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My Musician Father, Harry Gozzard

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
November 3, 2022 3:01 am

My Musician Father, Harry Gozzard

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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November 3, 2022 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, one of our listeners, George Gozzard, shares the story of his big band trumpeter father, Harry Gozzard.

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Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. And we return to Our American Stories. Harry Gossard was an American jazz trumpeter who played from the 1930s all the way to 1980. Today we're going to hear from his son George, sharing some memories he holds about his father's time in the big band lifestyle. I grew up in Warren, Michigan, a blue-collar city just north of Detroit. It's the automobile capital of the world.

At one time, Warren had more factories than any other city in the entire country. Except for my dad, it seemed as if every kid that I knew when I was growing up had a dad who worked on the assembly line for one of the big three car companies. Even though my dad didn't directly work for GM for Chrysler, he did help its workers relax during their time off with his unusual and playful profession that he sometimes referred to as work. Harry Gossard was a big band musician and a very good one at that. My dad truly enjoyed soothing the ears off of the residents of Metro Detroit with his hot lips and cool trumpet. From what I understand, he was one of the best trumpet players in the country.

Harry Gossard was born on a farm in Shelburne, Ontario, Canada. In 1924, at eight years of age, he, his parents, and three siblings migrated to Detroit. He dropped out of high school when he was just a teenager and began traveling around the country, tooting his trumpet. I'm not certain, but I think it was the Sam Donahue Orchestra who asked my dad to drop out of school enjoying their band. For all I know, my grandparents were diametrically opposed to him doing so.

Nevertheless, he did it anyway. He was one of the fortunate few musicians who was able to record a few record albums during his musical career. My dad's fame, if you will, was even noticed by some people who I never thought of as being a fan of his. I still remember when my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Mitchell, came up to me during class one day and told me how much she enjoyed watching and listening to my dad perform at the Elmwood Casino the previous night. The Elmwood was a premier nightclub for the residents of Metro Detroit and Southern Ontario.

It was located just across the Detroit River in the beautiful city of Windsor. Many well-known entertainers performed there. Sammy Davis Jr., Ann Margaret, Tony Bennett, Bob Newhart, Patty Page, and Tom Jones were some of the celebs that my dad worked with.

Although my dad retired from the big band way of life when I was very young, there were a few times that I had the opportunity to watch him perform live on stage. During the 1960s, he played on the St. Clair and the Columbia River Boats. The St. Clair and the Columbia transported excited passengers down the Detroit River to the locally famous Boblo Island amusement park.

The cruise was about a two-hour long voyage that originated from Detroit. Cruising down the Detroit River while watching my dad play his trumpet before a live audience of hundreds of people and getting to play all day at Boblo was probably one of the coolest things that I ever did when I was a kid. Another cool memory that I have of my dad performing was the time when he played in the band for the Al Caline Day celebration at Tiger Stadium. It was on August 2, 1970. The legendary singer-songwriter Mel Torme nicknamed the Velvet Fog saying thanks for the memory. Due to the fact that my dad brought my mom and all of his kids to that memorable baseball game, he was late getting to the stadium.

I have seven siblings. As you can imagine, getting a large family the size of ours ready for a notable event like that was a monumental task. I vividly remember the commotion going on that particular day. It was reminiscent of the scene in the first Home Alone movie where they were all rushing around to get ready for their big flight to Paris.

Long story short, in order to kick off the festivities for Al Caline's big day, the band and a sold-out crowd of 50,000 anxious fans had to wait a few moments for their tardy trumpeter to arrive. The absolute coolest memory that I have of my dad performing was the time when he played at the Grand Hotel. It's a ritzy hotel that is situated on picturesque Mackinac Island.

Even to this day, it still happens to be a great place to visit. When I was about 10 years old, my dad played two back-to-back stints there in the summertime. Since Mackinac Island was located roughly 300 miles away from where we lived, he unfortunately had to leave my mom and all of his children at home for the summer.

To commute back and forth every weekend was simply out of the question. Greatly missing him during the second summer, my brother Greg and I drove all the way up there to visit him for a few days. Actually, we first drove to Mackinac City. From there, we hopped on a high-speed ferry and cruised to the island. The eight-mile journey across beautiful Lake Huron took only about 20 to 30 minutes.

However, it was not without incident. At about eight o'clock in the morning, my brother and I arrived at the boat dock parking lot. As soon as we got out of his cool Caprice Classic, we both unconcernedly noticed that it was very foggy out on the lake. Since my brother and I were nautical novices at the time, we had no idea that cruising on a large body of water in a heavy dense fog was considered to be a maritime hazard.

To my brother and me, though, that fog was no big deal. So we just went up to the ticket counter and bought our very fair to the island. About 10 minutes after the ferry left the dock, we heard several really loud horn blasts coming from our vessel and several other loud blasts that were coming from another vessel, which seemed to be too close for comfort. All of a sudden, the captain of the ferry turned the wheel very hard to port or to the left, seemingly trying to avoid a collision with another boat. The captain turned the ship's wheel so hard that the window that my brother and I were sitting next to was completely submerged. Right about then, our own common sense began to let us know that something was dreadfully wrong with this picture. Fortunately, though, a few minutes later, the ferry seemed to level out and return to its normal operating procedure.

I immediately began to turn my head from side to side. Much to my surprise, while looking out the starboard side window, I noticed the stern of a massive freighter that was only about 100 yards away from us. Apparently, the captain of our vessel almost broadsided a very large freighter.

Who knows? Perhaps the freighter we nearly collided with was the legendary SS Edmund Fitzgerald. Hey, it could have been.

More than likely, though, it probably wasn't. Nevertheless, this legend of mine will not only live on from the Chippewa on down, but with every other individual who loves a seaworthy story. As soon as we safely arrived on Mackinac Island, our dad happily greeted us at the boat dock. He then took us for a stroll down Main Street. We immediately began to experience what it was like to live in an earlier age of long ago. No cars were permitted on Met Island at the time. At first, it was very strange not being able to hear the sound of one single motor. However, I did get used to it real quick. Actually, it was rather nice not hearing the sounds of motors, horns, and squealing tires for a few days.

Since there wasn't any motor vehicles to travel around in, we either had to walk, ride a bike, or ride in a horse-drawn carriage in order to get around the island. The night that I saw my dad play in the majestic Grand Hotel ballroom was really special. I felt like I was in an old 1940s movie.

There were people all over that ballroom who were dressed up in formal attire as they danced to the swinging beat of the big band song. All in all, that pleasant memory of my dad, as well as every other pleasant one, is something that I'll cherish forever. And great job on the production by Madison Derricott. And a special thanks to George Gossard for sharing the story of his musician father Harry. Sharing with us, most importantly, the gigs, because that's what you remember if you have a musician parent, the gigs. And the gigs were, my goodness, of every variety and kind, from steamboats, to casinos, to the Grand Hotel at Mackinac Island. And if you have never been to Mackinac Island in Michigan, take a family trip there over the summer. It may be one of the most beautiful places in America.

The story of Harry Gossard, as told by his son George, here on Our American Story. When the world gets in the way of your music, try the new Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2, next-gen earbuds uniquely tuned to the shape of your ears. They use exclusive Bose technology that personalizes the audio performance to fit you, delivering the world's best noise cancellation and powerfully immersive sound, so you can hear and feel every detail of the music you love. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2. Sound shape to you. To learn more, visit Listen to the Calling Bullsh** Podcast on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts.
Whisper: small.en / 2022-11-07 14:21:11 / 2022-11-07 14:23:55 / 3

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