CHAPTER 1 FB: Well good morning America. Good morning people out there in Berklee land. This is Fred Bouchard again with another installment of the Berklee Oral History Project. Today we have with us Larry Monroe who as well as being a fairly early student at Berklee. He became a faculty member and He's been a key administrator at Berklee for the last 20 or 30 years. And has been instrumental in spearheading Berklee's international outreach efforts all over Europe and the world. Larry welcome. LM: Hello Fred. It's nice to be here. FB: Nice to have you with us today. Maybe we could just start off with a little personal and musical history in your years before Berklee. LM: I grew up in upper New England in Vermont. My father was from Boston and regaled me with two things as a tot, the tales of Boston and his love of the the Swing Era. He grew up in the 30s and 40s. And he had a great record collection, a swing colelction, but he had all the great guys Ellington, Basie all those people. His father was a little conservative or regressive maybe and my father wanted to be a musician I think all his life but never given the opportunity. So, never nudged me in that direction, but just played records all the time. I worked in a factory we were a low income factory and we'd work at the factory all day long come home, and put on these great recordings. In those days they were still fragile 78s. I don't know by the time I was...The first piece of music I remember was Fats Wallace Feets too Big it which was kind of a lullaby for me. I mean it's a novelty piece. Fats did a lot of that stuff. FB: One of my favorites. I love it. LM: Even the fats novelty pieces have a great swing value. The backing up band was tremendous. I remember early things like that and when I was old enough, 4 or 5 years old he taught me to play records myself. I spent a fair amount of time alone. Both my parents worked in a mill right near where we lived. And we had a signal system with the window shade if I needed anything I'd pull the shade down and my mother would come dashing from 100 yards away where she was working. But I spent my whole pre playing an instrument time listening to music. And by the time I was in first grade I concluded that I would be a musician. Then at some point an instrument fell into my hands. In Vermont in those days, the public school that had a decent music program in terms of they had a music appreciation course. We got to write a few songs, classical of course. There was a music man figure guy with a station wagon full of instruments that came around for 2 dollars and 50 cents who would rent you an instrument and give you the lesson. Seventy-five cents went towards the new instrument. That was one of those guys those after world war 2 guys who did that stuff. He's still up there. A man named Richard Allis tremendous all purpose teacher. And he had a little bit of flirtation with the big band era. He studied it in New England and he'd been out with a couple of regional bands Hallad and maybe a little flirtation with the Gene Cooper band. He was very jazz sensitive and happy to be teaching something other than classical clarinet. So I started out as a clarinet player, but my love was always to be a jazz musician. When I went to high school I did all the usual high school things. I didn't have money to go to college and the only college I had interest in going to was Berklee, this is 1957. And Berklee was just new. There were two schools in America in my consciousness: one was the West Lake school in in los angeles briefly in the late 50s early 60s and Berklee. So I would come to Boston regularly to see my grandparents a lot. In upper New England you don't fixate on New York you fixate on Boston, it is the hub of New England. I wanted to come but we couldn't even find the tuition. It was 300 dollars something a semester in those days. So I opted for a career in music that many people took in those days. Lot of the Berklee teachers did this in my generation. We went in the military band system. In those days you could take an audition before you get accepted and then you went into basic training and they assign you to a band system. So I went into the air force for 4 years as a musician and although it is an anathema to young people today it was the best thing in some ways better than a college education in music. Up every morning at 8 o clock or 7 30 some ungodly hour, concert rehearsal playing clarinet a 35 piece concert band. And then in the afternoon playing in a Glen Miller type swing band. And then at night you played gigs at the Oscar's club. So at the end of the course of 4 years you got a lot of experience. The military thing was pretty rotten, but I needed discipline music discipline. IT was the first music encounters... in high school you make a sqwak on the clarinet during rehearsal and everybody giggles. You do that in the military and you get chewed out for not practicing your parts. So it was very professional in that sense. This was peace time military between the Korean and Vietnam war. Lots of musicians good one. We hear these stories, when I was in the fort dicks army band, I was stationed at springfield at Westover for a couple of years and we would travel the country the east coast going to different air bases and playing. Wayne Shorter was in Fort Dicks band and New Jersey. So there would be these legendary guys in the military bands. Doing what I was doing, an alternative to not being able to go to music college. And there weren't many colleges that would let you be a jazz musician anyways. At least in the military I got stern classical training and I got to play in a big band at the age of I don't know what it was, 18 a good big band. It wasn't a great jazz band, but it was a well disciplined swing era dance band. And you got to solo and most importantly I got to spend literally 24 hours a day in the barracks with 25 other young musicians. I spent 2 years in Springfield in Westover and then they sent me to a brand new band that was just being created this was a strategic air command. In those days there were bases all over the world, nuclear weapon bases. They sent me to Madrid, Spain. Which transformed my life again because this was on the front of a dictatorship. There were unbelievably wonderful jazz club sub cultural. Only people with a lot of money could go to those, which wasn't a lot in Spain in those days. Great musicians, spanish musicians ???. Touring european musicians and touring US musicians. So I got to sit in. I sat in with great people like Don ???. Europeans were living abroad. FB: Ben Webster. LM: Yeah Ben Webster. ??? I learned a lot from this great Spanish tenor player ??? . So the military band, the discipline of the military band, the music discipline not military discipline. There wasn't much military discipline in the military bands. I would always say you could have a TV show like MASH based on military bands it was the same kind of anti military establishment. Instead of medical crazies, we were musical crazies. And so that in the daytime the music discipline and the opportunity play great jazz at night. Don Vais was wonderful. I go to play one song because I go to be there at the start of the set. In those days in Spain the nightlife is very late. It starts at like 11 o clock at night and last til 3 in the morning. I'd be there at 11 o' clock and I'd play the second tune in the first set and he'd listen and he was very gracious and he'd say "alright good why don't you come back a couple of nights." I go home and learn the tune we played better. I'd go back and play a second time. Then he'd give me another tune a standard or something. So he was tremendous. Everybody was that way. Everyone was very helpful. THe most important learned right off quick at that time I thought Of course we're americans we know more about jazz than anybody else in the world. That is not true. This is in 1960 there were great players in Europe already. There weren't as many great players as say in Boston at the same time, but they were gerat players. We had access to them and everyone was trying to learn. It was tremendous. Playing with ??? the guy is a gifted gifted musician. Tremendous. FB: Fabulous. One of my favorites. LM: So I had great musical training before I got to Berklee.