Al Hirt papers
Scope and Contents
This collection comprises materials donated by the family of trumpeter and band leader Al Hirt documenting his musical career between 1959 and 1977. It includes programs and brochures, scripts, photographs, correspondence, fan mail, business papers and press clippings.
- Hirt, Al (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research.
Biographical or Historical Information
Al Hirt was born Alois Maxwell Hirt on November 7, 1922 in New Orleans, Louisiana. At the height of his career, he was the most famous trumpeter in the United States, frequently appearing on TV variety programs and in 1965, hosting the Fanfare TV series for Jackie Gleason. Early in his career, he played in swing bands, including Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey's band before switching to the Dixieland style. In 1955, he formed a combo with good friend, clarinetist Pete Fountain. Although Hirt moved away from Dixieland, eventually adopting a more commercial pop style, he and Fountain continued to play on and off for the next fifty years. He was nominated for a total of 21 Grammy Awards and won best non-jazz instrumental in 1964 for his popular music hit,"Java." Hirt also recorded the theme for the 1960s TV show, The Green Hornet which gained more recent popularity in Quentin Tarantino’s film, Kill Bill, Vol. 1. In addition to a prolific musical career, Hirt also pursued numerous business ventures. In 1962, he opened a jazz club on 501 Bourbon Street in New Orleans, which he operated for two decades. He was also a minority owner in the NFL expansion New Orleans Saints in 1967 and in 1968 co-founded Al Hirt’s Sandwich Saloon, a fast food franchise with locations in New Orleans, Nashville, Atlanta and Oakland. In the 1980s, he formed ProJazz, a record company that licensed recording sessions from Japanese labels and reissued them in the United States. Health problems including chronic obesity, numbness in his trumpet playing arm and a severe lip injury from being struck with a brick while riding a Mardi Gras float forced Hirt to perform less frequently in his later years. He died on April 27, 1999 in New Orleans at the age of 76.
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5.84 Linear Feet
Arranged in five series. Series 1 (programs), 4 (correspondence) and 5 (press clippings) are arranged chronologically. Series 2 (photographs) is numbered with item level descriptions and Series 3 includes miscellaneous materials like screenplay scripts, certificates and other honoraria as well as legal documents and is arranged by subject.