... he died On April 22, 1999 from liver failure.
Nicknamed "Jumbo" and "The Round Mound of Sound," Al Hirt is perhaps best remembered for his million selling record "Java," and the 1963 album, Honey in the Horn. Al was a member of The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
Born Alois Maxwell Hirt in New Orleans, Louisiana, "Al" was given his first trumpet, which had been purchased at a local pawnshop. He played in the Junior Police Band and by the age of 16, Hirt was playing professionally, often with his friend Pete Fountain. Around the same time, he was hired to play at the local horse racing track, beginning a six-decade connection to the sport.
In 1940, Hirt went to Cincinnati, Ohio to study at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. After a stint as a bugler in the United States Army during World War II, Hirt performed with various Swing big bands, including with Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and Ina Ray Hutton. In 1950, Hirt became first trumpet and soloist with Horace Heidt's Orchestra.
Hirt returned to New Orleans, working with various Dixieland groups and leading his own bands. soon attracted the attention of national record labels, and placed twenty two albums on the Billboard charts in the 1950s and 1960s. The albums Honey In The Horn and Cotton Candy were both in the Top 10 best sellers for 1964. That year, he won a Grammy Award for the "Java."
Hirt's Top 40 charted hit "Sugar Lips," also in 1964, would be later used as the theme song for the NBC daytime game show Eye Guess, hosted by Bill Cullen and originally airing during the mid-to-late 1960s... (Continued below.)
HIGHLY Recommended (Links to Amazon):
From the mid 1950s to early 1960s, Hirt and his band played nightly at Dan's Pier 600 at the corner of St. Louis and Bourbon Street. The club was owned by his business manager, Dan Levy, Sr. In 1962 Hirt opened his own club on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, which he ran until 1983. He also became a minority owner in the NFL expansion New Orleans Saints in 1967.
On February 8, 1970, while performing in a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, Hirt was injured while riding on a float. It is popularly believed that he was struck in the mouth by a thrown piece of concrete or brick. Whatever the actual cause of his injuries, Hirt underwent surgery and didn't return to playing the trumpet for some time.