June 8, 2006

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Farewell, Ted Herbert
Big band leader passes away at 90
By Richie Victorino  rvictorino@hippopress.com

On occasion, while on stage, big-band leader Ted Herbert would grab his clarinet and play “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.” After playing the heartfelt tune, he’d turn to his singer, Karen Cameron, and say “I want you to sing this at my funeral.”

“And that’s what I hope to do,” Cameron said.

Herbert passed away at his home Saturday, May 27. He was 90.

Cameron was introduced to Herbert years ago, when her then-husband, a saxophonist, was invited to play with Herbert’s band.

Cameron, who had moved to New Hampshire from the Midwest, went to see her husband and the band one cold winter evening at the Carousel Ballroom in Manchester.

“The ticket taker wouldn’t let me in because it was a private party,” Cameron said.

She pleaded with the ticket taker, saying she wouldn’t take up much space and surely wouldn’t eat or drink anything.

“But he had no sympathy. He started shouting at me,” she said.

The shouting caught the attention of Herbert, who asked, and learned, what the problem was.

“Without missing a beat, he told the man that I was a singer for his band,” she said. “He had no idea who I was.”

Herbert’s generosity and quick thinking got Cameron into the door that night. It also got her on stage with him (at Herbert’s and her husband’s urging).

She sang a few numbers with the band that night, and received great applause.

“At the end of the show, Ted mentioned the next Carousel date and said I’d be singing with the band,” she said. “He didn’t even consult with me … I ended up singing with him for three years.”

Herbert, whose birth name was Thaddeus Piaseczny, is well known in these parts as the band leader for Ted Herbert’s Big Band, which he started in 1939. He’s also known, of course, as former owner of Ted Herbert’s Music Mart on Elm Street.

He had an eye for scouting talent. He also had a knack for being a smart business man and constant entertainer.

“Everything could be falling apart [at a show] and he’d grab the microphone and make a good show out of it,” Cameron said.

Retired Memorial High School music teacher Richard Maynard took clarinet lessons from Ted Herbert when Maynard was just nine years old.

“He’d always say ‘You practice your scales. You practice your scales,” Maynard said in his best Polish impersonation. “I’d always say, ‘OK Mr. Herbert, I’ll practice my scales.”

Maynard ended up befriending Herbert’s son, Thad. Maynard would tag along with Thad and Herbert to Herbert’s shows at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom.

There, Maynard learned what it meant to be a true entertainer.

“He just knew the beat for dancing,” Maynard said of Herbert. “He’d always start a night with ‘Moonlight Serenade’ by Glenn Miller. That would always get them all onto the floor.”

While Herbert always knew how to get things started, he also knew how to bring things to a close.

“At the end of a gig, typically at midnight, he’d always tell the crowd, ‘you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here,’” Cameron said. “That was his signature.”


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