Jack McVea

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Jack McVea (November 5, 1914 – December 27, 2000[1]) was an African American, swing, blues, and rhythm and blues woodwind player; he played clarinet and tenor and baritone saxophone. His father was the noted banjoist Satchel McVea, and banjo was Jack McVea's first instrument.


Born John Vivian McVea in Los Angeles, California, and playing jazz in Los Angeles for several years, he joined Lionel Hampton's orchestra in 1940. From 1944 on he mostly worked as a leader. Perhaps his most impressive performance as a sideman in those years was at the first Jazz at the Philharmonic concert in 1944.

McVea was leader of the Black & White Records studio band and was responsible for coming up with the musical riff for the words "Open the Door, Richard".[2] Ralph Bass got him to record it in 1946 and it became immensely popular, entering the national charts the following year, and was recorded by many other artists.[2][3]

From 1966 till his retirement in 1992 he led a group that played Dixieland jazz in New Orleans Square at Disneyland, called The Royal Street Bachelors. When formed, the trio consisted of McVea on clarinet, Herman Mitchell on banjo, and Ernie McLean on guitar and banjo. According to McVea, he was not much of a clarinetist but learned overnight to play three songs to secure the job.[4]

He is also known for his playing on T-Bone Walker's "Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just As Bad)". In 1945 he played tenor sax in a recording session for Slim Gaillard alongside Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.[5]


As leader/co-leader

Most of Jack McVea's recordings are available on Blue Moon Records in Barcelona, Spain; Ace Records in London, England; and Delmark Records in Chicago. All are available in the U.S. Blue Moon covers the Black & White years (including "Open the Door, Richard"), Delmark covers his sessions on Apollo Records, and Ace covers his four years with Combo Records. Ace's Fortissimo! CD contains several alternate takes.

LP compilations[edit]

  • Jukebox Lil #607 Open The Door, Richard [rec. 1945–1947] rel. 1984
  • Jukebox Lil #612 Two Timin' Baby [rec. 1944–1947] rel. 1986
  • Jukebox Lil #625 New Deal [rec. 1944–1948] rel. 1988

CD compilations[edit]

  • Blue Moon #6031 The Complete Recordings, Vol. 1 (1944–1945) rel. 2002
  • Blue Moon #6032 The Complete Recordings, Vol. 2 (1945–1946) rel. 2002
  • Blue Moon #6033 The Complete Recordings, Vol. 3 (1946–1947) rel. 2002
  • Blue Moon #6034 The Complete Recordings, Vol. 4 (1947–1952) rel. 2002
  • Delmark #756 McVoutie's Central Avenue Blues (McVea's 1945 Apollo recordings) rel. 2002
  • Ace #781 Honk! Honk! Honk! (contains 9 of McVea's Combo recordings from 1954–1957) rel. 2000
  • Ace #1246 Fortissimo! The Combo Recordings (1954-1957) rel. 2010
  • JSP #77159 Rarely Was Honkin' Sax So Much Fun: Jack McVea with Alton Redd and George Vann (4CD set) rel. 2012

As sideman[edit]

With B.B. King


  1. ^ "Jack McVea; Big Song Hit Was 'Open the Door Richard'". Los Angeles Times. January 5, 2001. Obituaries. Retrieved 2015-03-04. 
  2. ^ a b Smith, RJ (2004). "Richard Speaks! Chasing a Tune from the Chitlin Circuit to the Mormon Tabernacle". In Eric Weisbard. This is Pop. Harvard University Press. pp. 75–84. ISBN 978-0-674-01321-6. 
  3. ^ Shaw, Arnold (1978). Honkers and Shouters. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. p. 226. ISBN 0-02-061740-2. 
  4. ^ "Jack McVea, founding member of Disneyland's Royal Street Bachelors, retires after 25 years" (Press release). Disneyland PR. June 18, 1992. Retrieved 2015-03-04 – via The Free Library. 
  5. ^ Koch, Lawrence O. (1988). Yardbird Suite: A Compendium of the Music and Life of Charlie Parker. Popular Press. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-87972-260-9. 

External links[edit]