ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Daddy was a jazz musician

Updated on January 26, 2018

He played tenor sax. When I was very young, we lived in Detroit in a tiny apartment, my mom, my dad, my sister and me. Daddy practiced all day long and played in clubs all night, except when he went fishing or hunting, his two favorite past times.

He never went to music school or took lessons of any kind. He was self-taught and started playing when he was just a kid. He went on the road when he was a teenager. That started a life-long career as a musician. I guess it helped that he had perfect pitch (see definition below), cause he taught himself to play all the single reed instruments and the piano too. All you had to do was hum a tune for him and he could sit down and play it. Not just the melody, but also the chords, rhythmic accompaniment, and all kinds of runs up and down the keyboard. I was fascinated. He had a wonderful "ear" (see definition below).

I remember watching him practice in front of a mirror. Why in front of the mirror? I had no idea. I always thought he was trying to make his cheeks stay flat. They puffed out like a puffer fish whenever he played the saxophone.

When my sister and I were young, we took tap dancing lessons, and so when friends (usually other musicians) came to visit, daddy sat down at the piano and we did our little "singing/tap-dancing" sister act. We didn't always want to do it, but we were expected to since we'd been born into a family of entertainers. My mother was a singer and a writer.

Daddy would often play from a "fake book". We had lots of them around the house. They contained just about every song ever written. Eventually, I learned how to read the chord symbols and would sit for hours and try to play the pages of "standards". It never sounded like daddy, but I kept at it anyway.

By the time my sister and I got to high school, we were allowed to occasionally go to the nightclubs where daddy worked with mom. The place I remember so well, in Detroit, was the Penobscot Club. It was beautiful and the food was awesome. Daddy was the leader of the band and he had a girl singer. I don't think my mom liked her too much. Sometimes well-known musicians, who were in town, would come into the club and "sit in". I got to meet Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey and other "big band" musicians. They would come and sit at our table. We have lots of pictures of both Dorsey brothers with my mom and daddy.

This was the 1940s and it was very common for musicians to go around town and "sit in" for nothing with each other, especially late at night after their paying "gigs" (see definition below) were over. This was a way of socializing, communicating with each other and working off the stresses of their "money making" jobs. It was indeed a great era for jazz and for me, as well, as I got to be a part of the continued growth of a fascinating music genre.

additional definitions and pitch test

Pitch: the property of sound that varies with variation in the frequency of vibrations.

Perfect pitch: the ability to hear and identify a note without any musical support

Absolute pitch: same as perfect pitch

Relative pitch: the ability to recogize one pitch with reference to another given pitch

Musical ear: Being able to detect pitch changes and to hear different musical intervals and chords, and even develop the skill to write down music that you are listening to. These abilities may be trained.

gig: live performance

Test your musical ear


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • alekhouse profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      9 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      OK, Julia...wanna write the screen play and move to L A with me? Maybe we could make a fortune...LOL

    • SweetiePie profile image


      9 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Very interesting piece about your dad, and this almost sounds like it would make an interesting movie.

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

      9 years ago from Pennsylvania

      The friend is Pete Souders - born in 1943 and was always in the Philadelphia area. Pete is really honing his playing skills now. He always played at jam sessions, but his BIG contribution was opening a jazz club in north Phila. which was appreciated by many musicians. The club was called Ortlieb's Jazzhaus and Pete ran it from 1987 til 2007. New owners couldn't keep it afloat and it folded a year ago.

    • alekhouse profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      9 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Thanks, Maren, for commenting. Very interesting...about your friend. My father's stage name was Babe Ruth (real spelling: Babe Routh) (real name: Clarence LeRoy Routh) Thanks for asking. Let me know if your friend knows him. BTW what is your friend's name? And did he play in Detroit?

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

      9 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I am blown away - both by your writing style (yes, tons of imagery) and how similar it is to the life of a friend of mine who plays tenor sax. I think he should have been born several decades earlier, but maybe it is in a divine plan that he keep the jazz flame burning for up and coming musicians. If I may ask, what was your dad's name?

    • alekhouse profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      10 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Thanks, Tony. Love to hear about your brother...looking forward to it.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      10 years ago from South Africa

      Super memories, Alek. My brother was a jazz musi and I've written some stuff about him - more in the pipeline!

      Thanks for sharing

      Love and peace


    • alekhouse profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      11 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Wow! Thanks for the nice comments.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Your post inspires so much imagery! Your childhood seems infintely bigger and brighter than mine. The city, the jazz scene, the tap dancing! It all sounds so exciting. Thank you for sharing.

    • alekhouse profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      11 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Thanks for the nice comment. Yes growing up surrounded my music had a profound effect on me. I ended up getting a masters in voice and choral from the Chicago Musical College,at Roosevelt University, and teaching music for the Chicago Public Schools for 25 years.

    • KCC Big Country profile image


      11 years ago from Central Texas

      What great memories! It's nice to grow up around music, isn't it? Thank you for sharing. My dad had great ear for music as well. He could play guitar along with anyone. One of my most cherished memories will always be when my current husband and my daddy sat down and played guitars together. I may have to write a hub about it!

    • alekhouse profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      11 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Thanks for the nice comment. Please join my list of fans. I'm looking forward to reading your hubs

    • Dink96 profile image


      11 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

      What great memories that you have committed here! My dad grew up in Detroit before he enlisted in the Army Air Corps in WWII. I would bet that he and his buddies probably heard your dad swing, as he was a big jazz fan. My g-pa was a (blind) piano tuner in Detroit; was written up a few times in the Free Press. He had some great stories of the city. Thank you for writing about this.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)