Don Lusher OBE

by Stan Hibbert

If ever you are fortunate enough to find yourself in the company of Don Lusher you will quickly realize that in addition to being one of the world's great trombone
players Don is almost certainly the world's nicest gentlemen. He is decorum personified. So, let us look at how this great man evolved.

Don was born in Peterborough and started to play the trombone when he was only six years old, becoming the third generation to play in the Peterborough Salvation Army Band alongside his father and grandfather. During the war Don served as a gunner signaller in the Royal Artillery and it was only after he was demobbed that
he entered the world of professional music.

He started his career with the Joe Daniels ensemble; then on to the Maurice Winnick Orchestra; then the Squadronaires; then the Jack Parnell Orchestra; and then the Geraldo Orchestra. At each stage of his early career Don's reputation grew and grew until all of the London musical fraternity realized that they had a big international star on their very own doorstep. Finally, Don joined the ensemble with which he was to become a household name, the great Ted Heath Orchestra.
Don's nine years as Ted's lead trombone are now cherished history with Don making friends wherever he went and wherever he was heard. His Ted Heath CV included several coast to coast tours of the United States where he took advantage of studying with Dick Nash and the late Will Bradley.

Don also met Tommy Dorsey and his musicians at the Statler Hotel in New York.

As arguably Britain's top session player he has worked with some of the world's most
prestigious Music Directors and accompanied virtually all of the world's most
important artists. I recall being reliably informed by a famous London agent that
whenever Frank Sinatra toured Europe his first request for musicians was for Don
Lusher as his principal trombone.

He is also in constant demand as a soloist with Brass Bands. Indeed, I well remember
asking Don if he would do a concert with the Besses Oth' Barn Band in my home
town of Bury, with the proceed going to Bury Hospice. Don immediately agreed
and within six hours of the concert notices being posted the Town Hall was sold out.
Indeed it was clear that we could have sold out the house a countless number of
times; and, after a wonderful concert, at an impromptu party at my home, every-
one present was delighted with Don's unexpected modesty. He is also in constant
demand as a soloist with Wind Bands, Jazz Groups and Big Bands, et al.

Ted Heath

However, before we forget, Don has a wonderfully laconic sense of humour. I recall a story, which may be apocryphal, but strikes the right note for me knowing Don as I do. The story goes that on a session one of Don's fellow trombonists, renowned for his fortissimo approach to music, asked Don "can't you play loud"? "Of course", came Don's reply, "but not all the time".

Perhaps, from a public point of view, Don may be best known for the wonderful period in which he led the Ted Heath Orchestra following Ted's death. His impeccable appearance, his beautifully phrased announcements, and the recognition that even in that ensemble of all stars Don's virtuosity still shone out like a bright light, which never seemed to stop surprising Big Band supporters. Don also plays a significant role in the "Best Of British Jazz", a group which has toured the United States and played to packed audiences all over the United Kingdom.

Ted Heath band with Don Lusher Directing (2000)

Don's C.V., is like Don himself, somewhat overwhelming. In 1979 BBC television's hour long spectacular "Don Lusher's World of Music", produced by Yvonne Littlewood, featured The Don Lusher Big band and Marti Caine, The Don Lusher Quartet, The Black Dyke Mills band conducted by Major Peter Parkes, and Michael Antrobus, a 10 trombone ensemble; and perhaps the highest accolade of all: Nelson Riddle conducting the orchestra on his own scores including "Here's That Rainy Day", a feature for Don Lusher and strings.

As a member of the "International Trombone Association" Don has served on their Board of Advisors, and performed on many occasions at their International Workshops, which were always held in America until 1989 when, at the invitation of the newly formed British Trombone Association. the ITW was held at Eton College. Don has also been President of the British Trombone Association on two separate occasions.

The Don Lusher Trombone prize is awarded annually in BBC Radio 2's National Big Band Competition, now in it's 25th year. As a member of the jury, Don has selected many of today's top players for the award, including the current President of The British Trombone Society, Mark Nightingale.
Don spent a number of years as Professor of the Royal College of Music Big Band
before in 1997 becoming Professor of Trombone at The Royal Marines School of Music,
in Portsmouth. Don has always been interested in teaching young people and has
written several pieces for beginners such as "Don Lusher's Trombone Album for Trombone and Piano" published by Boosey and Hawkes, and "Sweet and Sour" for beginners published by Warwick Music.

There are times, rare it is true, when society recognises what we have known for years and years, that is, that musicians make an enormous contribution to the quality of everyone's life; and Don Lusher makes an enormous contribution to the quality of life for everyone who hears him. So, somewhat belatedly, the powers that be have finally honoured Don with the Order of The British Empire (The OBE), awarded in the most recent new Year's Honours List. Well done and justifiably earned Don.

So it goes on and on, a eulogyto a truly great musician and a
wonderful Gentleman. Don, may your history making career
go on for years and years tocome.

Stan. Hibbert

January 2003.

Big Band Buddies say thanks to Don Lusher Click here