Remembering Don Jacoby

Jake is gone but not forgotten by many of us in the trumpet world who were fortunate enough to have known him. If you are interested in his background and accomplishments, I highly recommend Clint “Pops” Mc Laughlin’s site . If you are interested in what Jake was really like, I can share two stories which might give you some insight into the real Don Jacoby.

When first locating yourself in a new area, it is to your advantage to make contact with one of the more active players in order for them to help you get work. This is what I did when starting my education at the then, North Texas State. The first person I became friends with was Larry Ford, then lead trumpet with the One O’clock Lab band in Denton, Texas. Through a friend, I was able to meet and become friends with Larry and through Larry, I was able to schedule lessons with Jake in neighboring Dallas, Texas.

Before I go any further, let me describe the flamboyant gentleman to you so that you understand what lessons and an eventual friendship was like with Jake. Jake was unique. His height did not match his warm, friendly, loud, outspoken, sometimes edgy character. When he entered the room, he owned the room. When he spoke, everyone listened. Don was not a wall flower and his opinions and views on everything was the only view. His laughter was seasoned with the raspyness of years spent in smoke filled clubs. His grip was confident and as sure as his attitude towards his instrument. I am not saying that Jake was arrogant for there was never a more kind and considerate person in the world. As most trumpet players know, there is a certain confidence that goes with the instrument and Jake had that certainty.

A typical lesson with Jake usually took the whole afternoon, followed by an invitation to share dinner with him and his wonderful wife Dori, followed by an invitation to join him at the club where his band was currently performing. That’s how Jake was. He was there to help young trumpet players and for that the trumpet world was made better. During my first lesson the phone range, which was common, and from the one sided conversation, I could tell it was someone from a local recording studio. Eventually Jake turned to me and asked, “Can you sing”? That was not a question I was prepared to answer but I finally assured him I could sing. The telephone conversation continued, then I was asked, “what’s your range?’ It was then that I realized that Jake was trying to get me on a recording session as a singer! I love that story and let me assure you, I didn’t get that job. I did get others through Jake and eventually move into Dallas and worked full time in the area, both playing and teaching.

Another life experience with Jake happened one evening when he called and asked if I would sub for him at the Club Village in Dallas. I had set in for him on a couple of occasions (extremely out gunned by the other members of his band- which members included, Lou Marini , Phil Kelly, Banks Diamond and Wayne Harrison who replaced Bobby Burgess after “Butter” relocated in Europe. On the few occasions when I did lower the standards of the band, I was petrified and could not understand why I was ever asked back. On one such occasion, I entered the club to take my place on the band stand and noticed another trumpet player on stage visiting with Lou Marini. At first the figure did not register but as I got closer, I realized that the trumpet player was Garry Grant, at that time the current lead player for the one o’clock. Louie saw me and explained that Jake had asked him also to find a replacement. What should I do, what should I do? My decision took all of one second and I bowed to the superior musician. It wasn’t until recently that Garry’s name came up and I was floored to think that we were both hired for the same gig.

For those who own Jake’s last LP Jake Brings the House Down, notice the white dust coming from behind the mound of rubble where Jake is standing. The day they took the cover shot, they hired some neighborhood kids to throw sacks of baking powder in the air to simulate building dust. I thought you might find that interesting. I was in Jake’s condo the week the record came out and he told me the story.

In closing, I would like to thank Don not only for what he did for me and my family, but also for the hundreds and possibly thousands of young trumpet players around the world. His playing and teaching were inspirations to us all. We who were blessed to have shared time with him will never forget his love and never ending excitement for the art of music.

Personal message to Jake- “Every time I put a shake on a note, I think of you and how you influenced my life”.

Bruce was a member of the faculty at the University of Northern Iowa, School of Music in Cedar Falls from 1969 until his retirement in 1999. He has performed with many well-known entertainers such as Bob Hope, Jim Nabors, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Anita Bryant, Carman Cavalara, Victor Borgie, the Four Freshman, Blackstone the Magician, Bobby Vinton and John Davidson.

9 thoughts on “Remembering Don Jacoby

  1. Jim Nelson


    Don Jacoby was the featured clinician at the Chicagoland High School Stage Band Clinic our high school stage band (Chesterton, Indiana) attended in the winter of 1960/61. He made a big impression on me as well as on the rest of our group. He was the first excellent trumpetist I’d ever heard live. The next two were Doc Severinsen, at the Midwest Band Clinic in Chicago, and you, playing the Haydn trumpet concerto with the Augustana Orchestra!

    Many thanks,

    • Bruce Chidester

      I don’t know what to say my friend, so I will just go off line now and cry.

      Those were great times and you were a very big part of it.

      God bless

  2. Steve Leisring

    Rest assured Jake’s influence is alive and well in the Midwest and beyond. I studied with him from 1981 until 1987. Saw him last in the summer of 91 when he signed his book for me. I played in Spain from 1989-2003. My former students include Adan Delgado, Prin of the National Orch of Spain. In 2003, I became trpt prof at the Univ of KS in Lawrence. Jake was one of my biggest influences and his ideas are being passed along still today…

    • Bruce Chidester

      Thank you so much for your comments for the more the younger players learn of our history, the stronger our legions will become. It is my wish that through this web site, I will be able to feature some of the greats from our past who have made a difference in trumpet history.

      Please check back often and I wish the very best to you and yours.

  3. Larry Forrest

    In 1961 my high school band competed in a music festival in Corpus Christi, TX. I was a junior trumpet player and idolized Don Jacoby. I had a copy of his album “Have Conns – Will Travel”, and had pretty much worn the grooves down to nothing listening to it. Don Jacoby was a guest clinician at the festival and I had the extraordinary opportunity to meet him and shake his hand. Meeting him and hearing him play in person was absolutely the highlight of the festival for me. As I remember I didn’t wash my right hand for several days. Unfortunately, my love of the trumpet and my desire to play it far exceeded my natural ability, so I never studied with any great teachers and also had enough sense not to pursue music as a career. Now, 51 years later I still love playing the horn and play in my church orchestra three services every Sunday morning. And I still have “Have Conns – Will Travel”.

    • Bruce Chidester

      Jake was one of a kind. Your interest in his first LP made me think of his last recording called “Jake Brings the House Down”. You need to get it if you like Dons playing. You can get it as an MP3 at this location……

      A little bit of history..

      When Jake had the cover picture taken, he hired a local kid to hide behind the pile of rubble that Jake was standing on and had the kid throw powder into the air to get the look of the building falling down. This album is my favorite!

      I think you will enjoy it also.

      Keep the chops up and enjoy music at its finest, in church.

  4. marshall rickson

    I played in the waukegan municipal band from 1946-1952 when Jake was the band director. every summer he would solo with the band twice. He played stabat mater and del stegers carnival in venice every summer. Ialso heard him solo with the U. of Michigan band in Joliet in circa 1960. I never heard any slips of any kind, he always hit right on. Ialso spent many hours at his house in Waukegan and with him in Chicago when he was the band leader on The Breakfast Club. i have so many fond memmories of Jake it would take ream of paper to write all of them. I retired as a band director from the Joliet Townshap High Schools in 1987 but Istill think of Jake often.

    • Bruce Chidester

      I think that was Don Don McNeill’s the Breakfast Club in Chicago and I performed on that program when I was a member of the Moline (Ill.) Boys Choir. Little did I know that I would be meeting Jake again in Dallas 15 or 16 years later.

      It has been an honor to have met and visited with him during our lives.

      Thanks so much for sharing your contacts with Jake and every time I play a shake, I thank Jake for teaching me how to do it correctly.

      PS I was listening to his recording, “Have Conns Will Travel” this week and was amazed at how well he could do a half valve bend and still make it sound like a real note. Also listen to his “narly” falls also.

    • Donna Torkelson

      I would like to hear more information about the Waukegan Municipal Band as it is the 80th anniversary this year. I am attempting to write a history on the band!

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