Hildred Humphries

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It would take a pretty scholarly fan of jazz, or perhaps a resident of Pittsburgh who is savvy to the genre, to recognize the name Hildred Humphries as that of an influential, historic horn player; most…
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It would take a pretty scholarly fan of jazz, or perhaps a resident of Pittsburgh who is savvy to the genre, to recognize the name Hildred Humphries as that of an influential, historic horn player; most others might assume some kind of connection between this name and the Minnesota political dynasty of former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Sr. There is a dynasty involved, true, that being the musical Humphries family, originally from Kentucky but eventually associated with a family band that was active out of Pittsburgh for more than three decades following the end of the second World War. The group had also been active prior to the conflict, beginning in 1928 when Hildred Humphries and brother Frank Humphries started up a group called the Original Humphries Play Boys. Later the name Humphries Brothers Band would come into play.

Other musical relations included cousins Roger Humphries, a drummer, and Teddy Humphries, a pianist. An examination of the early career of Hildred Humphries and Frank Humphries might lead to the conclusion that they were Siamese twins, playing together in one horn section after another, in groups such as the Pittsburgh Harlemites, Christopher Columbus, and Ham Williams. The Army nabbed Hildred Humphries circa 1942; brother Frank's lengthier recording credits result from his ensuing employment with well-known leaders such as Cootie Williams and Louis Jordan. Hildred Humphries also spent time on-stage, backing stars in the jazz genre, including singer Billie Holiday, trumpeter Roy Eldridge, and legendary big band leader Count Basie. Younger generations of Pittsburgh players, such as the fine trumpeter Matt Lavelle, have cited Hildred Humphries as a mentor; at some point he seems to have picked up the nickname "Sir Hildred Humphries" out of an accumulation of respect. A scholarship fund in his name has also been established for young musicians.