In yesterday’s post I mentioned how the members of the ‘Tonight Show’ band (aka ‘Doc Severinsen and the NBC Orchestra’) lent their own comedic talents to the show. One of the strangest examples is that of trombone player Ernie Tack. The show would occasionally do a ‘Stump The Band’ segment, in which audience members volunteered obscure song titles and Doc Severinsen and Tommy Newsom would invariably pretend to know a song that they didn’t. One of the ways they evaded their ignorance was to claim to know the ‘dance version’ of the song. This was Ernie Tack’s cue to jump out of the bandstand box and go into an eccentric, jagged almost spasmodic dance for a few bars before being ushered back into the bandbox. I have no idea where the dance originated, how or why Tack brought it to the attention of the band’s leaders or what else Tack did with himself on his off time. If he was a member of The Tonight Show band then he was clearly a ‘first call’ top-notch trombone player. Below is a nice summation of Tack’s career from a website called linernotes.com. As far as the above dance breaks, the one in the first video comes at 2:55 and the one in the second video at 4:30.
(When he flunked Latin and geometry in high school, and they didn’t have any place else to put him, Ernie Tack ended up in music class, where he first picked up a trombone, and with the exception of the Navy School of Music, never had any other formal training. After two years with the Harry James Band in Las Vegas, Ernie got his “biggest break” when he hit a slot machine jackpot. He used his winnings to purchase a bass trombone [the instrument on which he would make his name] and moved to LA. where, with a young wife, two kids and no steady gigs, his early days were tough. He often worked as a chimney sweep between session dates. But, as he recalls “when they were starting to use some horns on the rock dates, I got busy.” And it never got quiet. From the big bands of Charlie Barnett, Stan Kenton, Les Brown and Louie Bellson, to recording dates with arrangers like Nelson Riddle and Don Costa and dozens of movie soundtracks…with artists ranging from Frank Sinatra to Frank Zappa, to twenty years with Doc Severinsen and “The Tonight Show” band, he’s had a fascinating career. One of his proudest moments was being on the ten-piece trombone record Tutti’s Trombones, a date he made when having hocked his horn to pay the rent, he borrowed it back to play the session and earned enough money on that date to keep it forever.)