featuring three
tenor saxophonists (Stan Getz, Zoot Sims and Herbie Steward) and
a baritone saxophone (Serge Chaloff); Al Cohn was to replace Steward.
Shorty Rogers was also a featured soloist and, later, Conte Candoli,
Milt Jackson, Gene Ammons and Shelly Manne. The band was never
as popular as the first Herd and was disbanded in 1949. Thereafter
Herman plays in small groups for a while.
The Fourth Herd is, more or
less, a regular band, and includes many young players and progressive
Benny, you always knew how to play the clarinet and I always knew
how to organize a band."
to Benny Goodman
After working with various groups he joins Isham Jones's band. When
Jones disbands in 1936, a co-operative band is formed and Herman
is elected leader. The group is known as "The Band That Plays
the Blues", with a massive hit, Woodchopper's Ball,
in 1939. In the early-1940s, Herman's Herd
includes Johnny Hodges and Ben
Webster, and arrangements and compositions are commissioned
from Dizzy Gillespie. In 1946 Stravinsky
writes his Ebony Concerto for the band. During the war years
Herman has bought all the shares of the band.
Herman forms what has become known as the Third
Herd, records for his own label, and, in time, includes
Nat Adderley and Zoot Sims.
Herman's later years were marred by financial ruin after it was discovered
that his manager had gambled away the band's payroll taxes. Herman's
earnings were confiscated by the IRS and, illness curtailing his performing
career, so too his house.
As prevailing fashion and taste changed, so too did Woody Herman's
band. The repertoire, the arrangements and
the rhythm section all evolved, at times inperceptibly, but throughout
their careers each of the Herman bands maintained the traditional
sound of the swing big
band. At its heart was Herman, if not a great or even first-rate
soloist (although always able to play in an appropriate style), a
brilliant organiser of men and an open-minded and generous spotter
of talent who was able to delegate and who encouraged great committment
and enthusiasm from his players.