When I was a lad just itching to get into high school, one of the favorite classroom games we played had to do with what I will call “follow the band.”
We would all take our books and, in the front or back pages, list the members of our favorite big band of the day. I still have one of those books.
In other words, we followed bands exactly the same as we followed baseball teams, which usually occupied another set of pages in our books.
And then we discovered one of our own. Clarence “Shorty” Sherock played trumpet around Gary nightspots in the early 1930s. He joined Ben Pollack’s band in 1936. It was the last Pollack band, and it went out in a blaze of glory.
In addition to Shorty on the trumpet, the band featured Harry James, who might have been confused with Gabriel. On trombone, that last Pollack band featured Glen Miller, whose music, in one form or another, still dominates the dance floor where dancers embrace each other.
Shorty also played with Frank Masters, Jack Pettis, and other greats. From 1937-39, he was with Jimmy Dorsey and appeared in a few motion picture shorts.
Dorsey said Sherock was turning into “one of the truly great trumpeters of our day.” To close out the decade, Shorty moved over to Bob Crosby’s band and remained with him until 1940.
In 1939, Simon Says wrote of Shorty having a brilliant future, “a recent importation from Jimmy Dorsey’s band who, before that, had been imported from Gary, Indiana.”
Mainly a sideman, Shorty starred in the bands of Jimmy Dorsey, Bob Crosby, Gene Krupa, Tommy Dorsey and Horace Heidt. He also took several swing/Dixieland solos at the first “Jazz at the Philharmonic” concert in 1944.
He then fronted his own band briefly in 1950, and during that time returned to Gary to appear at the Miller Theater. After Shorty left Jimmy Dorsey, he became a studio musician in Los Angeles, recording with Mattie Matlock and others. From 1936 to 1979, his recording sessions included gigs with the Andrews Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Mel Torme, Anita O’Day, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Nelson Riddle, Pete Fountain, Lee Watson, Earl Fatha Hines, Benny Carter, Harry Edison, Charlie Shavers, Nat King Cole, and Charlie Barnett. He wound up playing on 111 albums on the market.
Should Gary ever get around to opening a proper Hall of Fame, it surely would include Shorty, Tom Harmon, and others, including ,from Emerson High School: Karl Malden, Etta Wood, and Alex Karras, who died Oct. 10. Lew Wallace High School would contribute Hank Stram, Les Bingaman and Vic Bubas. Froebel High School would offer Ed Gordon, Tony Zale and Marcie Gonzales. Roosevelt High School would honor George Taliafarro, John Campbell and Vivian Carter.
Also headed into the hall would be Davage Miner, Ben Sierra, Bob Brooks and Nick Strinsevich.