Clark: The Autobiography of Clark Terry

Clark: The Autobiography of Clark Terry

Clark: The Autobiography of Clark Terry

Clark: The Autobiography of Clark Terry


Compelling from cover to cover, this is the story of one of the most recorded and beloved jazz trumpeters of all time. With unsparing honesty and a superb eye for detail, Clark Terry, born in 1920, takes us from his impoverished childhood in St. Louis, Missouri, where jazz could be heard everywhere, to the smoke-filled small clubs and carnivals across the Jim Crow South where he got his start, and on to worldwide acclaim. Terry takes us behind the scenes of jazz history as he introduces scores of legendary greats--Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Dinah Washington, Doc Severinsen, Ray Charles, Thelonious Monk, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Coleman Hawkins, Zoot Sims, and Dianne Reeves, among many others. Terry also reveals much about his own personal life, his experiences with racism, how he helped break the color barrier in 1960 when he joined the Tonight Show band on NBC, and why--at ninety years old--his students from around the world still call and visit him for lessons.


Clark Terry is a dear, dear friend of mine. He is a giant, as a musician and as a human being. He’s also a great storyteller, so I give big-time props to his autobiography. He wrote the sixth chapter of mine.

Our friendship goes way, way back. Like he says, “Backer than that!” It began when I was a young teenager in Seattle, where he was performing with Count Basie. in the late ’40s, they worked at the Palomar Theater each night, and even though the early morning was Clark’s sleep time, eventually he graciously offered to give me trumpet lessons before I went to school.

One of the greatest joys of my life was when he left Duke Ellington’s Orchestra to join my band in Belgium when I was music director for the musical Free and Easy in 1959. Man, when he did that, I was the happiest cat on the planet!

Over the years, we’ve always kept in touch and been there for each other. He’s never been afraid to get wet when it rains. Believe me, I’ll love him until the day I die.

On the night when he received his 2010 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, I was sitting next to him in the audience. I left a recording session with fifty people to be there, and I wouldn’t trade those moments with Clark for anything.

He has always been loving and encouraging, and he has helped countless aspiring musicians. Even at ninety years old, he’s still making dreams come true for young hopefuls who want to learn from a true master. Still making time to share his wisdom.

Now, after twenty years of working on this book with his lovely wife, Gwen, I’m thrilled to see his dream come true.

Quincy Jones

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