Okay, Burbank High Class of 1968, I know it’s been a LONG time since high school graduation, and memories are fuzzy, but think back to junior high, and things are even more obscure. It was Don Ray (aka Don Ripley), BHS’67, who started the conversation about Mr. Graham Young, the chorus and stage band teacher at John Muir Junior High. Twenty years ago, Don found out that Mr. Young had retired from teaching to pursue a career as a studio musician. He had apparently played the trumpet in the Dixieland band at Disneyland. Don asked whether he had done anything for TV or the movies, and Mr. Young replied, “Do you ever watch The Waltons? That’s me playing the trumpet at the start of each show.” Don said that at the time he spoke with him, he was retired and playing once a week on the Queen Mary. “What a great guy. What an inspiration.”
But that’s not all. A search on allmusic.com credits Graham Young with 106 recorded performances on trumpet, guitar, cornet, flugelhorn and bass for such leading musicians such as Henry Mancini, Roy Eldridge, Tex Beneke, Anita O’Day, Captain and Tennille, and Gene Krupa. And he also played for the 1975 Robert Redford movie, “The Great Waldo Pepper.”
There is even a Graham Young mouthpiece for the trumpet, which undoubtedly is named after the John Muir teacher! Check out this website, which says that “Graham Young played with Henry Mancini’s orchestra, Gene Krupa, and Roy Eldridge, among many others.”
It’s Mr. Young’s influence as a teacher, though, that made the most lasting impression and played an important role into molding us into the people we are. James Hill (aka Junior Hill), a professional jazz trumpeter, wrote that “while attending John Muir Junior High School in Burbank, California, I had the good fortune of having Graham Young as the director of the stage band. Without a doubt, it was because of Graham Young and the natural talent that I was born with, that has made music and trumpet playing my life-long passion.”
Another studio musician, Larry Brown, who has worked with everyone from Etta James, Tower of Power and Andy Williams to Willie Nelson, George Harrison and Kenny Rogers, said that one of his biggest influences happened at John Muir. “I’ve also got to give a thumbs-up to some of my teachers when I was a kid. A guy named Graham Young was my junior high school teacher, who was an amazing trumpet player and studio musician here in L.A. But he still found the time to teach junior high school, and his love of music and that excitement that he instilled in me back then has always hung in there.”
Linda Duffendack Oxley (BHS’67) wrote: Graham Young was my musical inspiration to move forward in my life in choral music. He had a long and extensive list of credits in the professional film, television, movie and band world. Yet his passion was teaching young persons to live and love music! In addition to all those named above he also was Henry Mancini’s first call whenever Mancini toured or recorded. You can hear him on many Mancini’s famous tunes. In 1989 I hired him and he put together a small dance band for my parents 50th wedding anniversary party. It was great fun because the big band era was his and my parents favorite styles of music. Also in the 80’s he played Easter services for me a couple of years when I was directing at Westwood Methodist Church. It was a classical gig and he certainly could to do that equally as well as swing band! We had a lot of fun with the student now director and teacher relationship on those mornings. He was a great musician and a wonderful person. Terrific memories! Thank you!
I’m sorry to say that I don’t think I ever took either mixed chorus or girls chorus while at John Muir, even though I have spent the last 48 years accompanying rehearsals with choirs of all kinds. However, I do remember that Mr. Young’s choirs and the stage band at John Muir were outstanding. Another of his former students, Jolene Firgens, asks, “Does anyone remember in choir when we sang ‘Moon River’ before it was ever released? Thanks to his (Mr. Young’s) friend, Henry Mancini.”
I found a University of Michigan School of Music alumni newsletter (1977) in which Graham Young wrote about himself (Master of Music, 1951): “living in Burbank, CA and extensively involved in recording, movies and television, has played for such movies as Jaws, King Kong, and the Towering Inferno, and T.V. shows “Emergency,” “The Bionic Woman,” and “Raid on Entebbe.” He also works with Henry Mancini.”
Cathy Palmer (BHS’67) also wrote a blog, “The Legacy of Mr Graham Young, Music Director at John Muir Jr High.”
I can truly say that Mr. Young was one of the most influential teachers I had going through Burbank schools. It was in his 7th grade music class that I learned I had absolutely no musical ability or talent. None. Less than zero. Today, even my five year-old granddaughter won’t dance with me. “Don’t Granpa,” she’ll say. “Just don’t.” She will dance with Jasper, the dog, though. HOWEVER, it was in Mr. Young’s class that I was introduced to classical and jazz music. He taught me how to listen. Along with Rock, of course, the soundtrack of my life has been wonderfully rich.
I miss him very much
I have found, not sure how, personal papers, letters, photos of Graham Young’s life.
In the Army, fighting in WWII pics, marriage pics, children (daughters) playing with musicians, family stuff, Mom, etc. If you want/need to know more about this, email me at
firstname.lastname@example.org I never met him.