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Spotlight on Jazz-Clark Terry

February 25, 2011

Clark Terry was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He attended Vashon High School there and began his professional career in the early 1940s by playing in local clubs before joining a Navy band during World War II.
His years with Basie and Ellington in the late 1940s and 1950s established him as a world-class jazz artist. Blending the St. Louis tone of his youth with contemporary styles, Terry’s sound influenced a generation. During this period, Terry took part in many of Ellington’s suites and acquired a lasting reputation for his wide range of styles (from swing to hard bop), technical proficiency, and infectious good humor. In addition to his outstanding musical contribution to these bands, Terry exerted a positive influence on musicians such as Miles Davis and Quincy Jones, both of whom credit Clark as a formidable influence during the early stages of their careers. (Terry had informally taught Davis while they were still in St Louis.)
After leaving Ellington, Clark’s international recognition soared when he accepted an offer from the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) to become its first African-American staff musician. He appeared regularly for ten years on The Tonight Show as a regular member of the Tonight Show Band led first by Skitch Henderson, then by Doc Severinsen, where his unique “mumbling” scat singing became famous when he scored a hit as a singer with “Mumbles.”

Terry was a long-time resident of Bayside, Queens and Corona, Queens, New York. He and his wife later moved to Haworth, New Jersey. They currently reside in Pine Bluff, AR. Here is Mr. Terry giving it to you, Straight, No Chaser.

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