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Swing clarinet starby Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2003 Todd S. Jenkins
Peanuts Hucko was born Michael Andrew Hucko. The swing clarinettist's lifelong nickname stemmed from his childhood love of peanuts. In 1939 Hucko came to New York City, where he began playing tenor sax with the bands of Will Bradley, Joe Marsala, Bob Chester and Charlie Spivak.
He served in Europe with Glenn Miller's Army Air Force Band until the leader's disappearance in 1944. After Hucko began concentrating solely on clarinet he was featured in the trombonist's Dixieland combo, the Uptown Hall Gang. Fats Waller's hot-and-heavy "Stealin' Apples" became Hucko's signature tune, remaining in his repertoire from then on.
Following the war, Hucko did studio work for ABC and CBS while making the rounds of major jazz bands: Benny Goodman, Eddie Condon, Ray McKinley, Earl Hines, Jack Teagarden, the Louis Armstrong All-Stars. The clarinetist led his own combo at Condon's club in the mid-60s, then joined what evolved into The World's Greatest Jazz Band for annual gigs at Dick Gibson's Colorado Jazz Party. Hucko fell in love with Denver, opening his Navarre nightclub there in 1974. The club's featured performers included pianist Ralph Sutton and Hucko's wife, singer Louise Tobin (the ex-wife of Harry James).
In the 1970s Hucko's time was largely split between leading the Glenn Miller Orchestra on world tours and appearing on the Lawrence Welk Show. The 80s brought a career revival as Hucko worked regularly with his Pied Piper Quintet. He and Tobin later settled into semi-retirement in Denton, Texas. His last recording was 1992's Swing That Music (Star Line) featuring Tobin, trumpeter Randy Sandke, and pianist Johnny Varro.
Todd S. Jenkins
Todd S. Jenkins is a member of the JJA, author of Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2004) and I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus (Praeger, 2006), and a contributor to Down Beat, All About Jazz, American Songwriter and Route 66 Magazine.