It was February 1982 when I had the pleasure, as awkward as it was, of meeting Doc Severinsen on a flight home to Amarillo, Texas from New Orleans where we had been visiting a friend of my mother. We took the last plane of the night out of New Orleans and there were only a few passengers on board, maybe a dozen at the most.
A few minutes into our flight, my seven-year-old sister began complaining about her ears. They had clogged up almost immediately after the plane took off from the runway and was getting progressively worse as the flight wore on. I had moved to another seat to get away from the commotion but it didn’t help. Before long, she was screaming at the top of her lungs. I was growing impatient with the spectacle and, seriously, she was embarrassing me. Pretending I didn’t know the girl was out of the question since everyone on the plane already knew we were traveling together.
My eyes settled on a man seated ahead of me. “Where do I know him from?” You know how it goes. Your mind starts scanning places you have been, people you have met in your life. Then it hit me! The television! “That’s the man who plays the trumpet on Johnny Carson!” I went back to tell my mother Doc Severinsen was on the plane with us but she shooed me back to my seat where I let my younger sister in on my revelation. Grinning from ear to ear, our eyes were fixed on him. “How cool is this?!”
My youngest sister’s screams interrupted the awe of being on a plane with someone famous. Maybe I was showing off, maybe I just snapped. Finally having enough of my sister and not understanding what was happening to her, I got up from my seat and marched to the back of the plane where my mother and seven-year-old sister were seated. I raised my hand and before I knew what I was doing, I slapped her hard across the face. My mother was mortified. I was mortified. “Get back to your seat. I will deal with you when we get home,” my mother told me. This wasn’t going to end well.
Little did I know that my actions had caught the attention of famous trumpet player Doc Severinsen.
Returning to my seat, I found Mr. Severinsen seated across the aisle from me. He leaned over to me and began chewing me out, but he never raised his voice to me. He explained sternly to me that my sister’s ears were plugged because of the altitude and that by hitting her like that, I could have caused her ears to rupture. Boy did I feel lower than an ant. He then got up and walked to the back of the plane, spoke with my mother and sister, and gave my sister a piece of gum to chew to help with the ears. I was an idiot. I slumped down in my seat in deep contemplation over what I had done. As he made his way back to his own seat, he never looked my way.
Even though Doc got onto me that night, I was reminded of the lesson I learned every time we watched Johnny Carson. I can’t say that I never hit my sister again (seriously, kids fight), but I was mindful of the ears. I often wonder if he told anyone else what a horrible brat I was for hitting her own sister.
Doc Severinsen, a Grammy award winner with more than 30 albums to his credit, was the bandleader and trumpet player on ‘The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson‘ from 1962 until 1992. Today, Doc has his own horn. The ‘Destino‘ by Severinsen Custom Trumpets was launched in 2004 at the ITG in Denver. According to his website, these trumpets are handcrafted one at a time and each one is played by Doc “to insure that each trumpet performs to his exacting standards.” He now lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Severinsen Custom Trumpets – Doc’s Bio