Wow! What a concert. It might be one of the best musical evenings I've enjoyed in the past 70 years.
My oldest son, Harry, called about a month ago and invited me to a pre-birthday treat to attend the Doc Severinsen concert Feb. 26 at Kansas State University's McCain Auditorium. I jumped at the chance to visit the Little Apple and hear music in the Big Apple style.
My only claim to fame with Doc is I'm 110 days older than he when we both reach our 85th birthdays this year. Our main difference is he is still one of the most technically proficient trumpeters; and I only can listen to one of his 30 albums.
My pre-birthday visit to Manhattan also included a delectable dinner treat, with my daughter-in-law preparing a leg of lamb with mint jelly, spring peas and mashed potatoes, topped off with carrot cake and vanilla ice cream. Back on my heart-healthy diet tomorrow. My son, two grandkids, and their dates shared their lives and meal with "old Grandpa."
McCain Auditorium was filled to capacity, with a sea of white hair prevalent. At 7:30 p.m., 15 musicians -- five sax, three trombone, four trumpet, drums, bass and piano -- settled in tiers behind their music stands. All were dressed in gray pants, black jackets, varied colored dress shirts and ties. His excellent gal jazz pianist dressed in a black pants suit.
With spotlight shining, gray-haired Doc Severinsen walked in, outrageously dressed in brown and white loafers, light brown pants, an orange dress shirt and green tie, all covered by a zoot suit-length yellow jacket adorned with gold sequins. Yes, he carried his special golden trumpet, and he definitely came to play.
This very talented Big Band opened the Concert with the Johnny Carson "Tonight Show" theme, then played big band musical hits for the next two hours. The band was a combination of veteran and young richly talented musicians.
This band, under the perfect direction of a very spry, mobile trumpeter, took us into golden oldies history with "Flying Home," "Jumpin' At The Woodside," "St. Louis Blues," "Sax Alley," "Georgia," "Sing, Sing, Sing," "Stardust," and ended the concert with "One O'Clock, Two O'Clock," -- my kind of music.
After intermission, the band and Doc returned, with Doc now emblazoned in black and white loafers, pink pants, a KSU purple dress shirt, and a white jacket with gold trim everywhere. He described his spectacular garb to the women, all of whom he said would "kill" to wear his outfits.
Doc introduced a featured female vocalist, Vanessa Thomas of Clay Center, with her big voice singing "Smile," "Singing in the Rain," "When You are Smiling," "Mood Indigo," and a stand-up applause rendition of "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child" -- an electric performance.
This Big Band is on a "one-nighter" schedule, playing in Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, Iowa, Wyoming, Colorado and Texas. Doc is as energetic and musically demanding as he was for 30 years on the "Tonight Show."
He has no plans for retiring, as long as his "chops" continue to allow him to play terrific trumpet.
All in all, it was a very special pre-birthday party, one long to enjoy and remember as a tribute to my golden age era with fun, musical frivolity, and family. I really enjoyed it. Long live our seniors' music.
Harry Watts, Hays, is an AARP Community Service Volunteer.