Woody Herman Day

May 16, 1913 – October 29, 1987

My Favorite Things

Alto saxophonist, clarinetist, singer, and big band leader Woodrow Charles “Woody” Herman was born on May 16, 1913, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Woody Herman started performing at a young age, working as a tap dancer and singer in vaudeville as a child before picking up the alto saxophone at 11 and the clarinet at 14.

After working with the bands of Myron Stewart, Joe Lichter, Tom Gerun (1929-34), Harry Sosnick, and Gus Arnheim, Herman became a featured soloist and singer with the Isham Jones Orchestra in 1934.

When Jones disbanded the group in the summer of 1936, the 23-year-old Herman used its core members to form his own orchestra, leading a big band for most of the next 51 years.

After a period of struggle, he had a hit in 1939 with “Woodchopper’s Ball,” and his big band became known as “The Band That Plays The Blues.”

In 1944, Herman reorganized his group, which soon became nicknamed “The Herd” (later known as “The First Herd”), playing music that fell between swing and bebop.

The First Herd featured colorful soloists such as tenor saxophonist Flip Phillips, trombonist Bill Harris, and high-note trumpeter Pete Candoli.

The band became so popular that even Igor Stravinsky noticed, composing “Ebony Rhapsody” for the orchestra.

After the group disbanded, Herman formed “The Second Herd” a year later, also known as “The Four Brothers Band” due to the popularity of the song “Four Brothers.”

The Second Herd played a cool-toned version of bebop and featured great musicians like tenors Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, and Al Cohn, as well as baritonist Serge Chaloff.

In the 1950s, Herman led “The Third Herd,” which had a more laid-back style compared to his earlier Herds. In the 1960s, he formed “The Young Thundering Herd,” one of his most exciting groups, featuring tenor saxophonist Sal Nistico, trombonist Phil Wilson, and trumpeter Bill Chase.

Always striving to avoid nostalgia and perform new material, Woody Herman remained an inspiring force to his sidemen and the music world, leading his big band until his death in 1987.

Here is the Woody Herman Orchestra performing “My Favorite Things” in Montreal in January 1964.


Woody Herman, clarinet & leader
Bill Chase, trumpet
Don Rader, trumpet
Billy Hunt, trumpet
Danny Nolan, trumpet
Gerry Lamy, trumpet
Paul Fontaine, trumpet
Kenny Wenzel, trombone
Phil Wilson, trombone
Henry Southall, trombone
Jackie Stevens, alto sax
Carmen Leggio, tenor sax
Sal Nistico, tenor sax
Nick Brignola, baritone sax
Nat Pierce, piano
Chuck Andrus, bass
Phil Wilson, drums

-Scott Yanow