Compatible Quotes: Woody Herman

The singing was something I got from my father.

There were a lot of times where there was a great deal of fodder recorded and played, because there was a market for it – just as there is today. And there were more bad bands than there were good bands – I think that should always be remembered.

They’re asking for ludicrous, ridiculous kinds of tunes. It could be “Johnson Rag” or, “Don’t yWoody Herman head shotou have any Russ Morgan pieces?” or they’re always getting your tunes mixed up with someone else’s, so you get requests for “Green Eyes” or “Frenesi” or “In The Mood.” And they get very terse replies like “No,” or “He quit the business,” or “I’ll play that when I get to the big band in the sky.” It becomes a kind of standup routine.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit


  1. says

    I love the quotes. Those requests have been happening for so long……… And still go on! Years ago, when I first started my own big band, my answer to the “Glenn Miller” requests was this: “If Glenn Miller had only played the hits of the Casa Loma Orchestra, where would big band music have gone?” I also used to say “I was born in 1942, so I wasn’t playing those tunes back then. I hope you will listen to what we have for you today.”

    • Doug Ramsey says

      According to a quote in Entertainment Weekly’s 2005 Artie Shaw obituary, Shaw once said, “”All I can say is that Glenn should have lived, and ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’ should have died.”

      • says

        Harry James could have fulfilled a request for “In The Mood.” Thad Jones arranged it for his 1960s band. It’s a crazy chart with Harry going free. Check it out:

  2. dick vartanian says

    I could stretch this a long way but why bother? I agree with all this. Junk bands (music) is a loftier phrase than what is is really deserved.

  3. Charlton Price says

    Woody liked to say that these and similar questions and requests and remarks came from “civilians.”

  4. Rob D says

    Enjoyed the quotes from Woody! I always found him to be refreshingly candid on the era he lived through.

  5. says

    My favorite response to an unwanted request was given to a noisy ring-sider at Eddie Condon’s by Wild Bill Davison. He said, “Get your own band.”

  6. ed Preston says

    Favourite quote on arts and culture…..It was once suggested to Winston Churchill that he cut funding to arts and aulture to pay for Britain’s war. To which he responded….”Then what would we be fighting for?”

  7. says

    Woody was once accosted by a lady who wanted the band to play a tune he didn’t like. When he told her he didn’t want to play it, she demanded, “Do you know who I am?’ Woody replied, “No, but I know who I am!”

  8. Kenny Harris says

    Something similar to mixing up names of tunes. When I was playing on the Queen Mary, one evening a passenger asked ‘Could we play You Are The One?’ Nobody in the band knew of a tune with that name. So the passenger hummed a little of Night and Day. Aha!

  9. Jack Greenberg says

    A friend of mine played trumpet with Woody in the ’70’s. One night they were playing somewhere and a couple came up to Woody and asked, “Can you play something we can dance to?” Woody said something like, “Well, I don’t know — can you show me what you’re talking about?” The couple danced a few silent foxtrot steps in front of Woody. After a few seconds, Woody said, “No, we don’t have anything that goes with that.”

  10. says

    When I’m listening to Woody’s vocal on “Caldonia,” (a tune I personally don’t dig too much), I can’t help it: For me this is the very first rock vocal in the history of pop music…especially the more or less spoken lines at 2:18…are sounding like hard rock á la “Rocky Horror Picture Show” or “Led Zeppelin.” 😉

  11. Lee Brenkman says

    A guy of about Woody’s age approached him between sets at the bar of the Great American Music Hall and proudly announced “I saw you at the pier in Santa Monica in 1947”.

    Woody asked, “is this the first time you’ve come to see the band since then?”

    “Why, yes.” was the reply.

    Woody, slightly sarcastic, “well, thank you for your support.”