Archive for January, 2010

Once Upon a Time

January 8, 2010

I have had so many requests to write the story of how I met John.

Once upon a time….there was a fantastic Baritone Player with the Don Ellis Big Band. Bari is my favorite Sax and this Guy was Good! So I went to hear the Band as often as I could…by myself. The guys that I was dating didn’t particularly care about…Odd Times…or Jazz. John Magruder became my second favorite Baritone Player (after Gerry Mulligan). I never got enough nerve to talk to John. I bought all his records.

In the meantime, my daughter, Debbi, transferred to University High School from Van Nuys High. A pianist, she took a music theory class and was the “secretary” from Marching Band. Her teacher was a “Mr. Magruder”. He made her cry on the first day of school. He didn’t think her dramatic pout was very cute! Eventually I had to come to school because she was failing gym class. In January 1972…I walked into Mr. Magruder’s first period Band class and they were playing “The Philosopher”, a chart that Bob Harmon had written for the Don Ellis Band. Yes, dear friends….it was the Real John Magruder!! His students, including Ron Singer, Steve Rawlins, Bruce Eskovitz, etc., were playing those difficult charts with ease and excitement; I stayed for the rest of the school day….I was so impressed.

Now, I have to explain that I was a hair stylist at a very hip salon with celebrity clients. I did not wear “normal” clothes. The day I met John, I came to school in a black hot pants suit with black pantyhose and tall high-heeled boots! He was 15 years older, so I was not quite sure what he thought (his students thought I was a “Babe”). Apparently he liked what he saw…me too. We became great friends. I went to football games, monitored marching band buses, and did costumes, hair and make-up for Uni musicals. I also discovered what a pro-musician’s life was all about. My professional life was totally unpredictable and nutty…very “Hollywood”. Somehow the two combined well.

Nine months later, after one of John’s gigs, I told John I had something important to discuss. He thought I was going to say good-bye… but instead I proposed! We both had decided that we were crazy in love and wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. Then we went to Disneyland. It’s true. We did.

We decided to get married two months later. It was crazy nights and crazy days with a lot of happiness in between– I kept a full work schedule at the salon, plus hair and make-up for Vogue Magazine, TV commercials and wig design for a Las Vegas show – not to mention the pool motor exploded and moving into an 11 room house bringing 12 cats, one dog and a teenager!!! Of course John continued his busy schedule as a school teacher and musician.

Six days before we were supposed to get married….I had a heart attack! It was a big surprise since I was only 32 years old. It turned out to be caused by a rare birth defect. (can you just hear the violins in the background?) We had planned to marry on John’s 47th birthday. I was very determined to walk down the aisle on that day….and so I did.

It was a beautiful wedding and reception. With some very colorful guests on both sides. Some of the male guests wore dresses… John had one ex-wife and one ex-girl friend…. I had three ex-boy friends. The boy friends only wanted to know, when I told them that I was getting married, if I would still cut their hair….of course, I would.

Not long after we were married, we started the “Magruder Machine”…John’s Big Band. See my Blog Postings… “Ponce’s Saloon” and “Cat Calls”.

The rest is both History and legend. We had 30 amazingly wonderful years together. I truly miss him.


Band Brats

January 8, 2010

“Mr. Magruder was a major influence in my life”…”He is the reason why I am what I am, a professional musician”…”So many great memories”…
….These are slices of conversations which have been repeated so often that they have beome such beautiful music to my ears.
John was the Music Director at University High School in West Los Angeles for 37 years. He was extremely passionate about teaching…about being a “Guide” to the wonderful world of music and to life itself. He was a father-figure to many and simply a hero to others. He was able to teach and be a professional musician and a composer. He lived exactly the life he wanted. We shared 30 wonderful years together. Year after year, we invited his Jazz students to come to our house on Wednesday nights to hear John’s 18 piece Big Band, “The Magruder Machine”, rehearse in our dining room. They got a chance to see, hear and talk to the “Professionals”. We lovingly called these students “Band Brats”! So many have kept in touch through the years…it’s really incredible. I love hearing from them. These days, they are very supportive of my efforts in continuing what John started with the “Monktet”. A whole bunch came to our recent LACMA Concert. There were even members of the class of ’66!! In fact, three former “Band Brats” regularly play in the “Monktet”…Rick Fleishman, Guitar; Gary Pratt, Bass; and Ron Singer, on Alto. Occasionally, Vince Suzuki subs on any of the saxophone chairs. Imagine that!
Tony Wingate….trombonist, drummer, gorilla on the Music Department’s only Homecoming float and most famously, the sousaphone guy who missed dotting the I in UNI during a half-time marching band performance….has started a new site called, “Students and Friends of John Magruder” on Facebook. Check it out. It is a very unique site…great fun and is getting fantastic participation. Thanks, Tony.
That John lives in so many memories…that he made such a lasting impression on so many young minds, touches my heart. There could be no better tribute to a most amazing man.

Cat Calls

January 2, 2010

With John teaching school and working as a musician and writing music….I became his musical secretary and “Jill of all trades.” When we formed “The Magruder Machine,” I was still a Bride (6 months). It was up to me to “make the calls and bake the cookies” for Wednesday night rehearsals. John gave me a list of suggestions to call but I soon ran out of names. Oh, what to do? Why of course, call the players I wanted to hear in my dining room.
One week, I needed a trumpet player who could play high notes. I know…call Cat Anderson! Cat was the greatest highnote player of his time. He played with Duke Ellington for so many years… would he play with us?. He said he would be delighted to play John’s music! He came every Wednesday and did our gigs for about three years. One week he was so excited about playing a new chart….he came a day early…on Tuesday! That’s dedication. He was a great musician and a wonderful friend. he really did have “cat eyes”… that wrinkled like a cat with each smile. What a beautiful man… probably the best “hugger” ever in the business!
Warne Marsh, Joe Pass, Milcho Leviev and many other of my favorites came to play…even Art Pepper. I first called him to play Alto one week…and he seemed to have a great time. What a thrill…Art Pepper in my dining room! The next week, I needed a Tenor player. Sure, Art said that he played Tenor too…he wanted to play in the Band. So he did. Eventually, he owned the second Alto chair.
Art had a great sense of comedic timing. John and he put together some comedy bits for gigs. I remember one performance (2) in particular. It was at CSUN and Art brought down the house…. two nights in a row…. for his playing and his comedy! He was a funny man.
Art and his wife, Laurie, became very close friends with John and me. To this day, Laurie remains one of my favorite friends.