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Billy VerPlanck

Marlene and Billy
With the Roy Babbington Trio
At Ronnie Scott's

Our life story is pretty straight ahead.  Marlene (Pampinella) is third generation Italian, I am a descendent of the Dutch settlers of Manhattan. As a child I was addicted to baseball and ice hockey. 

Growing up in Connecticut the weather was always cooperative for hockey and I was out of the house by 6:00am to practice before school started  That changed quickly the day I was in the music room and the only instrument left was the trombone.  I then decided music would be my main thrust.  I began to think about arranging as a young teenager.

At age 15, when all the older professional musicians were called to service, the big band leaders were forced to hire very young or very old players.  I walked into Nola Rehearsal Studios in NYC,  and there was a empty second trombone chair with Jess Stacey's band. I sat down and played the book and he asked me to join the band.  That was the first of my many bands.   For the next two years I worked with loads of territory bands including,  Don Allen, Cecil Scott, Buddy Mitchell, Art Wings, Al Lombardi, Dick Pols, Willlie Peepers, Larry Fotine, Al Herbeck, Jimmy Palmer.  Then I was called in the Navy and played and wrote arrangements for the Navy School of Music in the band arranging dept.  My job, besides playing with the band was to scoring National Anthems for Navy concert bands.

In 1948, while walking in Harry Truman's inaugural parade, my flat feet gave way, leading to my medical discharge from the Navy. I went back to New York and continued writing and playing for a local territory band.  Larry Tobia, Johnny Anello, Dick Pols, Harry Street and I later went back on the road again with Larry Fotine which took me to Chicago.  There I met and and wrote for Dan Terry whose  band was excellent.  There were four trombones, three trumpets and five saxes.

From there it was Henry Busse's Band which got me out to the west where I got my Local 47 Union Card. That was 1949.  I joined Jimmy Dorsey's Band that summer and stayed a year and a half. During my stay we recorded the hit record, "So Rare".  When the band broke up in 1951 I enjoyed three weeks with Charlie Barnet and then went on to Claude Thornhill. 

Great band!  The record, Claude Thornhill plays Gerry Mulligan is a collector's item today.   The personnel was Claude, of course, Teddy Kotak, drums, Winston Welch, drums. Saxes were Gene Quill, Ralph Aldrich, Dave Fig Red Norman, Dick Zuback, and Med Flory on clarinet. French horns, Al Antanucci, Sandy Seiglestein, trumpets, Dale Pierce, Dick Sherman, Sonny Rich, trombones, Obie Massingal, Billy VerPlanck, tuba, Bill Barber.  What a thrill. 

In between there was Ralph Marterie (who got me into ASCAP with my composition and arrangement of "Chicken Shack Boogie"), Neal Hefti and Charlie Spivak.  It was with Charlie Spivak where I met Marlene.  I was on the band for two years when Marlene joined and just by luck and coincidence, we heard that the Tommy/Jimmy Dorsey Band was looking for a trombonist and singer.  This was in 1956.  Joining Tommy Dorsey, who  is still every trombone player's hero, was the thrill of my life.  The band worked six months a year at The Statler Hotel in New York plus two television shows—the Jackie Gleason Show and The NBC Bandstand.  This band was a dream come true. The only sorrow here was that Tommy died an accidental death in 8 months later. 

It was at this point we decided to stay in NYC and make our way into the studios. After Tommy died in 1956 we stayed in NYC in slowly made our way into  the studio business.  I wrote hundreds of scores for documentary films, industrial shows, commercials, plus producing, arranging and conducting seventeen CDs for Marlene. 

Today we travel and tour the world together. 

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