Happy 80th Birthday to Larry O’Brien!


July 15, 2013 – Larry O’Brien led the Glenn Miller Orchestra from 1981-83, then again from 1988-2010. I spent many years sitting next to him on the bus. He was music history—oh, the stories he could tell! I never saw him not ‘bring it’ when the lights went up. Nothing could stop him. During the “Here We Go Again” sessions, he broke his arm but still led the band on the record date and played beautifully on his solo, “When You Wish upon a Star.” In Japan, he got hit by a car on his afternoon run and mentioned it in passing during the sound check. He was mugged in a park in South America while taking photos, barely let us know. In the late ‘80s, Larry’s father died during the annual Japan tour. He and his mother had decided in advance that he would not come home from overseas. That night, he played “Danny Boy”—with that signature tone and long-held breath (no circular breathing for Larry-san)–as if it were another great day to wow the crowd. I didn’t know him in 1961 when the Dorsey band stole him from the Miller band because, as Frank Sinatra said, Larry was the guy who could play Tommy Dorsey’s solos after Tommy died. I didn’t know him when he led Frank Sinatra Jr.’s “little band” for 14 years (which he loved). I didn’t know him when he played with all those famous names. But I did see him play “Danny Boy” (his showcase piece) in a poorly-lit gymnasium–with green plastic on the floor and fold-up chairs–as if it were Carnegie Hall. The lessons, the lessons.

About Larry O’Brien
“Larry O’Brien, my conductor since 1967, plays one of the finest trombones that I have ever heard. He was very recently highly complimented in that respect at the Rainbow Grill in New York City when, at the end of one of our shows, my father stepped to the stage and announced to the audience that after many years of listening to the great sound of Tommy Dorsey he has once again found someone whom he truly considers to be of equal stature”: Frank Sinatra, Jr. – Spice – liner notes