Woodrow Charles Herman (May 16, 1913 – October 29, 1987), better known as Woody Herman, was an American jazz clarinetist, alto and soprano saxophonist, singer, and Big band leader. During his lifetime, he led some of the most exciting big bands of the twentieth century. His bands changed styles and approaches to jazz but still managed to keep their musical integrity.
Herman was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As a child he worked as a singer in vaudeville, then became a professional saxophone player at age 15. When Isham Jones’s band, of which Herman had been a member, broke up in 1936, he formed his own band, the Woody Herman Orchestra, with some of his band mates. This band became known for its orchestrations of the blues and was sometimes billed as “The Band That Plays The Blues”.
On April 12, 1939 Woody Herman recorded his greatest commercial and mega popular hit record “Woodchoppers’ Ball”, featuring Woody on clarinet, Neal Ried on trombone, Saxie Mansfield on Sax, Steady Nelson on trumpet and Hy White on guitar. Other big early hits were “Blue Flame,” “Dupree Blues”, “Blues Upstairs and Downstairs” and “Blues in the Night” with Joe Bishop on flugelhorn, Tommy Linehans on piano, Cappy Lewis on trumpet, and the strong rhythm team of Walt Yoder and Frankie Carlson.