Greenfield, MA – Jazz clarinetist “Dick” Richard Lee Hurlburt, 91, also known as “Herb,” died on October 11 in Greenfield, at his home, with his loving family, wife Jeannette and son. as a child, Kieran by his side. Herb was the son of Ella Tower, Leon James, and the grandson of Florence Tower, who raised him. A 6th generation yankee and born musician, Herb began playing music by ear early on on a loaned metal clarinet at the age of 9. School discouraged him from playing by ear but “Hot Shot Herbie” kept jazz in the music. His grandmother (who raised him) managed to collect the 50 cents per week it cost in school to take group clarinet lessons. Herb received a wooden clarinet from his uncle Norman and at age 11 he started playing music for weekend dances in social clubs. He used the money he earned playing to buy records, practiced and taught himself to play swing / jazz and dixieland music. At age 15, Herb played his first professional New Years Eve concert with lifelong best friend and drummer Dick Minott and Ruth Stratton (pianist / silent films). It would be the first of Herb concerts to play a record 62 consecutive New Years Eve, as well as the start of a long musical career. Herb played the gamut of jobs; from smoky and ramshackle bar rooms to well-heeled elite clubs, high-class clubs and parties. Never drinker or smoker. Herb attributes his good habits to his Scottish economy and his grandmother’s education. However, it was no secret that Herb’s “colorful tongue” wasn’t his best trait! He was a talented, self-taught and self-taught musician, as well as a businessman. He was reliable and yet considered a rebel (played by ear!). He was benevolent and well known as “the Tsar” because he was the one people went to when they needed an instrument or a concert. One trait continued throughout his life.
Highlights of Herb’s 8-decade musical career include: performing with Louis Armstrong, on the Arthur Godfrey show on CBS; his duo “Sophisticated Swing”, pianist, Gene Clark; that of Eddie Condon in New York; Jazz band “The Hot Peppers”; playing with Lionel Hampton, Bobby Hackett, Billy Butterfield, George Wettling, Jimmy McPartland and Tony Spargo. He had the honor of playing with his great musical friends: Mike Franklin (Dixie Jazz Cats), Perry Bone, Chet Hazlett, Clarinet; The Jazz Express, Gil Roberts (Banjo); Charlie Johnson, Leif Erikson. Herb was also influenced by comedy, vaudeville, and loved the Hoosier Hot Shots (corresponding to Gabe Ward) and Spike Jones, and he had made several washboards, with a whistle, bells, and horns of varying heights. He liked to make people smile and laugh. Hervé’s passions included flying airplanes, collecting license plates (ALPCA # 1027), buying and selling instruments (also rare and antique), trading and trading, reading , skiing and also, playing music with his family. Herb was a salesman born with Gab’s gift, selling insurance, vacuum cleaners, musical instruments, automobiles, antique signs, general antiques. He was also a much sought-after music consultant and collector of clarinets and saxophones, and percussion. It has been written in research publications and published in various music and license plate magazines. When faced with problems, Herb would often say “The show must go on” and so he must.
He was like a bright comet, warming us with his glow, leaving us too soon.
A celebration of the life of Richard Hurlburt will take place with a Jazz / Dixieland memorial to his name in the spring. Interment will be private with the family at Green River Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please consider any memorial donation to LBDA.org, Dakin Animal Shelter or Cooley Dickinson Hospice.
Posted by The Recorder on October 23, 2021.