Music legend Clark Terry has just published a memoir entitled Clark: The Autobiography of Clark Terry. Now in his 91st year, the jazz trumpeter takes readers from his impoverished childhood in St. Louis, Missouri, to the Jim Crow South where he got his start, to the worldwide fame he has enjoyed for decades.
The University of New Hampshire is also part of Terry’s history and appears in his memoir on several occasions. Music Professor Dave Seiler brought Terry to UNH in the mid-1970s to headline his new jazz festival. Thus started a long friendship between the two and an ongoing affiliation, with Terry returning to UNH annually to perform and record with scores of UNH students and faculty members. Terry has led student tours of Europe and, in 1976, fronted the UNH Jazz Band that became the first college ensemble ever to play on an evening bill at the famed Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. UNH awarded Terry an honorary doctorate, his first, in 1978, and the Pettee Medal in 2002.
In his autobiography, Terry remembers with gratitude the 70th birthday bash that UNH threw for him. Terry was prepared to play an evening performance with the Clark Terry Birthday Celebration Big Band composed of UNH students and local musicians. To Terry’s surprise, Seiler and the late Paul Verrette, then UNH Professor of Music, shepherded on stage a line of friends for Terry to jam with: Milt Hinton, James Williams, Louie Bellson, Hal Crook, and Gray Sargent.
Terry recalls: “The Cherry on the cake was when one of my students, Ryan Kisor, walked out on stage, followed by Herb Pomeroy and Doc Cheatham! Doc was 85 years old at the time, and he played ‘Just Friends’ so beautifully. They were all fantastic! After the show, they brought out a huge cake and I blew out the candles. Then they handed me the mike. I could barely talk because it had been so overwhelming to see so many friends, both on stage and in the audience. They had come from near and far to wish me a happy birthday…all in all, my seventieth birthday was probably one of my best birthdays ever!”
Clark Terry’s book is available at major online retailers such as Amazon.com.