“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” — Robert Browning.
“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” — Sherlock Holmes.
My friend Frank Hunter passed away on Dec. 15. He was a trombonist and a Local 802 member since 1955. Frank was born in the Germantown section of Philadelphia and attended Mastbaum Vocational High School. It was at Mastbaum that he met and studied with Meyer Levin, who took Frank on a journey of Walter Piston and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov.
All the principles of orchestration were needed in those early years of writing music for bands. One of Frank’s great skills was to get a lot of sound from a band when there were few musicians in the ensemble. All of his early arranging was accomplished without a score, which he called “writing in the parts.” Frank said, “I never heard of score paper for pop music until Elliot Lawrence came along.”
The various bandleaders Frank wrote for included Johnny Warrington, Al Donahue, Sammy Kaye, Elliot Lawrence, Tommy Dorsey, Coleman Hawkins, Paul Whiteman, Charlie Gretch, Eddie Heywood, Tex Beneke, Herbie Mann and Hoagy Carmichael. He also wrote for the West Point Band during World War II.
And how about this for a list of some of the artists whose Frank’s arranging helped in the sales of some of the over 100 albums they recorded from the 1940’s through the 1990’s: Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, Leo Diamond, Rod McKuen, Frank Sinatra Jr., Roger Williams, Carmen McRae, Joe Harnell, Jane Morgan, Eddie Fisher, Pat Boone, Merrill Staton Voices, Kate Smith, the Philadelphia Brass Quintet, the Philadelphia Woodwind Quintet, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Anita Bryant, Frank Fontaine, Joe Williams, Robert Goulet, Ed Ames, Sergio Franchi, Chad & Jeremy, Tony Orlando & Dawn, Johnny Hartman, Georgia Gibbs, Frankie Avalon, Nat King Cole, Jane Jarvis — and the list goes on.
Now you have the answer to the question you may have asked yourself at one time over the past 50 years: “Who wrote those beautiful charts?” Well, his name was Frank Hunter.
I talked to Frank many times over the past 27 years after my family left the East Coast for California. Finally, we talked at 8 p.m. (West Coast time) just hours before he died. I will cherish that conversation all my life.
Frank will go down as one of the great arrangers in the 20th century. He will remain in the many hearts who truly knew him as one of the most truthful, talented, tender and tenacious human beings I have ever met.
Frank is survived by his wife Marjorie of 65 years, son Jack, daughter Pat and granddaughter Sarah.
Pat suggests we “have a belt of something and make a toast. He’d like that!”
Na zdorovye, Frank, and it was a pleasure sharing some time with you here on earth. May perpetual light always shine upon you.
Vince Trombetta is the vice president of Local 47 (Los Angeles) where he has been a member since 1978. He’s also been a member of Local 802 since 1961, and a member of Local 77 (Philadelphia) since 1955.