Corky Corcoran

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Considering the habits of swinging jazz tenor saxophonists, a love of uncorking wine bottles might have led to the nickname of Gene "Corky" Corcoran. More extensive research into the surname…
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Considering the habits of swinging jazz tenor saxophonists, a love of uncorking wine bottles might have led to the nickname of Gene "Corky" Corcoran. More extensive research into the surname of Corcoran provides the insight that the nickname of "Corky" is almost an automatic consequence of the Corcoran birthright. Other people who are called Corky Corcoran seem to abound both in real life and in fiction, a world novelists have populated with the likes of Corky Corcoran the spymaster and Corky Corcoran the cocky Irish Catholic alcoholic self-made millionaire.

By contrast, the tenor saxophone player Corcoran may seem a trifle dull, but in fact he also had a professional beginning right out of a Hollywood biopic. The major bandleader Jimmie Lunceford heard him playing at a Tacoma jam when Corcoran was still shy of 16 years old and considered a prodigy. Sonny Dunham was one leader of a territory band who put the teenage tenor blower to work circa 1940. Fellow trumpeter Harry James grabbed Corcoran the following year -- now he was at least 17.

James turned out to be the bandleader who would make the most difference in Corcoran's career, featuring him in many solo spots. Meanwhile, the James band rose and rose in prominence, putting Corcoran in the spotlight on radio and in the movies as well as on concert stages. Then came an offer from Tommy Dorsey in 1948. In the half decade that ensued, Corcoran bobbed around like a you-know-what between reviving his place in the James band and building up a combo under his own name. There are several albums under his name, including both The Sound of Love and The Sound of Jazz, but his activities as a bandleader were primarily focused on the Seattle area, just like in his teenager territory band years.