Claude Gordon personally owned and used black pad of personal stationary, complete with three pages of annotations and notes and a collection of personal business cards (50+)
Claude Gordon, the “King of Brass”, was a trumpet virtuoso, band director, educator, lecturer, and author. He was born on April 15, 1916 in Helena, Montana. His father was a clarinet soloist as well as an orchestral director. Claude’s mother was a concert pianist. His other brothers and sisters were also musically inclined and they all worked together to form a family orchestra led by their father. They performed as the staff orchestra for a local radio station. Claude was given his first cornet at the age of five and three years later, while in fifth grade, he was featured as a soloist playing with the Helena High School Band! While he was still in his early teens, Claude was already a professional player and was teaching for both cornet and accordion.
Claude became Herbert L. Clarke’s protégé from 1936 until Clarke died in 1945. During the era of live radio and television, Claude distinguished himself as one of the most successful studio trumpet players and gained a reputation as “the trumpet player who never misses.” He performed with the studio orchestras on many popular shows including, Amos and Andy, and I Love Lucy. In 1939, Claude was cast as the gypsy accordion player in the Universal Studio’s motion picture musical, An Old Spanish Custom, later renamed In Rhumba Land. During the 1950s Gordon emerged as one of Hollywood’s frequently sought-after jazz trumpet soloists. Claude later formed his own big band which was named the “Best New Band in America” in 1959.
Claude helped to design custom versions of the Benge trumpet with a 468 bore trumpet. However, since Benge refused to produce a 470 bore trumpet, which Gordon considered to be the ideal trumpet bore size, he later helped to design the Selmer 470 bore Claude Gordon trumpet. Gordon also designed his own mouthpieces. Claude felt that the majority of problems that young trumpet players faced were a result of a lack of basic physical development. Since playing a brass instrument is dependent on the lungs, Claude emphasized the need for brass players to do physical exercise to stay in shape and prescribed daily breathing exercises to develop “wind-power”. He considered brass players to be athletes that needed to practice to stay in shape. The methods that he taught and practiced were built upon the knowledge that he gained from Herbert L. Clarke and others. His students appreciated the great knowledge that he had as well as the friendly, down-to-earth attitude he demonstrated.
Claude died from cancer on May 16, 1996, but his legacy continues with the six method books that he authored and the lessons he passed on to his students. The “Claude Gordon Method”has influenced most of today’s top trumpet players. The Claude Gordon Personal Papers and Music Instrument Collection, 1888–1992, consists of music, correspondence with Herbert L. Clarke and other notable trumpet artists, educational material, publicity and memorabilia, and performance contracts, and is housed at the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Provenance – Julien’s Auctions: Music Icons, New York City, May 18th 2013.