You can read generic reviews of Doc Severinsen after this and most any performance, but it is not so often that you can be given a glimpse into the personal memories that Doc’s presence brings to individual people in the audience.
Just like he’s been doing for decades, Doc and his band performed in Lincoln last night to a large audience. Doc had on his customary crazy outfits that, if nothing else, brought another bright spot to the evening.
Prior to the performance, patrons enjoyed a pre-concert talk given by Dean Haist, trumpet professor at Nebraska Wesleyan University. Haist brought the first memories to share that evening. He shared the moments that Doc’s influence helped to shape his choice of career in trumpet and the three previous performances he had heard Doc give. Most memorable of all, Haist shared, was the opportunity to work with Doc’s band—he heard Doc practicing for 7-8 hours that day as they prepared for a performance. Those high notes don’t just come magically, Haist stated, Doc is a dedicated performer, and that requires practice!
One of Doc’s first comments as he took the stage at the Lied Center, just across the street from the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film, was that he was glad to be back “in the land of Carson.” Although Doc’s band now consists of members from several generations, including a young and impressive drummer, one original member from the band on the Tonight Show was present. Ernie Watts, on tenor sax, also wowed the audience a number of times in the course of the evening.
Towards the end of the show, Doc shared his thanks for Johnny Carson: “Without him and the Tonight Show, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Sally Waddle was a member of the audience last night and had some memories to share as well. In junior high, she was part of a dance group that got together with other young people and gave shows for business Christmas parties and the like—she wished she’d had a camera to capture some of those memories because the M.C. for their shows was none other than the young college student, Johnny Carson.
Sally had an even more important reason for hearing Doc last night. Two weeks ago, Sally’s husband of 55 years passed away surrounded by his family and listening to trumpet music softly in the background. Sally’s husband, Howard, had played trumpet in highschool and never lost his love of horn music. Sally and Howard had planned on attending Doc Severinsen together, and although Howard couldn’t make it, Sally was there, listening and remembering her husband’s love of the music. Her granddaughter who came with her thought that there was a message in the songs performed like “Smile (Though Your Heart is Aching)” and “Smile and the World Smiles With You”—Grandpa would want us to be smiling at such wonderful music.
Doc must have brought back and been a part of a lot of such memories last evening to an audience of Nebraskans who remember Johnny Carson, the Tonight Show, and days of yesteryear. And to a younger generation, Doc brought the joy of music and a glimpse into the past.
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