Always Pulin for You
I analogize life with baseball. It was exciting and also scary to be eighteen and starting out in the major leagues of the band business, with the Tommy Dorsey band under the direction of Warren Covington. That was the 'Tea For Two Cha Cha' band and if it wasn't enough for a young kid to be traveling in fast company like that, add the allure of a hit record. And the whole experience was unbelievable! My guardian angel knew that I was in over my head, though, and sent me Mary Johnston. Mary, a singer in her own right, was traveling with her husband, Lloyd, who was the lead alto player and manager of the band. She sat down next to me on the bus one night and explained that her agent, John O'Connor, also represented Johnny Long's band, which needed a trombonist right away. Warren Covington gave his blessings to leave adding that I was welcome back on the band anytime. I took him up on that offer later on when he needed a trombone player for a weekend gig. Besides Warren's Dorsey band, I occupied bus seats with a variety of bands, including Tony Pastor, Les and Larry Elgart, The Lee Castle Jimmy Dorsey band, and Woody Herman. I became a charter member of Clark Terry's Big Bad Band, which was a co-venture that he led with altoist Phil Woods, and trombonist Melba Liston. That band was a collection of all-stars including guys like Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Gene Quill, Randy Brecker, Jimmy Owens, Ron Carter, Grady Tate. You get the idea! Later I split for Europe, winding up in the Netherlands, and wasn't seen or heard from again for seven years. I married a Dutch lady who just happened to be a producer for The Philips-Fonogram Company. Our first co-production was a son who we named Yasha. After that I ultimately became a part of the recording scene in Holland and all over Europe participating in hundreds of sessions as a Trombonist, composer/arranger, and producer. Since my return to the U.S.( L.A.), I've appeared with numerous bands and performers, including Art Pepper, Don Ellis, Ray Charles, and Tito Puente including his Monterey Jazz Festival appearance. Incidentally............ In addition to being blessed with wonderful, encouraging, and supportive parents, Helen and Hy Pulin, I was also 'adopted' by a musician that I believe was tops on his instrument, tenor saxophone, and an icon in the field of jazz...the inimitable Billy Mitchell.. 'B' took me under his wing, and over the next forty years we became best of friends (I had the honor and pleasure to gig and record with him both stateside and abroad). His input, whether it pertained to music or life was plentiful and was always welcomed. I considered him my mentor and I was honored that he thought of me as his protege.(other Billy Mitchell protege's include Charles McPherson, and Bobby Hutcherson). The Mitchell residence on Yale avenue in Rockville Centre, NY, was always a happy haven for musicians and other nice folk. Being 'licensed' to 'drop' the name Billy Mitchell over the years opened a lot of doors for me. I will always be greatly indebted to him and cherish the memory of both he and his wonderful wife Marge.