Bob Helm is famous chiefly for being a member of the highly influential Lu Watters' Yerba Buena Jazz Band in the 1940s. Throughout the years, he has primarily been a sideman, and, although far from a virtuoso (and quite erratic tonewise in later years), he has made his presence felt. Helm studied trumpet, guitar, and saxophones before settling on clarinet. He originally met Lu Watters and Turk Murphy shortly after moving to San Francisco in 1935. After some freelancing, he spent most of the last half of the '40s with Watters' band, helping to bring about the revival of New Orleans jazz and the rise of Watters' brand of freewheeling San Francisco jazz. After leaving Watters, Helm mostly played on and off with Turk Murphy's bands, particularly in the '50s and '60s. In more recent times, Helm has occasionally appeared with Pat Yankee and been utilized as a sideman by a variety of San Francisco-style bands. As a leader, Helm recorded one album for Riverside in 1954. He also participated in Watters' famous recording sessions of 1946-1949, was heard with Murphy's bands on records on an semi-regular basis during the 1947-1978 period and appeared on quite a few stomp albums in the '80s and 90s.
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