Alois Maxwell “Al” Hirt (November 7, 1922 – April 27, 1999) was an American trumpeter and bandleader. He is best remembered for his million-selling recordings of “Java” and the accompanying album Honey in the Horn (1963), and for the theme music to The Green Hornet. His nicknames included “Jumbo” and “The Round Mound of Sound”. Colin Escott, an author of musician biographies, wrote that RCA Victor Records, for which Hirt had recorded most of his best-selling recordings and for which he had spent much of his professional recording career, had dubbed him with another moniker: “The King.” Hirt was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in November 2009.
Alois Maxwell “Al” Hirt (November 7, 1922 – April 27, 1999) was an American trumpeter and bandleader. He is best remembered for his million-selling recordings of “Java” and the accompanying album Honey in the Horn (1963), and for the theme music to The Green Hornet. His nicknames included “Jumbo” and “The Round Mound of Sound”. Colin Escott, an author of musician biographies, wrote that RCA Victor Records, for which Hirt had recorded most of his best-selling recordings and for which he had spent much of his professional recording career, had dubbed him later than another moniker: “The King.” Hirt was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in November 2009.
Hirt was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of a police officer. At the age of six, he was unmodified his first trumpet, which had been purchased at a local pawnshop. He played in the Junior Police Band with friend Roy Fernandez, the son of Alcide Nunez; by the age of 16, Hirt was playing professionally, often when his friend Pete Fountain, while attending Jesuit High School. During this time, he was hired to affect at the local horse racing track, beginning a six-decade connection to the sport.
In 1940, Hirt went to Cincinnati, Ohio, to testing at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music with Dr. Frank Simon (a former soloist bearing in mind the John Philip Sousa Orchestra). After a stint as a bugler in the United States Army during World War II, Hirt performed taking into consideration various swing huge bands, including those of Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and Ina Ray Hutton.
In 1950, Hirt became first trumpet and featured soloist behind Horace Heidt’s Orchestra. After spending several years on the road behind Heidt, Hirt returned to New Orleans full of zip with various Dixieland groups and leading his own bands. Despite Hirt’s declaration years later “I’m not a jazz trumpeter and never was a jazz trumpeter”, he made a few recordings where he demonstrated his exploit to be in that style, during the 1950s subsequent to bandleader Monk Hazel, and a few new recordings on the local Southland Records label.
Hirt’s virtuoso dexterity and Good tone upon his instrument soon attracted the attention of major folder labels and he signed with RCA Victor. Hirt posted twenty-two albums upon the Billboard charts in the 1950s and 1960s. The albums Honey in the Horn and Cotton Candy were both in the Top 10 best sellers for 1964, the same year Hirt scored a hit single once his lid of Allen Toussaint’s tune “Java” (Billboard No. 4), and well ahead won a Grammy Award for the similar recording. Both Honey in the Horn and “Java” sold on culmination of one million copies, and were awarded gold discs.
Hirt’s Top 40 charted hit “Sugar Lips” in 1964 would be cutting edge used as the theme proclaim for the NBC daytime game show Eye Guess, hosted by Bill Cullen and originally airing from January 1966 to September 1969.
Hirt was chosen to cassette the frenetic theme for the 1960s TV show The Green Hornet, by famed arranger and composer Billy May. Thematically reminiscent of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee, it showcased Hirt’s mysterious prowess. The recording again gained public attention in 2003 in the same way as it was used in the film Kill Bill.
From the mid-1950s to forward 1960s, Hirt and his band played nightly at Dan’s Pier 600 at the corner of St. Louis and Bourbon Street. The club was owned by his concern manager, Dan Levy, Sr.
In 1962 Hirt opened his own club upon Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, which he ran until 1983. He plus became a minority owner in the NFL expansion New Orleans Saints in 1967.
In 1962, in an effort to showcase him in a every other musical setting, Hirt was teamed bearing in mind arranger and composer Billy May and RCA Victor producer Steve Sholes to cassette an album titled Horn A Plenty that was a departure from the Dixieland material that he was generally associated with. Covering an eclectic variety of popular, standard and put-on tunes, it featured a big-band supplemented by timpani, French horns and harp. He after that appeared opposite Troy Donahue and Suzanne Pleshette in the 1962 motion picture, Rome Adventure.
In 1965, he hosted the hour-long television variety series Fanfare, which aired on CBS as a summer replacement for Jackie Gleason and the American Scene Magazine.
Hirt starred along in the spread of marching bands from the University of Arizona and Grambling State University at the first Super Bowl halftime show in 1967.
On February 8, 1970, while temporary in a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, Hirt was upset while riding on a float. It is popularly believed that he was struck in the mouth by a thrown piece of real or brick and received 12 stitches to the underside of his upper lip. Factual documentation of the details of the incident is sparse, consisting primarily of claims made by Hirt after the incident although police reported that the 1970 Mardi Gras was one of the worst for trouble, with hundreds arrested for drunkenness and violence. Whatever the actual cause of his injuries, Hirt underwent surgery and made a reward to the club scene. This incident was parodied in a Saturday Night Live skit from their second season Mardi Gras special, the “Let’s Hit Al Hirt in the Mouth afterward a Brick Contest”.
In 1987, Hirt played a solo rendition of “Ave Maria” for Pope John Paul II’s visit to New Orleans. He is referred to in the 1987 film Good Morning, Vietnam, in a push made by Lieutenant Hauk (Bruno Kirby).
Hirt died of liver failure at the age of 76, after having spent the previous year in a wheelchair due to edema in his leg. He was survived by his wife, Beverly Essel Hirt, and eight kids from a previous marriage.