Dec 14 – Clark’s 90th Birthday!

Clark and I wish everybody a Happy Thanksgiving! Things are going well here in Arkansas, and the countdown to Clark’s 90th birthday has begun – only 18 more days and counting. Wow! When I asked him what he would like for his birthday, he said, “More birthdays.” He’s still got that great sense of humor. He also said that one of his wishes has already come true – he wanted his autobiography to be published.

Well, I’m happy to say that we’ve got a wonderful publisher, The University of California Press, and the advance copies will be ready this coming spring. We’ll keep you informed about that, but for now, let’s all get ready to celebrate Clark’s birthday.

For all birthday messages, just post your responses, pics, audio track links, etc., in the comments section of this blog. For posting birthday videos for Clark, please put them on YouTube and then put the link in the comments section here. We’ll take it from there.

Clark gets the biggest kick out of hearing things read to him and seeing all of the “new fangled” technology on the internet. I told him that some of his friends want to come here to celebrate his birthday with him, and he smiled a really big smile. So, we’re going to have a big birthday cake with 90 candles, and few people here to jam a little, eat some good food, and share some fond memories. He’s doing pretty well, still practicing his horn, and he still says, “The Golden Years suck!” But he says that he’s glad to “have some years.” Be sure to post your comments as soon as possible because the clock is ticking down to December 14th.

Take care, and many blessings, Gwen.

| Birthday Wishes, Dec 14 - Clark's 90th Birthday | 315 Comments

315 Responses to Dec 14 – Clark’s 90th Birthday!

  1. Jim Brown says:

    Hi Clark,

    Here’s wishing you a great 90th, with lots more to come. Thanks to the good taste of bookers like Joe Segal, I’ve been lucky enough to near you many times, and to record one of your performances for NPR. I was the engineer on the live New Year’s Eve set in Chicago with Johnny Hartmann and Billy Taylor sharing the bill. Every time I hear your unique voice, whether on trumpet or fluegelhorn, it gives me joy. Last night the a hip jock played a track you did with Jug, and earlier in the week tracks with Thad/Mel and with the Mulligan big band. I’m looking forward to reading your autobio.

    Much love from a Chicagoan transplanted to the west coast.

    Jim Brown

    • Clark says:

      Dear Jim,

      Very happy that you’ve been listening to some sounds, and I’m glad that you enjoyed the ones on which I played.

      Your birthday greeting was great!

      Stay strong, hang in there, and keep on keepin’ on.


  2. Ian Watt says:


    Wishing you a happy 90th birthday – and many more of them!

    I had the great pleasure of seeing Sonny Rollins in London recently and marvelled at his stamina – but then I forgot that he is a “mere” 80 years old.

    With warmest greetings from

    Ian Watt
    in snowy Aberdeen, Scotland

    • Clark says:

      Dear Ian,

      Thanks for the birthday greeting, and I hope you equal and surpass my age with God’s help!

      Hope you’re staying warm and enjoying all the beautiful snow.


  3. Sjef Hoefsmit says:

    Dear Gwen and Clark,

    I want to congratulate you with your 90th birthday. Congratulations should also go to the community of people who love great music. You have served them well many, many years. Thanks to the recordings you will live forever in the hearts of “the people with the ears” as Duke used to say.
    I am excited about your autobiography. I am looking forward to write a review for our Bulletin of the Duke Ellington Music Society.
    Have a good day!

    Sjef Hoefsmit

    • Clark says:

      Dear Sjef,

      What a wonderful birthday greeting, thank you! It almost made me feel like I’d received a greeting from Duke himsellf.

      Stay well, and keep doing that great bulletin that you’re doing.

      The University of California Press has promised to release the advance copies of my autobiography in the spring, and the official release date should be in the fall. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

      God bless you and your colleagues.


  4. Ted Pierce says:

    Dear Clark,
    As a fellow trumpet/flugelhorn player and Sagittarian (Dec. 10) I want to wish you the best of birthdays and many, many, many,more! To quote Duke, we love you madly! I played in the UW-Oshkosh Jazz band that you fronted back in 1973. Our jazz band/trumpet instructor Al Butcher, joked with you about what great trumpet players dream about; I think he got you when you answered, “I don’t know, what DO they dream about?” Seriously, though, you have been a great inspiration for scores of jazz trumpet players like myself who follow in the footsteps you have trod. I learned doodle tonguing from you and for that revelation about jazz soloing I will be eternally grateful. I cherish your recordings and every one is like going to school. To have given a great start to Miles, play with Duke, and be a TV star with Doc, and pursue a personal recording career is simply phenomenal, but your true measure is what a great human being you have been, a lifestyle example like a shining light for all to see. May God richly bless you, Clark!

    Ted Pierce
    Trumpet player and retired band instructor

    • Clark says:

      Dear Ted,

      Happy belated birthday, fellow Saggitarian! And thank you for my birthday wish.

      Your compliments warmed my heart.

      Let’s look forward to having a birthday “cup of coffee” next year.

      Keep on keepin’ on,


  5. Marie Lamb says:

    Dear Mr. Terry–On behalf of all of us at WCNY-FM, especially “Sounds of Jazz” host Leo Rayhill, a happy and healthy 90th birthday! You have a lot of people who love you here in Syracuse, New York, and when I played jazz on WAER-FM from 1988 to 2007, I’m sure I played your music hundreds of times. No need to “mumble” it–you’re one of the all-time jazz greats and a charming gentleman! A Happy 90th and many more–Marie Lamb, WCNY-FM

    • Clark says:

      Dear Marie,

      What an incredible birthday wish! Thank you.

      I appreciate all of the years that you’ve played jazz on the radio, and I’m glad to know that you are still going strong.

      More power to you, forever!!!

      Please give my love to everyone at WCNY-FM, and if you get a chance, please send a link of your show.


  6. On behalf of Big Bands International, I would like to wish Clark a very happy 90th Birthday! I have been an avid follower ever since first hearing the Big B-A-D Band back in the Seventies, and I have never hesitated to go and see him whenever he was in the Philadelphia area. His trumpet and fluegelhorn artistry, in addition to his gentlemanly humor and all-encompassing warmth, remain undiminished in my book.


    Robert J. Robbins
    USA Secretary
    Big Bands International

    • Clark says:

      Dear Robert,

      Thank you for such a warm and wonderful letter!

      Be sure to give my love and special thanks to all the members of the Big Bands International!

      Keep up the great work.


  7. Pete Power says:

    Mr. Terry,

    I had the pleasure of seeing you in clinic in El Paso Texas back in the ’70’s. It was for the El Paso Independent School Distric Jazz Contest/Festival held at UTEP. I didn’t fully realize it at the time before we actually saw you just exactly who you were (but then again I didn’t know who Art Pepper or Don Ellis was either!). When my trumpet playin’ buds and I went to the clinic we knew that we were fixin’ to hear a great talent but we weren’t quite prepared to hear the Grand Master of Jazz Trumpet. Wow! you flipped that horn of yours upside down and played it better than I had ever heard anyone play the trumpet.
    Years later, after having heard some of the greats live in performance, I still have to say that you played the trumpet with complete mastery. It’s like you were born with a horn to your lips. To say that I was delighted then and still are now would be an understatement. Your recordings with Oscar Peterson have got to be some of the finest examples of virtuosity ever laid down on a licorice pizza!
    From what I gather that those close to you say about you, you seem to be a pretty cool cat too!
    Happy Birthday and many more!
    Now I’m going to go YouTube you and marvel again…

    • Clark says:

      Dear Pete,

      Your letter made me smile a lot. It’s great to know that you’ve enjoyed my music, and I’m happy to hear that like my videos on YouTube.

      Thanks for all the compliments and the happy birthday wish.

      Peace and love,


  8. Rob & Ledie Murdock says:

    Happy Birthday & Congratulations Mr. Terry,

    First of all, my husband, stepson and I would like to wish you a wonderful and happy 90th birthday. Congratulations, as well, on receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, which you so richly deserve! We consider you an absolute genius – displaying not only your incredible music ability, but your deftness mentally and linguistically, and the impact you have made both on the music world and in crossing racial barriers. You truly are an icon, who will be forever deeply appreciated by myriads of people you don’t even know, let alone the ones you do.

    My husband, Rob, has been playing trumpet and flugelhorn for 30 years, and my stepson Michael, age 12, has recently taken up the clarinet and some alto saxophone, and is excelling at a great pace. Much of Rob’s work is done at nursing homes, where they desperately need the kind of upliftment that jazz/standards brings them. He plays other social venues as well, causing people to start dancing in the middle of a grocery store or a stuffy museum – he judges his impact by the expressions on the faces of the babies and dogs, or the birds lined up on the telephone wire just tweeting along. His recent work has involved de-tuning from A440 to A432 and observing the emotional changes in people as a result.

    On behalf of our entire family, and the generations of music yet to come who will hear of your greatness, we thank you and wish you all the best!

    With the utmost warmth, respect and sincerity,
    The Murdocks

    • Clark says:

      Dear Rob and Ledie,

      Your letter was beautiful. I enjoyed it very much.

      I wish the best for Michael, and for you and your wife.

      Thank you for your birthday greeting.


  9. Happy Birthday Clark! My memories go back to 1960 when we recorded Johnny Griffin’s Big Soul Band Together for Riverside Records.

    Clark was always my contractor and the person who organized whatever band I was going to use. I was an oblivious young musician fresh from Chicago at the time and I’d like to tell two stories where Clark Terry saved my ass in the studio.

    After we did the Big Soul Band, the next project for Johnny Griffin was a dedication to Billy Holliday called “White Gardenia”
    The band struck up in the studio and sounded like hell. all I knew to do was to check to see if all of the notes were correct. they were and the perspiration began to drip down my brow because I had no idea what to do next. Clark said to the Band, “Lets play it down one more time. And this time, nobody use any vibrato.” A simple solution that I had no knowledge of . Clark told me that “when notes were voiced close together you can’t be shakin’ them too!”

    Riverside Records liked my writing and the format that I used for the Big Soul Band and they wanted to insert it into Woody Herman’s orchestra, using all the contemporary music that went through Horace Sliver and Art Blakey’s Band. I was to be the only arranger for the Woody Herman Band. Woody Herman’s manager must have okayed the contract because Woody didn’t like the format I planned to use. Riverside Records knew that there would be a problem and they had Clark Terry to put together a band of the top musicians in NY to play my music before it got to the Woody Herman Band. At that time I had no idea who all these awesome giants were. And I run into them periodically and they tell me they were in that band and it completely blows my mind. Woody Herman eventually squeezed himself out of that contract.

    Thank you forever and ever Clark!

    Ironically the 50 year anniversary of the Big Soul Band will occur at the Jazz Standard in New York City on Clark Terry’s Birthday, December 14th. I will be sure to make the audience aware of that!!

    Norman Simmons

    • Clark says:

      Hey Big Soul,

      Had any Post Toasties lately?

      I got a big kick out of reading your letter, which was beautifully constructed.

      Thanks for letting me know that taking my advice proved to be a good thing for you. I’m glad the other situation worked out well, and a good time was had by all!

      What a great coincidence that Big Soul Band will have a birthday, too, on December 14th! Wish I could be there.

      I hope that everything will be good for you for the next hundred years!


  10. Douglass Ferguson says:

    Dear Clark, Clean living and having a purpose in life pays off – we can’t hope to live as long as Mathuelah but I wish you as many birthdays as Moses. You are a true original and a living treasure. Doug Ferguson

    • Clark says:

      Dear Douglass,

      Your compliments were very kind, and your birthday wish was superb!

      Thanks for your letter, and all best to you.


  11. Mike Koonce says:

    Clark – a very happy 90th birthday! I had the extreme pleasure of seeing and hearing you many times in Colorado
    during the 1980s and 1990s, and I treasure those moments. Your playing, singing, and sense of humor
    have greatly enriched my life in a way nothing else ever could, and for that I’m eternally greatful. Here’s wishing you
    the happiest and healthiest and swingingest start to your 10th decade!

    Mike Koonce

    P.S. You know, I’ve never forgiven Norman Granz for not letting you and Ella do some singing together – particularly some
    scatting – on a record! And if anyone could have made that happen, he could have. Oh well …

    • Clark says:

      Dear Mike,

      Someone told me that a few of the singing duets that Ella and I did were recorded, but nobody knows where or when. I wish I could hear them, too.

      Glad to know that you’ve enjoyed hearing my music, please don’t stop now.

      Your birthday wish was great, thank you!


    • Mike Koonce says:

      Clark – I will NEVER stop listening to your music. Just listened the other night to a record you and Chris Woods made together in Switzerland (I think) a few decades back. Good God were you two having fun that day/night! Happiest of New Years to you and Gwen, and keep on swingin’!!

  12. Dear Clark, I was a huge fan even before I got to play with you on a “yakety sax” type comercial that featured you and me for Artie Fields Productions in Detroit around 1967 or so. You were so warm and fantastic to me that you have definitely been in my heart ever since then. You, without a doubt, are the epidomy of what every single musician on this planet should strive for in their improvisations, total unabashed joy with the greatest depth of felling ever!
    God bless you on this wonderful milestone, your 90th birthday.

    Terry Harrington

    • Clark says:

      Dear Terry,

      It made me so happy to know that I was a positive influence on you.

      I’m glad that my music proved to be satisfying.

      Thanks for the happy birthday wish.


  13. Mike Masessa says:

    Happy birthday Clark, Back in the early 70’s I was the drummer with the Jersey City State College Jazz Ensemble, John Melito and I were good friends. It was always a great honor when you came to perform with us, I still tell the story of you and John doing Mumbles together. Have a great birthday. Mike

    • Clark says:

      Dear Mike,

      It was indeed a pleasure to hear from you.

      Hope all is well with you and your family.

      Keep the beat and continue to swing!


  14. Hank O'Neal says:

    Dear Clark

    We both hope that every day this month is a birthday celebration for you. We would be hard pressed to think of anyone who has brought so much happiness to so many people for so many years with a musical instrument. Make sure you get in a little practice today and everyday so you can keep on doing it. And have an especially happy day on the 14th.

    all the best,

    Hankles and Muscles

    • Clark says:

      Dear Hankles and Muscles,

      Glad to hear from you two! You both have been so beautiful and a great inspiration to me for many. many years.

      I always enjoyed your Jazz Cruises, and I thank God for the wonderful friendship that we’ve shared for so long.

      You book, “The Ghosts of Harlem,” is a classic! (unbelievably fantastic!)

      I can’t wait to send you one of mine next year.

      Much love to both of you,


  15. Neal Karraker says:

    Hi Clark,

    Attended Stan Thomas’ funeral not long ago and his wife said she had spoken to you. He introduced us in Cape Girardeau a few years ago. I lost a great friend and such a great arranger-bandleader. He thought so much of you and if still with us,he like me, would want to say happy Birthday to my alltime favorite trumpet man. Hope you can return to Cape sometime. Keep on keepin on.
    Happy 90th mumbles.

    Neal Karraker

    • Clark says:

      Dear Neal,

      I used to call him S.T. – a really great man and musician.

      I really appreciate all of your wonderful compliments.

      Long live S.T.’s memory, and all the best to you!


  16. Joe Gill says:

    Dear Mr. Clark Terry!

    I wish you the happiest of birthdays! Number 90 . . . and your achievements and contributions to the jazz community continue to felt to this day. I still can remember your clinic and performance with the Millikin University Jazz Lab Band back in tha late 1960s when I was a student at MU. Rest assured that your “gems of wisdom” have been passed on to my students throughout the years during my tenure as a public & private school teacher. Thank you, THANK YOU for your inspiration and dedication to jazz education.

    • Clark says:

      Dear Joe,

      Thanks for all those nice things that you said, and for the wonderful birthday wish.

      It’s always good to hear such great things from someone who has been so involved in jazz education.

      I wish you and your students all the best!


  17. Richard Ashby says:

    Happy birthday Clark, I have enjoyed your music for many, many years and remember you fondly from my years in St. Louis. Many happy returns.

    • Clark says:

      Hey Hometown!

      Thanks for your birthday greetiing.

      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my music.

      All the best to you and your family.


  18. John Goode says:

    Hello Mr. Terry,

    You’ve given us all so much for so long a mere ‘thank you’ seems insufficient. Speaking to an audience in Houston many years ago you related how music should be entertaining and touch people emotionally. I used your thoughts often over the years in motivating my high school band classes, both jazz and symphonic.

    I’m retired now and get letters from former students now and then. I want you to know your thoughts became part of the philosophy that shaped the band experience those students now fondly remember. So thank you for all the music and wisdom you’ve given to us educators. Happy Birthday, and Cut The Cake!!!

    A toast: Here’s to the future!

    • Clark says:

      Dear John,

      It’s wonderful to know that I had a positive impact on you and your students.

      Thank you for your birithday wiahes. I plan to cut a big hunk of cake! 🙂

      Blessings to you,


  19. Clint Rosemond says:

    Happy birthday Clark. Thanks for the many wonderful recorded expressions of you deep and unique musical talent. Have the pleasure of working here in Los Angeles with your relative Lesa. She too has the Terry talent.

    • Clark says:

      Dear Clint,

      I enjoyed your compliments and your birthday wish.

      I’m really proud of Lesa, and her recent honorary doctorate.

      Take care, and all the best.


  20. Mark Huisenga says:

    Whenever I want to loosen up my high school jazz choir rookies, when it comes to scat, Clark Terry’s one of the first we listen to!

    Happy 90th, Mr. Terry!!

    • Clark says:

      Dear Mark,

      Please give my best to your high school jazz choir, and tell them that everytime they scat sing, I hope that they hit their mark.

      Thanks for your birthday wish.