Some listeners may consider the trombone a clumsy instrument yet it hardly sounded that way in the hands of Ward Silloway, an instrumentalist who worked in swing big bands and dance bands for nearly four decades beginning in the early '30s. Even on his worst night, Silloway wouldn't have been anywhere near as clumsy as Gerald Ford, the ex-president notorious for physical stumbles. Comparing them is only natural since both are considered important dignitaries from the Midwestern city of Grand Rapids, MI. Ford has his own museum there, but some native sons are prouder of the fact that Silloway was called in to replace the brilliant trombonist J.C. Higginbotham on an essential Taft Jordan session in 1936. Silloway's professional beginnings were with the bands of Joe Haymes, Phil Harris, and Bob Crosby, the middle of these bandleaders receiving a particularly lengthy commitment. From 1938 through early in the ensuing decade, the trombonist spread his mellowness into the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, enjoying a period when a trombone soloist could wind up with the Hit Parade status soon to be usurped by electric guitarists. Benny Goodman had Silloway in his band in 1944, but not for long. Silloway's way inevitably led into other, less syncopated forms of expression including musical theater pit bands, studio orchestras, and the strictly dance band set list of Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians. He concluded a long sideman stint with the latter outfit in the early '60s and moved to Chicago, where he died in the fall of 1965.
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