About Clark Terry

Gwen Terry told me today that at 93 her husband continues “as a tribune of survival.” The trumpeter, singer and NEA Jazz Master continues to confront his mobility and vision problems at home under ‘round-Gwen & Clark Terrythe-clock care paid for in great part by fans and admirers. For details about how to help, go here. To the left, we see Mrs. Terry congratulating her husband last fall on his induction into Lincoln Center’s Neshui Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame. She said today that his physical difficulties and an embouchure out of shape from a long layoff have made it impossible for him to play. Gwen reports that he is receiving visits from colleagues and admirers and that he is teaching students who come to CT world headquarters in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, from all part of The United States and Canada.

“My back hurts after I sit up for a few hours,” Clark said recently. “But I do the best that I can to get up every day for as long as I’m able, especially when friends come to visit.”

Dozens of trumpeters have advanced technique, but from his earliest days as a professional, it was apparent that there was much more to Terry than formidable chops. He saturated his music-making with his personality. Count Basie and Duke Ellington, great nurturers of individualism, cherished that quality in the young Terry. After he became a mainstay of the Tonight Show band on NBC-TV millions discovered it. Among them was John McNeil, a distinctive trumpet stylist who came to maturity in Terry’s wake. Here’s McNeil on CT:

As the BBC host Humphrey Lyttlelton predicts in the half-hour clip you’re about to watch, Terry’s association with Bob Brookmeyer in their quintet developed from their already tight friendship into a one of the most beloved modern jazz partnerships. In 1965 they were guests on the BBC-TV program called 625. The rhythm section is British—Laurie Holloway, piano; Rick Laird bass; and Alan Ganley, drums. The proceedings include a visit from Mumbles, the character CT introduced in a 1964 recording with Oscar Peterson.

For the latest Clark Terry blog entry, see his website. For the most recent Rifftides post about John McNeil, go here. I also recommend a visit to McNeil’s website.

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  1. Valerie Bishop says

    thanks to John McNeil for his informative, enjoyable, and interesting words about the great CT. I have loved CT since the ’50s and first got to know him in the ’60s. there is no one else like him. and, by the way, there is no one like Gwen Terry as well. we are so grateful to her for her love and complete devotion to her husband. blessings to both of them and all the caregivers and contributors to their well-being.

    • Jim Brown says

      Clark is one of my heroes, a fine human being by any definition, and I have made a small contribution to his support. But the obvious questions are, where the hell is NBC, for whom he worked in a highly visible spot for many years, where are the record companies for whom he generated profits with many recordings? And why does Medicare not cover his needs? Here is a man who has made magic for millions all his life, and he must depend on charity for his basic human needs. Shame on those who have caused so many of our great artists to live their senior years in poverty.

  2. says

    I keep in touch with Clark and Gwen by phone pretty regularly. The last time I talked to him, he sounded the best I have heard him sound in quite a while. He has been an inspiration to many of us for his whole life, but to be so positive and upbeat at 93 years old, with all that he has gone through, is truly amazing. I feel SO lucky to not only have played lead trumpet in his Big Band Band, but to have had him as a mentor for over 40 years. I am also proud to say that I helped arrange for the students from University of Arkansas – Monticello, to come to his home for music (and life) lessons. It was also a real joy to help Gwen plan his 90th birthday party. I love those two like my own family!

  3. al kaye says

    When I was a child growing up in Flushing, I collected stamps as they were issued. A grouchy post office teller was irritated by me asking for the “Mercury” stamp. He said, “Kid we can’t sell it till he gets back to earth.” Another time, “Who the hell is frederick remington?” Well, he lived in the neighborhood and as a teenage jazz fan, still in the late sixties, I found out that he was a jazz trumpet player who lived in my friend’s building. He told us one day that he had just rehearsed with Clark Terry and a big band. He said, “Everyone loves Clark. He helps out everybody.”

  4. Charlton Price says

    On CT’s website you can see well over a thousand greetings and heartfelt tributes from colleagues and acolytes, some with ties to him from deep in the last century. You’ll get a lift from his many inspiring clips on You Tube. ( I dig especially a duet session with Red Mitchell, and everything he did with Brookmeyer.) Love supreme !! : What a gift and inspiration CT is to us all! !