Remembering Jack Sheldon

November 30, 1931 – December 27, 2019

 

A tribute to the unique trumpeter, singer and comedian

Trumpeter, singer, bandleader, comedian, and actor Jack Sheldon passed away on December 27, 2019 at the age of 88.

Sheldon was born November 30, 1931 in Jacksonville, Florida.

He began playing trumpet when he was 12, moved to Los Angeles in 1947, attended Los Angeles’ City College, served in the Air Force and became part of the Los Angeles jazz scene in 1952.

It took Sheldon a little time to get established but, after working with Jimmy Giuffre in the mid-1950s, he became a significant part of the Southern California jazz world, working with Dexter Gordon, Art Pepper, the Dave Pell Octet, Herb Geller, and the Curtis Counce Quintet; he also toured with Stan Kenton and Benny Goodman.

Sheldon developed into a comedic personality, took occasional vocals, and worked as an actor including starring in the short-lived 1964-65 television series Run Buddy Run and having a longtime association with the Merv Griffin Show, playing in the house band and making wisecracks.

His voice was heard on Schoolhouse Rock, most notably on “Conjunction Junction” and “I’m Just A Bill.”

Sheldon, who was with Benny Goodman at the clarinetist’s 40th anniversary Carnegie Hall concert in 1978 and worked with the Bill Berry big band, led swinging combos of his own for decades and, starting in the early 1990s, headed the Jack Sheldon Orchestra which featured arrangements by Tom Kubis.

In addition to playing music, Jack Sheldon became a bit notorious for ad-libbing monologues between songs that were often racy, quite risqué, and downright hilarious; hopefully some of these routines will be released on record someday.

Sheldon continued to improve as a distinctive trumpeter and singer until 2011 when a major stroke cut short his career.

Here is the classic “Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Function” clip from Schoolhouse Rock featuring Jack Sheldon’s voice.

-Scott Yanow

Subscribe to Jazz on the Tube