young trumpet player had been invited to play with jazz great Lionel Hampton. Three years later, while at Los Angeles City College, Millman studied with famed Austrian–American composer Eric Zeisl, who asked him one day to write three arrangements of his own. A week or so later, Zeisl announced that they would be going “across the street.” The “street” was a freeway, and on the other side was Universal Studios. They entered a huge sound stage, where musicians were grouped in front of a giant movie screen. One take later, Millman’s arrangements had become part of the score to the film being screened behind them. He was 20 years old. Millman would go on to compose for and score more than 400 films, playing with stars
like Shelly Manne, Red Mitchell, Shorty Rogers, and Stan Kenton (he still can’t get “The Peanut Vendor” out of his head). Just for the fun of it, he appeared as an extra in several films, including Quo Vadis, playing a Roman slave and bugler; Pat and Mike, with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn; and Von Ryan’s Express, with Frank Sinatra. Drafted into the army after graduating college, he wrote music for the orchestra and jazz band while undergoing basic training and became friends with future television stars Martin Milner and David Janssen. As first trumpet in the Sixth Army Band at the Presidio of San Francisco, Millman played USO shows up and down the West Coast, and then later throughout the Pacific when he was shipped out to Korea. Back in Hollywood, he played as many dates as he could snap up. Most evenings he would begin at a club in the Valley, then shoot across to another club in South Pasadena, Clockwise from top left: Millman composing at the piano in 1954; first quartet in 1954 after his discharge from the army; leading the Jack Millman Orchestra in 1956; Millman in 1965; conductor’s score from “Symphony Number 7” in 2003.
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where he’d play from 2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. for the breakfast show. Fortuitously, he had handed over his grandmother’s old 1936 Chevy to his high-school buddy George Barris, famed designer of the “Batmobile,” who had turned it into a candy-apple-red “bullet” car that got him from one venue to the next with lightning speed (Millman reports that he once got it up to 132 mph). By 1952, he was playing, recording, and touring with the Stan Kenton Orchestra. In 1955, Jack heard the call of the Pérez Prado Orchestra and toured with them all over the southern United States. At this point he was becoming more and more well known in the music world, thanks to his
COURTESY OF JACK MILLMAN (5)