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John Lucas: 1917-2001
John Lucas
Trumpet, bandleader

Born: March 15, 1917 in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Died: March 17, 2001 in Arcadia, California

Trumpeter Overcame His Disabilities

Copyright © 2001 


John Lucas overcame physical disabilities inflicted by rheumatoid arthritis to become a professional jazz musician. He was active in the jazz scene in Southern California community for five decades, and continued to perform with his band, The Blueblowers, until he was 75.

His family moved to California in 1920. He suffered from rheumatoid arthritis as a child. He was confined to a wheelcahair, and was unable to bend his arms or legs. He had very limited mobility in his fingers, and was unable to raise his hands close enough to his face to hold a conventional trumpet in a playable position.

Nonetheless, he refused to capitulate to his perceived disability, and became a professional musician, drew pen and ink sketches, and was a writer and jazz historian. He began on drums, then tried marimba before he found a way to surmount the apparent impossibility of playing trumpet by devising an elongated version of the instrument which was stretched enough to allow him to reach the valves.

He formed The Blueblowers while a student in Pasadena, initially playing for student dances. He became a popular performer in Los Angeles nightclubs during the 1950s and 1960s. He worked in the military defense industry in Pasadena during World War 2, and later was a reporter for the East Pasadena Herald.

He died of complications from pneumonia. He is survived by a daughter, Susan Scott; a sister, Elizabeth Watkins; and his housekeeper, Debbie Theys.

A memorial service will be held Sunday, April 22, at 2 p.m. at 1930 S. Santa Anita Ave. in Arcadia. In lieu of flowers, his family requests that donations be made to the Local 47 Musicians Relief Fund, 817 Vine St., Hollywood, CA 90038-3779.

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With 1 reader comment, posted May 5, 2004