Maynard Ferguson

Maynard Ferguson bigraphy, stories - Jazz trumpet player; Bandleader

Maynard Ferguson : biography

May 4, 1928 – August 23, 2006

Walter Maynard Ferguson (May 4, 1928 – August 23, 2006) was a Canadian jazz musician and bandleader. He came to prominence playing in Stan Kenton’s orchestra, before forming his own band in 1957. He was noted for being able to play accurately in a remarkably high register, and for his bands, which served as stepping stones for up-and-coming talent.


Maynard Ferguson’s compositions included "Give It One", "Ganesha", "Fireshaker", "At the Sound of the Trumpet", "Air Conditioned", "M.F. Carnival", "How Ya Doin’ Baby?", "It’s the Gospel Truth", "He Can’t Swing", "Sweet Baba Suite (Bai Rav)", "Dance to Your Heart", "I Don’t Want to Be a Hoochi Coochie Man No Mo’", "Poison Ya’ Blues", "Footpath Cafe", and "Everybody Loves the Blues".


In 1992, he was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame.

In Spring of 2000 Maynard Ferguson was also initiated as a brother of Kappa Kappa Psi at the Gamma Xi Chapter (University of Maryland at College Park).

A 4-day series of seminars and concerts honoring Ferguson and his career were held in Los Angeles with Ferguson in attendance in fall of 2004. Called "Stratospheric", band members past and present, friends, relatives, and fans attended the event.

In 2006, he was presented Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity’s Charles E. Lutton Man of Music Award at its national convention in Cleveland, Ohio. He had been initiated as an honorary member of the Fraternity’s Xi Chi Chapter at Tennessee Tech University in 1976.

The Sherman Jazz Museum in Sherman, Texas opened in 2010 and houses the extensive memorabilia of Ferguson’s estate.


Early life and education

Ferguson was born in Verdun, Quebec (now part of Montreal). Encouraged by his mother and father (both musicians), Maynard was playing piano and violin by the age of four. Newsreel footage exists of Ferguson as a child prodigy violinist. At nine years old, he heard a cornet for the first time in his local church and asked his parents to purchase one for him. At age thirteen, Ferguson first soloed as a child prodigy with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Orchestra and was heard frequently on the CBC, notably featured on a "Serenade for Trumpet in Jazz" written for him by Morris Davis. Ferguson won a scholarship to the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal where he studied from 1943 through 1948 with Bernard Baker.

Ferguson dropped out of Montreal High School at age 15 to more actively pursue a music career, performing in dance bands led by Stan Wood, Roland David, and Johnny Holmes. While trumpet was his primary instrument, Ferguson also performed on other brass and reed instruments. Ferguson later took over the dance band formed by his saxophonist brother Percy, playing dates in the Montreal area and serving as an opening act for touring bands from Canada and the USA. During this period, Ferguson came to the attention of numerous American band leaders and began receiving offers to come to the United States.

Ferguson finally moved to the United States in 1948 intending to join Stan Kenton’s organization. But Kenton had just disbanded his orchestra, so Ferguson initially played with the bands of Boyd Raeburn, Jimmy Dorsey, and Charlie Barnet. The Barnet band was notable for a trumpet section that also included Doc Severinsen, Ray Wetzel, Johnny Howell, and Rolf Ericson. Ferguson was featured on a notoriously flamboyant Barnet recording of Jerome Kern’s "All The Things You Are" that showcased Ferguson’s upper register playing. The recording reportedly enraged Kern’s widow and was subsequently withdrawn from sale. When Barnet temporarily retired in 1949 and disbanded his orchestra, Ferguson was free to accept an offer to join Stan Kenton’s newly formed Innovations Orchestra.

Kenton and Hollywood

Stan Kenton’s bands were notable for their strong brass sections and Ferguson was a natural fit. In 1950, Kenton formed the Innovations Orchestra, a 40-piece jazz concert orchestra with strings, and with the folding of the Barnet band, Ferguson was available for the first rehearsal on January 1, 1950. While the Innovations Orchestra was not commercially successful, it made a number of remarkable recordings, including "Maynard Ferguson," one of a series of pieces named after featured soloists.