Remembering Jim Cullum

September 20, 1941 – August 11, 2019

A tribute to the New Orleans style cornetist and bandleader

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Cornetist Jim Cullum passed away on August 11, 2019 at the age of 77 from a heart attack.

He was born September 2, 1941 in San Antonio, Texas, the son of clarinetist Jim Cullum Sr. who led the Happy Jazz Band in the 1960s and ‘70s until his death in 1973.

The younger Cullum grew up around music, began playing trumpet at an early age, and was always attracted to New Orleans jazz and swing, playing his first professional job in 1958 when he was 17.

After attending San Antonio College and Trinity University, he joined his father’s band in 1962 which by the following year was based at the Landing in San Antonio.

The cornetist, who developed into a powerful soloist, recorded 15 albums with the Happy Jazz Band during 1963-73 for the Audiophile and Happy Jazz labels.

After his father’s death, he took over the group which was soon simply known at the Jim Cullum Jazz Band, becoming one of the top trad groups and featuring such sidemen through the years as clarinetists Allan Vache, Brian Oglivie and Evan Christopher and pianist John Sheridan, recording for the Audiophile, American Jazz, Jazzology, World Jazz and Stomp Off labels plus a superb album of music from Porgy and Bess for CBS.

During 1989-2012, Jim Cullum gained his greatest fame and influence due to his weekly hour-long PBS radio series Live At the Landing which featured his band, guests, and an educational and entertaining approach to presenting early jazz.

Jim Cullum was active until the end, performing just two days before his unexpected death.

Here is the Jim Cullum Jazz Band with cornetist Cullum, trombonist Randy Reinhart, clarinetist Allan Vache, pianist John Sheridan, banjoist Howard Elkins, bassist Jim Hunter, and drummer Eddie Torres on Jan. 29, 1985 playing Jelly Roll Morton’s “Frog-I-More Rag.”

-Scott Yanow


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