Maynard Ferguson “Do you mind if I listen in for awhile?”

It was 1960, and I was in the eighth grade when I first heard Maynard Ferguson play the trumpet.

On a trip to Sioux Falls my Mom bought the Maynard Ferguson,“Dancing Sessions,” album for me. She said she bought it because it had a nicely dressed young man playing the trumpet on the cover photo and she thought I might like it.

I had been playing trumpet since second grade, the year that I decided that I would spend my life in music.

When I listened to Maynard for the first time, I couldn’t believe my ears. He would just scream out high notes that I didn’t even know existed. I wore the Maynard record out playing it over and over again. I got my hands on every recording of Maynard I could find and I listened to them by the hour.

I loved the way Maynard played and I wanted to play just like him.

As an incentive, my parents told me that if I got a Superior rating on my solo at the high school music contest in Platte the next year, they would buy me a trumpet just like Maynard’s.

It was a promise they would soon live to regret, as I almost drove them around the bend with my incessant practicing.

I got the Superior rating in Platte and I got a trumpet just like Maynard’s.

Maynard, without even knowing it, was a huge influence on my career.

The years went by and I made good on my second grade postulate of spending my life writing or playing music.

Then one day in 1982, over 20 years after Mom bought me the Maynard record, I was producing a recording session at Larrabee Studios in Los Angeles.We were recording the horn parts for an ad campaign. I had an 8-piece brass section made up of some of LA’s best studio musicians.

We were rehearsing the parts with the rhythm track and I was quite pleased because all was going well. The musicians were out in the studio and I was in the control room standing at the recording console with my back to the door when I heard someone say,

“Hey Gary, that sounds great do you mind if I listen in for awhile?” 

I turned around to see who it was and he reached out and shook my hand and very humbly introduced himself,

Hi, I’m Maynard Ferguson. It’s nice to meet you Gary.” 

Gary Michaels is the Founder/Creative Director of MTI Studios and Gary Michaels Online Corp, (mtistudios.net, garymichaelsonline.com) With over 5,000 clients throughout the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Gary is one of the world’s leading producers of branding campaigns.

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“Warren’s America”-Warren Wiebe Vocals-Daniel May Piano

Click to listen: Warren’s America- Warren Wiebe Vocals Daniel May Piano

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When Alligator Jack heard the jingle he said, “Gay-ree that you song you did for me is funkier than 10 yards of damp zoo dirt!” And then he started to laugh..Heh-heh-heh.

If I live to be 200 I will never meet another person the likes of Alligator Jack.

The Alligator had a successful barbecue restaurant on the South Side of Chicago. After being robbed 18 times over the course of five years the Alligator had enough so he moved out to what he called,“God’s Country,” aka South Dakota, to start all over again.

I was driving down Minnesota Avenue in Sioux Falls when I first saw the Alligator. He was standing in front of his newly opened Barbecue Joint with a basketball under his arm giving instructions to the sign painter who was painting “Alligator Jack’s

Down Home Barbecue” on the window.

I decided to stop by and talk to the new owner to see if they needed a jingle. Eventually, I asked him how he got the name, Alligator Jack. That was all he needed and he was off and rolling on one of his stories.

“I was born down in Mississippi in the Delta by the swamp, heh-heh-heh and my Momma she was carryin me, about 8 months pregnant.Heh-Heh. Her and my Daddy they was driving the buckboard along side the swamp and this big ole alligator walks right across the road in front of the buckboard and my Daddy, he stops the buckboard and says, ‘If this child is a boy, we’re going to name him Alligator Jack.’ Heh-Heh-Heh.”

Well, Jack was from Mississippi and his barbecue was great. He made his sauce from sugar cane. People loved it. I helped him market his barbecue sauce and restaurant and we became the best of friends. He was a character.

The Alligator weighed somewhere between 300 and 350. He turned everything into an outlandish story and then he laughed and laughed and laughed.

I had a big jingle project coming up in LA and decided to give the Alligator a little surprise. I went ahead and wrote a jingle for him which I recorded at the same time as the other project. It was a pro bono jingle. I didn’t charge the Alligator for the jingle cause I really liked him and I just wanted to do it.

The song was a swamp funk kind of thing. We had an Aretha Franklin type vocal and George Doering played guitar and he just wailed on it. It was swampy funky:

ALLIGATOR JACK JINGLE

Early in the morning when the kids are goin to scoo

Alligator Jack is making Down Home Barbecue

Later  in the evening when the day is almost throo

Alligator Jack’s still making Down Home Barbecue

Alligator, Alligator, Alligator Jack

They say that once you taste it that you know you’re coming bank

Alligator, Alligator, Alligator Jack

They say that once you taste it that you know you’re coming bank

When Alligator Jack heard the jingle for the first time he was really moved. He had tears in his eyes as he looked up at me and said, “Gay-ree that you song you did for me is funkier than 10 yards of damp zoo dirt!” And then he started to laugh..Heh-heh-heh.

Of all the projects I’ve ever done this “freebie” Alligator Jack jingle was probably the most rewarding. All copies of the jingle are long gone but a few years ago I did a Blues recording based on the jingle entitled, “Alligator Jack’s Blues”

Click here to give it a listen Alligator Jack

The Tenor Solo was played by Lon Price

The guitar solo was played by Michael Thompson:

Gary Michaels is the Founder/Executive Producer of MTI Studios and Gary Michaels Online. Since entering the Brand Syndication field in 1980 he has produced Syndicated Branding Campaigns for over 5,000 local and regional advertisers throughout the US, Canada,New Zealand and Australia. (Alligator Photo by Thinkstock-Lon Price and Michael Thompson Photos by Paul Landry)

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Harry Lookofsky…“When you asked the contractor for me to play on your session today,who did you ask for,Harry Lookofsky or the guy with the hat?”

When I was working with Rod McBrien in the late 1970′s and early 1980′s I did a lot of recording in New York.

I got the opportunity to work with a number of the members of Toscanini’s famed NBC Symphony Orchestra, including such great musicians as David Nadien, Emanuel Vardi and Harry Lookofsky,who was concertmaster under Toscanini.

Harry was also well known as a jazz violinist who had worked extensively with Quincy Jones, Sara Vaughn and Freddie Hubbard.

Harry was also a character with a great sense of humor.

One day after a string session I noticed Harry taking off and putting away this hat he always wore to sessions. I thought,“Huh, that’s kind of strange. I wonder what’s up with that?” He wore a hat to the session and then took it off when he went out in the street.

On the next session I asked Harry about the hat and he said, “When you asked the contractor for me to play on your session today, who did you ask for? Harry Lookofsky or the guy with the hat?”

Gary Michaels is the Founder/Executive Producer of MTI Studios and Gary Michaels Online. Since entering the Brand Syndication field in 1980 he has produced Syndicated Branding Campaigns for over 5,000 local and regional advertisers throughout the US, Canada,New Zealand and Australia. (Photo by Thinkstock)

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As he handed me the keys he smiled and asked, “So, Mr. Michaels whatd’ya think,now ? Am I the best in Jefferson?” And then he held his head back and laughed. I said, “No, Mr. Hicks you are the best, period.”


I had driven all night long to get from Des Moines to Louisville.

I had an 11:00 AM appointment at a bank in Bardstown, Ky which was about an hour’s drive outside of Louisville. It was 8:00 AM as I drove into Jefferson,Indiana which was just across the Ohio River from Louisville. I had two hours to kill and I was bone tired.

I stopped at a 7-11 and got some more coffee and then I got the bright idea to have my car washed, as having a crystal clear windshield was one of my old road warrior tricks to make myself feel less tired.

I asked one of the locals if there was a place I might get my car washed in Jefferson at that time of day. He said, “You go down the road here a couple of Blocks and see Mr. Hicks. He’s not cheap but he’s the best.”

So I got in the car and found my way to Mr. Hicks. I told Mr. Hicks that a man down the street had told me he was the “best” in Jefferson. Mr. Hicks got kind of a puzzled look on his face and said, “Did he say I was the best in Jefferson or did he just say I was the best?” I asked him if that made a difference and he replied, “I’m not one to brag but folks around here usually say that I’m hands down. the best detail man there is, period.”

By this time I really began to get interested in seeing just how good this Mr. Hicks really was. We got our business out of the way and Mr.Hicks started working on the car as I watched.

He started by rinsing the car down with some rain water which he had collected in a barrel. He then went on to just dazzle me as he gave new meaning to the word detail. In his back pocket he had 4 different sized tooth brushes which he wielded with the skill of a surgeon.

As Mr. Hicks was working on the car about 4 or 5 people came into the shop just to watch him work. One said to the rest of the spectators that had assembled, “That Mr. Hicks sure enough knows how to detail a car.” The crowd nodded in agreement as Mr. Hicks continued to work his magic on my ride while his audience looked on in amazement.

Mr. Hicks was all over that car rinsing and washing, and scrubbing and buffing. He explained to me that he made his own car wax from his secret patented formula. He said, “Store bought wax just doesn’t do the job.”

When he finally finished I swear the car looked at least 50% better than it did when it was brand new. It didn’t just sparkle, it almost seemed as if Mr. Hicks had brought the car to life. I was amazed at the talent of Mr Hicks.

As he handed me the keys he smiled and asked, “So, Mr. Michaels whatd’ya think ? Am I the best in Jefferson?” And then he held his head back and laughed.” I said, “No, Mr. Hicks you are the best, period.”

This man had accomplished every artistic or aesthetic goal I have ever had in music with a chamois, a barrel of rainwater, four toothbrushes, some homemade wax and a genuine desire to do his very best. I’ll never forget Mr. Hicks. He is truly an artist.

Gary Michaels is the Founder/Executive Producer of MTI Studios and Gary Michaels Online. Since entering the Brand Syndication field in 1980 he has produced Syndicated Branding Campaigns for over 5,000 local and regional advertisers throughout the US, Canada,New Zealand and Australia. (Photos by Thinkstock)

Our work is national quality. Our clients are local advertisers.

© 2011 Gary Michaels Online Corp

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It was like a scene from a movie as I walked behind the honor guard from the little country church to the cemetery located a short distance away. There were no lights. There were no cameras. This wasn’t a movie. This was real.

It was a cold November morning in southern Missouri. I was serving honor guard duty as a trumpet player from the 399th Army Band from Ft. Leonard Wood.

It was one of those gray “wintry” days where you don’t know if it’s going to rain or snow. A thick fog was settling in around us as we quietly moved closer to our positions.

It was like a scene from a movie as I walked behind the honor guard, from the little country church to the cemetery located a short distance away.

There were no lights. There were no cameras. This wasn’t a movie. This was real. This was Viet Nam. This was Iraq.

This was Afghanistan, Korea, World War II, World War I and every other war that has ever been fought. Another brave young soldier had given their life for their country.

We reached our positions. I was standing about 30 yards away from the honor guard, which was the standard protocol. There was a brief service and then the detail leader called out the order for the 21 gun salute.

“Attention!” ….. “Present Arms!”    Ready… Aim…Fire!

As the first shot rang out I felt the jolt as I could just feel the pain of the young widow, who was doing her best to keep it together for the sake of her children.

After the second shot was fired I brought the trumpet to my lips.

“Ready… Aim…Fire!” , the leader of the detail called out the command for the third volley.

As I was playing, the sound of my trumpet was producing this eerie, almost surreal echo in the morning fog which made it seem like it was carrying the mournful sound of, “Taps” from my trumpet miles into the distance.

The detail leader called the order to present arms. I stood at attention and saluted as the flag was given to the young mother.

That was 45 years ago and I remember every detail as if it happened this morning. I’ll never forget that day or the many other days I had the sad honor to play, “Taps.”

Gary Michaels is the Founder/Executive Producer of MTI Studios and Gary Michaels Online. Since entering the Brand Syndication field in 1980 he has produced Syndicated Branding Campaigns for over 5,000 local and regional advertisers throughout the US, Canada,New Zealand and Australia. (Photos by Thinkstock)

Our work is national quality. Our clients are local advertisers.

© 2011 Gary Michaels Online Corp

 

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My Old Kentucky Friend… “Now, I’m just a country boy. I like your music and I’d like to do some business with you but we have a real problem here. It’s my pen. My pen won’t even write a number as high as the price you quoted me.”

The minute I crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky I knew I was going to love the state. Kentucky is beautiful, especially in the Fall.

I had an appointment with a bank in Versailles to show them a branding campaign I had just produced entitled, “We’ve got the Hometown Spirit.” The campaign was a bank sponsored community promotion as well as a campaign to promote the banks products and services.

Versailles is located right outside of Lexington in the heart of the famous Blue Grass Kentucky horse farms. The Fall Colors around Versailles are just breathtaking.

After my meeting I was in a great mood as the bank in Versailles loved the campaign and placed an order.

My next appointment was in Clay, Kentucky which was a few hours down the Parkway.

I decided to just drive around the area to see whatever was around the next curve in the road. I was in the middle of horse racing country. I drove by one beautiful horse farm after another. The extremely well kept farms were circled by beautiful white wooden fences. It’s a sight I’ll never forget.  At one farm there were some horses close to the fence by the road. I stopped the car and just stood by the edge of the road and watched them.

Thoroughbred horses are amazing creatures. They have the muscle tone of an Olympic athletes. They walk with grace and their heads held high.

The next morning I was in for a surprise. I was about to meet someone who would become one of my favorite clients. His last name was Clark and I never ever learned his first name because people just called him, “Clarky.” Clarky was the president of the bank.

After we did our, “How do you dos” Clarky said, “You’re not from around here are ya?” And then he laughed. I said, “How could you tell?” He laughed and said, “I was just pulling your leg a little,ha-ha. It don’t matter much what you sound like. What matters is what you’ve come to show me.”

I showed Clarky the Hometown Spirit branding campaign and he loved it. He especially liked a part of the campaign called the Hometown Spirit Awards which gave out awards to local people who set a good example in community service.

I finished my presentation and told Clarky the price and asked him the closing question. Clarky looked me straight in the eye but he didn’t say a word for what seemed like an eternity. I looked him straight in the eye and didn’t say another word. We just sat there in this Western Kentucky stare down neither one of us willing to give an inch.

Finally, Clarky spoke and said, “Mr. Michaels, may I call you Gary?” I nodded in the affirmative and Clarky continued, “Now Gary, I’m just a country boy and this is just a country bank. I like your program and I do think it would be good for our bank but we’re going to have a real problem doing any business here today.” Clarky looked me straight in the eye and waited for me to respond. I said , “What do we need to solve?” Clarky said, “The problem is with my pen… He paused and then he said, “My pen won’t even write a number as high as the price you quoted me.” I laughed and looked him straight in the eye and said,“We can use my pen. It will write as high as you like.”

We worked out a little bit better price. Clarky was happy and the campaign was a huge success.  I always looked forward to my trips to Clay,Kentucky to meet with my Old Kentucky Friend, “Clarky” Clark. He was one of my favorite clients.

Mr. Clark taught me that when you’re in a negotiation and someone tells you that they are just a “Country Boy” they are usually smarter than you are.

Gary Michaels is the Founder/Executive Producer of MTI Studios and Gary Michaels Online. Since entering the Brand Syndication field in 1980 he has produced Syndicated Branding Campaigns for over 5,000 local and regional advertisers throughout the US, Canada,New Zealand and Australia. (Photos by Thinkstock)

Our work is national quality. Our clients are local advertisers.

© 2011 Gary Michaels Online Corp

 

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