Milt Larkin led one of the greatest of all territory bands but, tragically, it never recorded and can only be thought of as legendary. Larkin was a self-taught trumpeter, inspired to play after hearing Bunk Johnson. He freelanced throughout Texas, including with Chester Boone and Giles Mitchell's Birmingham Blue Blowers. During 1936-1942 he led his famous band which toured in the Southwest and played briefly in Kansas City, Chicago, and at New York's Apollo Theatre. Among his sidemen were Illinois Jacquet, Arnett Cobb, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, and Wild Bill Davis, all of whom were unknown at the time. The orchestra broke up when he went into the military. Larkin played in an Army band (1943-1946) that was led by Sy Oliver and began doubling on valve trombone. After his discharge in 1946, he had his first opportunity to record, but by then his moment had passed. Larkin continued leading bands throughout much of his career (including a combo called the X-Rays), settling in New York in 1956 where he often headed a septet at the Celebrity Club. He retired to Houston in the mid-'70s and one can only speculate today how great his original territory band must have been. Milt Larkin's only dates as a leader included a total of 11 selections (mostly as a vocalist) for six different labels (Stinson, Sunrise, Hub, Regal, Coral, and Lloyds) during 1946-1954, and an obscure album (on valve trombone and vocals) for Copasetic in 1976.
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