I first heard Buddy Morrow on radio broadcasts of his records when I was a teenager (and beginning trombonist) back in Kansas in the early 1950’s.
Even then, before I was trombonist enough myself to make authoritative judgments, I (like everybody else) heard something amazing in every note he played.
From the impeccable perfection of his smooth, “Dorsey-and-then-some” ballad playing and solid lead style, to his bombastic rock and roll trombone solos (a totally new concept then and seldom approached since), Buddy’s musicality, flexibility, sound, power and range were nothing less than thrilling, even on a small radio speaker.
The first of his records I heard was the much played “What Can I Say After I Say I’m Sorry” on which he played very softly in a freer, almost Lawrence Brown approach. With its super-quiet ending, the record created a definite mood and Buddy didn’t strive for the Dorsey-like classicism that he normally brought to ballads.
In any case, less than five years later, I found myself playing in Buddy’s band and becoming even more impressed with his playing and his goodheartedness every day.
Later, in the 1960’s, sitting next to him on recording sessions was equally impressive but a bit less exciting, possibly because he was doing his job as a side musician rather than setting the tone for (and leading) an entire band.
In the mid 1970’s, as New York studio work declined, Buddy took over leadership of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and returned to a traveling schedule (albeit a much less onerous one than the seven-day-a-week tours of the old days).
Over the past 40 years, I have talked to a lot of young trombonists about Buddy and they have graciously accepted my word about his beautiful playing. But the greatest satisfaction has come from talking to the remarkably large number of these same trombonists who had subsequently played with the Dorsey band, had heard Buddy play in person and had experienced the magic of Buddy Morrow for themselves.
In 2005, I got a chance to play a couple of dates with the Dorsey band myself and to see Buddy again. He wasn’t playing the more demanding Dorsey numbers at that point but his casual solos between band numbers (with just the rhythm section) were performed with that same inimitable, beautiful purity of sound that has inspired so many trombonists.
Buddy was a terrific trombone player, a great musician and a wonderful man. It all came easy to him but there wasn’t an ounce of conceit or arrogance in him.
He will be lovingly remembered by all of us whose lives he touched.