The Troy Street Observer

Woody Herman’s Boston Connection

Woody Herman kicked off 1956 by bringing his brand-new Herd to Storyville on January 2 for one week. The band was originally scheduled for the Hi-Hat the previous month, but a two-alarm fire closed that club the day Herman was to open. Knowing Woody was always a good draw in Boston, George Wein hired the new band, sound unheard.

Photo of Woody Herman
Woody, early 1960s. Sure looks like Phil Wilson behind him.

This was a new Herd, organized in late 1955. The Hi-Hat job might have been the band’s debut, but instead that honor went to a Philadelphia location. If we were counting, we could call this the “Fourth Herd,” but Herman was done counting. It included a few Third Herd carryovers alongside the new crew, and among those on the bandstand in Boston were saxophonist Richie Kamuca, bass trumpeter Cy Touff, trombonist Wayne Andre, pianist Vince Guaraldi, and vibist Victor Feldman. The one man with a Boston connection was trumpeter Dud Harvey. Coming Herman bands would have more.

Woody Herman’s connection to Boston started in spring 1938, when he worked four weeks at the Raymor Ballroom on Huntington Ave. He was back for four more weeks in fall 1938, and for four more early in 1939. In and around these dates, Herman’s “Band That Plays the Blues” had their big break at the Famous Door in New York. But like the Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller bands, Herman’s band mastered its book and its sound while working in Boston.

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