Merry Christmas!

When I was a young boy, I loved Christmas. Still do. You know why? Because it’s the season with a huge spotlight on “hope.” My birthday signifies a very special day of hope for me, but Christmas represents hope for millions of folks all over the world.

I enjoyed my 92nd birthday recently, and I got some hip “goodies”. A few of my students surprised me and came to my party. They played some swinging music for me. Justin Kauflin on piano, Cameron MacManus on trombone, Quincy Cavers on sax, and Alan Hicks on drums. I was very happy that some of my tunes were included in their repertoire. You know how proud I am of my students. They played beautifully. They’re all professionals, now, and they can p-l-a-y! You’d better believe it!  After that great music, I blew out my candles.

I’m glad that I didn’t have to blow out 92 candles!(Photo Credit: Gary Paris)

I’m glad that I didn’t have to blow out 92 candles!
(Photo Credit: Gary Paris)

Here's Gwen giving me a piece of my tasty birthday cake. (Photo Credit: Gary Paris)

Here’s Gwen giving me a piece of my tasty birthday cake.
(Photo Credit: Gary Paris)

Shooting the breeze with my students. L-R: Cameron MacManus (standing), Alan Hicks (sitting), Quincy Cavers (standing), me, Justin Kauflin (sitting) (Photo Credit: Gary Paris)

Shooting the breeze with my students. L-R: Cameron MacManus (standing), Alan Hicks (sitting), Quincy Cavers (standing), me, Justin Kauflin (sitting)
(Photo Credit: Gary Paris)

My party was very cool. And my neighbors, Monte Coleman and his family, surprised me and came over.  He’s the SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference) Coach of the Year, you know. Played pro ball with the Redskins. So, it was beautiful that he took time out of his hectic schedule, just to come and hang out with me and the cats. Man, I really enjoyed it!

That’s Monte Coleman, his wife Yvette, and me.(Photo credit: Gwen Terry)

That’s Monte Coleman, his wife Yvette, and me.
(Photo credit: Gwen Terry)

Speaking of Christmas, back in my childhood, I recall that my dad didn’t have extra bread to buy gifts because it was all he could do to raise ten of us children, with him being a widower. So, I couldn’t wait for Christmas to come, when we could get some “goodies” from the Forrestel family. They’d give big boxes of Christmas gifts to kids like us. My brothers and I pulled our makeshift sled for what seemed like miles and miles to the Forrestel’s house, and we had a ball. We didn’t say, “No, it’s too cold to go way over there. And when we get there, we’ll have to stand in the snow until our name is called.” We didn’t complain at all. It was fun, because we had high hopes.

Now, at this time in my life, I realize that those gift boxes were much more than dolls for my sisters, clothes for me and my brothers. More than the really cool Tom Mix cowboy gloves that I got one year – replicas that Tom wore in his popular black-and-white movies. Those boxes were actually gifts of hope, because they represented something for all of us to look forward to. Something to inspire us to keep on keepin’ on.

The love and the gifts I’ve received this year have kept my hopes alive. And I want to thank you, again, for all of those beautiful things. To my friends who played for me, Lynne Mueller and other friends who helped to organize that fundraiser last April; man, I’m eternally grateful. The Jazz Foundation of America (JFA) and other friends and fans have given donations that helped to pay for my health aides round-the-clock. I can’t thank you all enough.  All of your kindness. Man! I appreciate it more than any words I can think of.

JFA has been helping jazz musicians for two decades! I call their leader, Wendy Oxenhorn, “An Angel on Earth,” because she oversees their business of helping our cats who are in need. Musicians like Freddie Hubbard, Cecil Payne, and hundreds more. Cats who are sick and can’t work. Having hard times. Period. I’m talking about help with medical and dental care, rent money, food, basic needs. Man! JFA helps to get replacement instruments for our musicians who lose their axes in storms. They helped Fats Domino to get a new piano when Katrina destroyed his. They’re really busy now, helping our jazz musicians who suffered losses from hurricane Sandy, and other cats who are down on their luck. Talking about spreading hope, that’s what they do on a regular basis.

So, during this holiday season, I’m wishing you all a very Merry Christmas full of hope. God bless you all, and I love you!

Clark Terry

| Birthday Wishes, happenings, Happy Holidays | 8 Comments

8 Responses to Merry Christmas!

  1. john thyhsen says:

    Thank you Clarke for all your gifts of love and music.I know your birthday party this year will be spectacular. I would love to be by your side and extend my humble respect and care for you and your lovely wife Gwen.
    I will never forget your many times with me at Glassboro.
    May more angels come this way to help the needy jazz musicians of whatever age they may be.
    Love. John Thyhsen

  2. Rory McNeil says:

    Happy Belated Birthday Clark! Here’s to a very Happy New Year for you, as well.

    I have such fond memories of the annual Christmas Card you always sent me when I was a little girl.

    Rory McNeil—trumpeter John McNeil’s little sister. oxox

  3. Valerie Takacs says:

    I have to agree that the greatest gift of hope I can think of is the fact that you not only made it to 92, but you still take the time to think of all your friends and fans that love you so much. I wish you and Gwen the most Blessed Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year!!
    Valerie Takacs
    Hudson OH

  4. Kelly Jo says:

    Happy birthday, Clark!

    YOU are an angel and I’m so happy to see you smiling. You have always been an inspiration to me and my family (Mike Johnston is my brother.) Not only through your amazing music, but through your giving, beautiful soul, you have altered many people’s lives. You know how to make the world smile… what a gift you are.

    I wish you and Gwen a very happy new year.

    With love,
    Kelly Jo

  5. Michael and Zoe Johnston says:

    Dear Clark,

    Zoe and I were so thrilled to see the beautiful letter and birthday photos you posted today. Thank you and your amazing family for sharing those beautiful thoughts and images! It comforts us to know you in such caring and capable hands.

    We are spending time with Zoe’s side of the family this week. We wish you were here with us, too! You know we consider you family and always will. Your love and kindness continues to touch so many people. Big Prez must truly be proud of Clark Terry! You are such a beautiful and inspiring part of this world. We love you, Clark. Merry Christmas!

  6. REBO:

    HAPPY! HAPPY! HAPPY! God Bless You Clark. I am so thrilled you are still up and about and enjoying your life. Happy 92nd birthday. I had my 62nd on December 1st, so we are still 30 years apart. Ha! Also, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in 2013 to you Gwen and all of your loved ones. Tonight my little Nicole and I are spending Christmas Eve with Hope Townsend – lots of laughs, memories, good eats and home made egg nog. We should all be pretty jolly about midnight.

    I would have called or written on your birthday but my 91 year old Dad was in a 4 car fender bender – no one got hurt but all were pretty shook up. Regardless, it called for my immediate attention and by the time I resurfaced , it was Chrictsmas Eve. Oh well, we got to take care of what we got to take care of. My Dad is okay now and will be adjusting to life without driving.

    I finished my second full length opera “The Interlopers” in early December and now on to #3. Also, had two New CD releases in 2012 (that is rare) and plan to send you a copy of both as soon as things settle down after the holidays. At my small group jazz ensemble winter concert, the guys played SPACEMEN for the finale and the crowd loved it and the cats played good. You would have loved it.
    Thank again for all your help over the years. The times with the Big Bad Band were the absolute greatest and looking back I realize more and more what a special time it was we all lived through.

    This will be all for now. It was great speaking on the phone with you in October. We will do it again soon.
    I would like to wish you and Gwen a very blessed holiday and a prayer that your health remains good and your spirits soar even higher. Merry Christmas! Happy Birthday and Happy New Year from your pal, GROG.


    ps remember that Christmas is also Chris’mas Woods birthday

  7. Thank you so much for posting the awesome letter Clark!
    Love and the Happiest of Holidays. Hugs and kisses from New York ~ Ingrid, Jon and Kårinna.

  8. John MacKay says:

    Happy Holidays to you and yours, Clark! I’ve experienced so much joy listening to your music over the years – thank you!!!

    All best,
    (John MacKay
    Professor, Slavic Languages and Film Studies
    Yale University)