Johnny Best

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b. John McClanian Best Jnr., 20 October 1913, Shelby, North Carolina, USA, d. 19 September 2003, La Jolla, California, USA. Although he first learned to play piano, by the start of his teenage years Best…
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b. John McClanian Best Jnr., 20 October 1913, Shelby, North Carolina, USA, d. 19 September 2003, La Jolla, California, USA. Although he first learned to play piano, by the start of his teenage years Best had switched to trumpet. He quickly became highly proficient and was soon working with dance bands and from there joined several big bands of the swing era. He played with Les Brown, Charlie Barnet, Artie Shaw and had a long spell with Glenn Miller. During military service in World War II he was in Shaw’s and Sam Donahue’s US Navy bands. After the war he played with Benny Goodman and Bob Crosby, with whom he briefly worked in the early 40s. During the late 40s and into the 50s he profitably mixed work in studio bands with name band tours and revivals, including Crosby, Billy May and, some years later, Ray Conniff. This activity continued into the 80s when he worked with Crosby at Disneyland (1980), a Miller-band reunion (1984) and Crosby again (1985). Best was originally influenced by Louis Armstrong, as were so many trumpeters of his generation. He developed into a triple-threat player, combining sterling section work with disciplined and inspiring lead trumpet playing, and with original, powerful soloing. His reputation and his recorded legacy were both rather less than he so clearly deserved.