It is with great sadness that we let Marlene and Billy's many fans know that Billy passed away on June 2, 2009. This page offers a tribute to Billy and his music, and it will be updated as more tributes come in.
Billy's Scholarship Fund Update
I'm happy to report that William Patterson University will be awarding the first scholarship in Billy's name this fall.
The University announced that Billy's Scholarship Fund set a record for raising the most funds in the least amount of time. At this writing it's over $17,000, and the donations are still coming in. I'm so grateful to all of you for making this possible.
If you would like to make a donation, please send a check payable to the J. Billy Verplanck Scholarship Fund and send it to:
J. Billy Verplanck Scholarship Fund
William Patterson University
300 Pompton Road
Wayne, NJ 07470
Health, Love & Music
Marlene has put together a wonderful double CD showcasing songs that Billy has written and arranged. The set is free and you can get a copy at any of Marlene's upcoming performance dates.
In honor of Billy's love of jazz, a scholarship has been established. Donations can be sent to: J. Billy VerPlanck Jazz Scholarship Fund, c/o Office of Institutional Advancement, William Paterson University, 300 Pompton Rd., Wayne, NJ 07570.
J. Billy VerPlanck Music Man
The following are all original songs written by Billy through the years.
CD Disc 1
- So Long Sadness (Lyrics, Ervin Drake; Sonny Costanzo, trombone solo, ACD 256)
- Around About Half Past Nine (Lyrics Ray Hoffman, ACD 338)
- Brasiliero (ACD 109)
- Rainbow Hill (Lyrics, Carmen Biase, Dick Roman, Nellie Biase, ACD 109)
- This Happy Feeling Lyrics, Howard Liebling, ACD 109)
- Hopscotch (ACD 160)
- I Looked At You (Lyrics, Loonis McGlohon, trumpet, Joe Wilder, ACD 160)
- I Like to Sing, (Lyrics, Loonis McGlohon, ACD186)
- Instead of Saying Goodbye (Lyrics, Loonis McGlohon, ACD 186)
- The Quiet Hour (Lyrics, Loonis McGlohon ACD 235)
- Left Bank Blues (with Saxomania from Paris, ACD 288)
- Sing Me to Sleep (Lyrics, Ray Hoffman, ACD 304)
- Speaking of Love (Lyrics, Frank Grant, ACD 320)
- What Comes After the Rainbow (Lyrics, Leon Nock, ACD 320)
- Cocktails at Dawn (Lyrics, Leon Nock, ACD 325)
- It's How You Play the Game(Lyrics, Joe Cocuzzo, with Anat Cohen, ACD 325)
- Now! (Lyrics, Leon Nock, Tedd Firth, piano, ACD 330)
- My Impetuous Heart (Lyrics, Leon Nock, ACD 334,The Hank Jones Trio )
- What Are We Going to Do With All This Moonlight (Lyrics, Leon Nock, ACD 304)
- The Day I Found You (Lyrics, Frank Grant, ACD 334,The Hank Jones Trio)
- Once There Was a Moon (Lyrics, Leon Nock, Tedd Firth, piano, ACD 338)
CD Disc 2
- You Know What (Lyrics, Ronny Whyte, ACD 169)
- Red and Yellow Flowers (Lyrics, Frank Grant, ACD 160)
- Summer Evening (SV 0237, with Phil Woods, Frank Rehak, Wendel Marshall, Hal McKusic, others.)
- Potluck (T1238, John LaSalle Quartet)
- Jumpin' at the Left Bank (TOCJ 66156, John LaSalle Quartet)
- Bergen County Mystique (CR5000, Jimmy Dean with Claudio Roditi, Vic Cenicola)
- Newark 1947 (CR5000, Jimmy Dean Band with Claudio Roditi, Vic Cenicol)
- Blues on the Run (CR6000, with Claudio Roditi, George Masso, Jim McNeely)
- Where is April (Lyrics, Loonis McGlohon, Trumpet Claudio Roditi, CR8158)
- Sonny's on the Money ( Stash 555, Trombone, Sonny Costanzo)
- On Top of Old Mountie (SV 0235 with Joe Wilder, Frank Rehak, Phil Woods, others)
- Thanks for the Misery (SV 0248, Coleman Hawkins, with Marshall Royal, Frank Wess, Frank Foster, Charlie Fowlkes, Nat Pierce, Freddie Green, Eddie Jones, Bobby Donaldson)
- Duh-Udah-Udah (SV 0209, Billy's only recorded trombone solo)
- Miss Spring Blues (SV 0209 with Bill Harris, Phil Woods, Eddie Costa, Joe Wilder)
- Winds (SV 0209, same personnel as #14)
- Growing Old Gracefully (Lyrics, James Pollock, ACD 109)
ACD is Audiophile
SV is Savoy
CR is Cexton Records
T1 and TOCJ is Capitol Records Japan
These are the liner notes that Marlene wrote for the CD set shortly before Billy passed away.
J. Billy Verplanck, as I know him.
I doubt anyone would dispute the fact that I know Billy better than anyone in the world. We have been married and virtually inseparable for 52 years.This may seem like a long time to some, but to me, it has felt like 52 nano-seconds. Even when he is writing in the next room around the clock for two or three days at at time (no one would understand that, except me), I dare not interrupt except to collect pages for the copyist. Throughout his diligence in that room, we share that time, even in his silence. Billy writes passionately for every record date, every jingle, every film, every arrangement ...whatever the assignment, he researches hundreds of reference books and toils over every note. I can honestly say, he has NEVER written an indifferent note in his life!
Over the years Billy has written for jazz greats like, Coleman Hawkins (#6, SV 0248), Phil Woods, Eddie Costa, George Duvivier, and his trombone heroes, Bill Harris, (#5, #6 SV 0209) and Sonny Costanzo, (#7, Stash 555) Jimmy Dean's Big Band, with Claudio Roditi, (#10 CR 5000). The list goes on and on. In between all of his great writing, he finds time to write hundreds of arrangements and compose dozens of originals for me, as we as, produce 20 CDs, be it big bands, trios, symphony arrangements, whatever the assignment, he has garnered nothing but rave reviews for his efforts.
We were married in 1956 and were trying to make our way in New York. Thanks to Ozzie Cadena, BIlly was writing for Savoy Records, and I was trying to get into the studios. It took awhile but thank to study and perseverance, it worked. After six years, we felt it time to take a real vacation (we called it our honeymoon) and went to Italy. Loved it! Prompted us to take one every year.Then one day the light went on and we said, "we could get paid for traveling like this." It was then that we started to pursue work in different countries, UK, France, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, and China. The UK has proven a great niche for us and we do a month long tour every year. Nice!
There are so many more wonderful attributes I can relate about Billy's genius but I would need volumes to tell you. But on last thing I would like to say is, I am so honored he chose me for his wife. I am so looking forward to the next 52 years.
You'll need the Adobe Flash player to play these MP3 samples. If you don't see the MP3 player graphic, you'll need to download the Flash player here.
|So Long Sadness|
|What Are We Going To Do With All This Moonlight?|
|Duh-Udah-Udah (Billy's only recorded trombone solo)|
|Once There Was a Moon|
|Miss Spring Blues|
|This Happy Feeling|
|Left Bank Blues|
|Growing Old Gracefully|
Tributes to Billy
We will be adding tributes to this site as we receive them. If you would like to add a tribute, please e-mail it it to BIlly VerPlanck Tribute.
The tributes are in a sldeshow format so you can see each tribute in a separate slide. When you click on the link you will see a list of contributors as well as the first tribute. You can navigate either by using the VCR controls or selecting the contributor whose tribute you would like to view. You can also use the "H" key to access a help panel.
- Leon Nock
- Jerry and Janet Kline
- Roy Eaton
- Warren Vache
- Bob Ferrel
- Jack and Jayne Jennings
- Rick Bean
- Shirley and Rod Budgett
- John Metcalf
- Dan Manjovi
- Tom Coyle
- Lou Tracey
- Eef van Breen
- Eva Tebbe
- Mary Sadrakula and Frank Gioia
- Carol and Dick Greene
- Joseph A. Klenner
- Ian Bradley - Midriff Blog
- Jazzbeat Magazine
From Leon Nock
As a student of irony I find something strangely apposite about paying tribute to a man whose entire life was a Tribute; a tribute to Decency, a tribute of Old Values, a tribute to Olde-Worlde Courtesy and Good Manners, a tribute to Integrity and perhaps most of all a tribute to Quality, especially in his own, lifelong field, Popular Music.
Three times in my life I met someone who I knew from the very first second would turn out to be a lifelong friend and in each case I was correct. The first two I met in my late teens the third, who, alas, I met much, much later, was Billy VerPlanck. It isn’t, of course, how long you know someone or even how well, but how much they enrich your life just by being a part of it and no one enriched mine more than my very dear friend John ‘Billy’ VerPlanck. He was a man who had heroes and was not ashamed to do so and one of his first heroes was trombonist Bill Harris and when he became a musician himself John VerPlanck of Norwalk, Connecticut, became forevermore Billy VerPlanck, John (Billy) to ASCAP, J ‘Billy’ to officialdom but just plain Billy to those who knew and loved him.
Although I knew the facts of his early years in Norwalk were perhaps less than American Dream material it pleased me to believe that somewhere in a parallel universe there was another John VerPlanck who grew up in a small town that was a dead ringer for Carvel, was himself a dead ringer for Andy Hardy and learned Decency 101 from a father who was a dead ringer for Lewis Stone. How else to account for a man who literally struggled to utter a bad word about anyone, a man whose eyes unashamedly filled with tears when he talked to me about the racist fllth to which Jackie Robinson was subjected when he became the first Black player in Major League baseball, remarkable only because we were talking more than fifty years later, an era when it would be not only remarkable but impossible to find a baseball team without several Black players.
I could fill a book with similar examples of his deeply-ingrained decency but so many of his other qualities are competing to catch my eye, not least his magnificent – and that’s the only word that fits – sense of wonder and awe at the world around him. It was truly childlike in its purity and innocence, completely untouched by cynicism or experience. I have attended well in excess of one hundred live performances by Marlene and invariably I would sit next to Billy and marvel at his unabashed enthusiasm and the impossible-to-fake genuine kick he got out of hearing her sing, and let us not forget that he was listening to her singing charts he had written himself and watched her rehearse and perform dozens of times previously. Like the man said if that isn’t love it’ll have to do until the real thing comes along.
This was a man who counted blessings like a miser counts gold pieces. ‘Leon’, I can hear him saying now, ‘I thank God I married into this family. I’m so grateful every day …’ And ‘Say, what about that lyric of so-and-so, isn’t that great …’ or ‘did you hear that chart that so-and-so did …’
Oh yes, he was a musician too.
I guess I’ve waited to get around to his day job because to me he was always a Great Human Being who also happened to be a first-class musician rather than a first-class musician who was a Great Human Being. He was a fine musician, a Great arranger and a Great composer and I truly believe that he didn’t really know just How great he was. In terms of humility he made Uriah Heep seem like Cassius Clay. Perhaps when you can do something well it doesn’t occur to you that others can’t do it at all.
Long before we worked together he confessed that he was in awe of lyricists because he wouldn’t know where to begin to start writing a lyric, this from a man who could take one look at a piece of doggerel and fashion a soaring melody around it. When composing he liked to work alone, undisturbed but strangely that didn’t apply to arranging as I know from first hand. A few years ago Marlene did a gig at La Belle Epoque, a French restaurant on 14th Street right across the street from Strand Books. It was a Saturday evening and I decided to go for the weekend. I arrived in the city around four p.m. and went straight to Strand Books, a regular haunt, made several purchases then went to La Belle Epoque to check the reservation I had made for two friends who were coming in from New Rochelle.
The first thing I saw was Billy seated at ringside writing charts some four hours ahead of the gig. He looked up, saw me at Reception and beckoned me over. We shook hands, I sat down and he said, ‘Hi, Leon, great to see you, did you have a good flight, can I get you a beer or a sandwich’ and all the time he’s talking he’s writing a chart. We sat there for half an hour chatting about the gig, Marlene’s voice, the books I’d bought and Billy’s beloved Mets and during that time he finished eight charts. He did this naturally, he might have been eating a hamburger and chatting to me. Grandstanding was light years away from his nature. He was just extraordinarily talented.
After the gig I stayed overnight and at breakfast he asked if I had any new lyrics. I did as it happened, have something I’d written on the plane and I gave it to him. He glanced at it and put it in his pocket. After breakfast I got into a three-way conversation with Marlene and her mother, Pauline. Whatever we were talking about was completely ngrossing because the next thing I knew Billy handed me a lead sheet. In the space of ten or at most fifteen minutes he’d gone upstairs to his workroom and set the lyric I’d just handed to him.
And that was my friend, Billy VerPlanck. A man who believed that the world doesn’t suffer from badness only a lack of goodness. Now that same world suffers from a lack of Billy VerPlanck, Humanitarian, Highly Gifted Musician, dear friend. A man who had heroes.
I have heroes too, none greater than my last hero, Billy VerPlanck.
From Jerry and Janet Kline
We met Billy and Marlene at an intimate jazz club in Alexandria, Virginia, over 20 years ago, and we've been close friends ever since, sharing our love of jazz, American popular song, great conversation, European travel, and fine food and wine.
What a trip it has been for us!
Billy just knocked us out. He never failed to surprise us with his renaissance interests and knowledge. He could converse with intelligence and depth on so many subjects: music, art, finance, and politics. Even if you didn't always agree with him, you always learned something.
His institutional memory of American music and musicians of the last 50 years was extraordinary. His recollections of his jobs and compatriots during those years reflected the experience of one who lived the music. We loved to sit at the porch table at their beautiful home, sharing a cup of Billy's fabulous coffee and listening to his experiences -- often hysterically funny -- with the Greats of the Big Band Era.
Billy's music, so beautifully presented in Marlene's performances and CD's, speaks for itself. Marlene's legendary reputation as a performer is perfectly matched by Billy's talent and skill as a composer and arranger. At Marlene's concerts, we'd always look over to Billy, standing at the rear of the hall. His face always aglow with pleasure and pride. He often said he was a lucky man to be able to write for the best singer in the business. That wasn't just a dutiful husband talking, he meant it. Billy was Marlene's biggest fan.
Weren't we lucky to have Billy as our friend all these years!
People like Billy help me to believe in immortality. Even though his body is no longer with us, he is no less "here" for me this minute than he was when I read the unexpected and surprising e-mail announcing his death three minutes ago. My memories of his musicianship, humor, innocence, enthusiasm, and love of humanity will never fade. And so he will always be with me, and I suspect with anyone who had the privilege to have him cross their lives. I thank God that I was one of those who shared this experience. I will miss him, but I will never forget him. Thanks Marlene for nurturing such a great man.
From Warren Vaché
Everyone is aware of Billy's incredible musicianship and encyclopedic knowledge. What made Billy an inspiration to me was the way he coupled all that knowledge and skill with the warmth of his personality. Billy was always encouraging to others and always willing to share his time and talent. In a business that is too often populated by "me first" thinkers, Billy was an oasis of care, concern and depth of feeling.
Billy and Marlene came to a club in New Jersey where I played with Joe Coccuzo, Vinnie Corrao and Eddie Montiero one night shortly after I had recorded a CD with strings. Billy had heard of the recording and knew that Bill Finegan had written several of the arrangements. He asked if I had the roughs and we went to my car on the break. I played him Bill Finegan's arrangement of " It Was Written In the Stars," and when it was finished I looked over to see Billy unashamedly in tears! A man with such a heart is an exceptional man indeed.
From Bob Ferrel
For Billy Ver Planck,
I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Billy and Marlene. I played their show many times with The Richie Cecere Orchestra in Montclair NJ. Billy's arrangements were incredible and he was a great conductor/music director for Marlene. It was great watching them rehearse and perform together. We also played a fantastic show at The Morristown Community Theatre.
Being a Trombonist it was wonderful to hear all of Billy's stories about his times with the ledgendary Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. I had the pleasure of performing Billy's arrangement of "Everywhere and When I look In Your Eyes", a great Trombone feature. I'm looking forward to performing this in his honor at William Paterson University for his memorial concert.
Thanks Billy! Bob Ferrel
From Jack and Jayne Jennings
It was with deep sadness that we learned of Billy’s passing through a friend’s recent e-mail. With his tremendous energy and unending enthusiasm I thought he would outlive us all and easily reach 100.
During all the decades of recording I continually looked forward to working for Billy since I always knew it would be interesting and musical. I was never disappointed during those fun years.He always made my work challenging and fascinating. He had such a complete knowledge of all the percussion instruments, which I played, and knew just what to include and what to leave out. I would call him the “Perfect Percussion Poet”. He also had the same talent and knowledge of all the other orchestral instruments to which many of my musician friends attested over the years. He had it all in his arranging and composing “Chops”.
Billy- please save a place for me in your “Swingers in the Sky” orchestra. I’ll even audition if I have to.We will miss you. You will be in our thoughts and prayers.
From Rick Bean
Billy VerPlanck could turn a plain, dull song into an unforgettable masterpiece. His understanding of how to interpret musically the emotions of a popular song was unparalleled. In addition to his unique talents, Billy was a humble person who enjoyed other people and their respective talents. Most of all, he loved his wife and partner, Marlene. My friendship with Marlene and Billy has a special place in my heart that will be with me forever. I am so thankful that Loonis McGlohon introduced them into my life.
From Shirley and Rod Budgett
Dear Billy - how very fortunate we have been in knowing such a lovely gentleman with such a joy in life and music. Music and Marlene were Billy's life which was very plain to see as we watched him listening to her sing as though it was the first time he had seen and heard her. That is a memory we, and many others, will always cherish.
We have been friends with Billy and Marlene since 1997 and all because she had a cold the first time we saw her at University College, Hampstead. A few weeks later she was appearing in the Barbican foyer and we asked if she was feeling better, we chatted and we have never looked back.
We visited New York in Autumn 2000, Marlene phoned to tell us to be sure to bring warm clothing (we didn't need it) Their kindness and hospitality to us during our visit was amazing, taking us to see Andre Previn play jazz at the Jazz Standard, introducing us to Tony Bennett, and entertaining us in their own home with a wonderful meal cooked by Marlene's Mom, Pauline, who sadly passed away last year.
We eagerly awaited their visits to the UK and always tried to be at two venues. We also enjoyed having dinner with them at a restaurant, which they would have found when they arrived, and they found some very good ones!! We loved listening to Billy's tales of the Big Band days while enjoying an excellent meal - Billy loved good food!
The songs Marlene sang were always carefully chosen and it was good to hear some of the classics being revived and always with Billy's wonderful charts. We have all her CDs and her voice hasn't changed over the years - it is as clear as ever and she has perfect pitch.
We shall miss Billy's company so much but we are hoping that we can welcome Marlene back to the UK in Spring 2010 which is what she intends to do and what Billy would have wanted her to do - he would be so proud of her.
Thank you for being our friend, Billy, you will never be forgotten.
Shirley and Rod Budgett from Woodfod Green, Essex. UK
From John Metcalf
I'm so sorry to hear of Billy's passing. I met Billy in the 50's when he was playing with The Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey band, was thrilled to meet him again when I came to NY in 1969, he came to my rehearsal band and later I was privileged to copy for him - many late night hours. When I returned to NY in the 80's, he gave me copies of his arrangements for Coleman Hawkins with the Count Basie sax section and wrote "John's Other Knife", for my sax group, The Great American Sax Phantasy, and you and Billy were gracious enough to attend the performance at St. Peter's Lutheran Church. I have been fortunate to have known Billy and have just a taste of how much you must miss him.
All my love and best wishes,
From Dan Manjovi
I am so sorry to hear of Billy's passing.
Billy VerPlanck was one of the most inquisitive and creative musician arrangers I have ever met. His music and arrangements are a testament to that part of his being. Interesting and unique tonal colors and harmonizations, and re-harmonizations... He never stopped looking for a new way, a new approach. He never ceased to be enthusiastic about music and its possibilities, and the business he loved so much. He was truly a musician's musician.
On a personal level, he was warm, a lover of people, and he and Marlene had such a wonderful partnership. I loved going to see Marlene perform, she singing Billy's arrangements and he, right up front, beaming at the sound and sight of Marlene's beautiful artistry. Wonderful to see that love and connection between two accomplished artists, two partners. It always gave me such a warm feeling.
In summing up, I will always remember Billy VerPlanck as a lover of life, an enthusiastic lover of music, and a lover of people. The old adage, almost a cliche' was never truer: I never heard him say a bad word about anybody. I will miss him dearly.
With condolences and love,
From Tom Coyle
I first met Billy in 2005-6 in the Concorde Club UK. I noticed how he hovered over Marlene like a mother and her child. It didn’t take long to realise these two people were an item…as husband and wife, but also as friends. Lucky people!
Billy wasn’t out of chemotherapy long when he and Marlene visited me at my son’s home in Milford, Conn. I still marvel at the effort it must have been to travel such a long way. One wonderful gentleman. My heart goes out to dear Marlene. Rest in Peace Billy.
Tom Coyle, Sinatra Music Society, Dublin, Ireland
From Lou Tracey
There were other trombone players who were better known than you. There were other music arrangers who were better known than you. And there were other melodists who were better known than you, but none was better than you were.
Billy, in your own inimitable way, you were "a quiet storm".
From Eef van Breen
Only two times I met Billy, once in Holland in concert with Marlene and once in New York, visiting them both with my love Eva. Both times I couldn't stop listening to all those anecdotes he had about all those great musicians. My heroes!! There was so much love in the way he spoke about music. Next to him being a great musician, he was the biggest fan of it too! The love Marlene and Billy have for each other was very touching for Eva (my love) and me. I think I seldom saw two people love each other that much.
I have the feeling that we were starting to become close friends even though I only met Billy twice. I wish all my love for Marlene and I hope to see and hear her a lot, singing those beautiful songs of Billy!
Eef van Breen
From Eva Tebbe
During the wonderful visit and dinner at Marlene and Billy's home, Billy made a big impression on me. It was a great joy to listen to the wonderful stories he told us about his life, his music, his love for Marlene! What a warm, sincere, passionate and intelligent man.
Much love and greetings from Holland,
From Mary Sadrakula and Frank Gioia
Frank and I met Marlene and Billy about 12 years ago soon after we moved across the street from them. I was leading the fight of one of our many neighbors issues and we knocked on their door to sign a petition. The next thing we knew we were invited to dinner to experience one of Pauline's (Marlene's Mom) fabulous dinners! We became instant friends and their family became our family and their friends became our friends. One of my very first memories of Billy was hearing him say to Marlene "you are such a lovie" - I came home and asked Frank why he couldn't be more like Billy! (Didn't every woman say the same thing to her husband/boyfriend after seeing the two of them together?) Billy and Marlene introduced us to their world of music! I adored hearing Billy tell his stories of his days in the bands! I can still remember the first time we saw Marlene perform and was so taken back with watching Billy as Marlene sang ( I think it is fair to say that all of us listened to Marlene but watched the expressions of love and joy on Billy's face as Marlene sang each and every note). But the best of all was watching Billy conduct a band. One particular night standing out as a lasting memory - Marlene was singing locally with a band with someone else conducting and then Billy took over - it was as if everyone in the band left the stage and new people arrived - it was magically!
Billy loved life! He had the most perfect palate for food and wine. Going out to dinner with Billy was truly an experience! He knew the best wines and could immediately tell everyone the ingredients of the dish we were eating. It was fun to see him ask the waiter for just one more appetizer or pasta (of course when he thought Marlene wasn't listening)! He loved good bread (and I was always the one sneaking him a piece under the table).
Billy was passionate about everything he did - whether it was music, economics, or politics! Billy was also a great listener. Your cause became his!
Billy was truly one of a kind!
From Carol and Dick Greene
There will never be anyone else in the world as special as Billy. We knew and loved him for many years. He and Marlene were glued at the hip, (which was "hip") and when she sang, the smile never left his face. He adored her. Dick and I will never forget him, brilliant, sweet, fun Billy! We will miss you! Marlene knows we are here for her at any time, to reminisce, to share, to love.
Carol and Dick Greene
From Joseph A. Klenner
When the great New York AM radio station WNEW was in its hey day with the likes of hosts Jim Lowe, Jonathan Schwartz and Bob Jones and great American standard music filled the tri-state airwaves, Marlene VerPlanck was brought to our attention. Attending her concerts in person was always a pleasure as you knew that it meant fantastic entertainment from a lovely and charming singer. Soon, though, it was apparent that there was a force behind the scenes that created, arranged and inspired the music and the singer. As Marlene always credited the musicians who played with her and the composers and lyricists whose music she performed, she would always acknowledge that special and genuine musician "behind the scenes", who even appeared "on the scene" many times to direct the orchestra playing behind her. Billy was always applauded whether on stage holding a baton or sitting in the audience beaming that wonderful smile at his lovely wife. Having had a father who was a musician and being a devotee of the big band era all my life, it was always a thrill to hear any live performances of this music and even more so to talk about the times that I could only vicariously experience. As I got to know Billy, I thoroughly enjoyed the stories and anecdotes about that time, especially about Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. He could help you reminisce, he would let you think and he could make you chuckle. It was an honor and a privilege to have known Billy VerPlanck and we are blessed to have his music and many fine memories to cherish.
From Ian Bradley, as posted on his Midriff Blog, June 2, 2009
I am sorry to learn of the passing of Billy Ver Planck who died 2 June following a period of illness.
To say I met Billy Ver Planck once is to overstate the case. He was manning the little stall you find at the back of the room during live gigs selling compact discs. The discs were the recordings of his wife, Marlene, a singer who demonstrates exceptional talent and exquisite taste in song.
For a good part of his professional life, that is where you would find Billy – a backroom boy supporting, honouring, cherishing his wife. Such devotion belies, in part, his own astounding career. When I attended that concert in Broadway (a small village in the Cotswolds, England) in Spring 2002, I had no idea that I met, however briefly, a man who had walked – and worked – amongst the giants of this music. Billy played trombone and arranged in the bands of Charlie Spivak, Charlie Barnet; had been on the session where Coleman Hawkins played with the Basie reed section. Perhaps most significantly for Billy, worked with first Jimmy then his hero Tommy Dorsey during the final – and in my opinion the finest - phase of Tommy Dorsey’s band. As a result of this, Billy was there when Elvis made his famous appearance on the Dorsey Brothers’ Stage Show programme and worked with Sinatra at The Paramount in 1956 when Frank was once again reunited with his old boss during the run of Johnny Concho.
It is his staunch support of his wife’s career for which Billy will be most remembered and with most affection. The couple always enjoyed the warmest relationship with their audience when they visited England and I am sure the same is true stateside. It may be impertinent of me to say so, but it seemed evident that here was a marriage of true minds. And for their public, is a rich legacy of albums, produced, written and arranged for his wife by Billy.
When I had bought the CD, Marlene signed the liner notes to me with the inscription Health, Love and Music.
And the greatest of these is love.
View post and comments at Midriff Blog
From JazzBeat Magazine, posted online June 4, 2009
Billy VerPlanck passed away in Hackensack Hospital on Tuesday, June 2, 2009. A mass will be held on Friday, June 5th at 10:30am, St. Clare`s Church, 31 Allwood Rd, Clifton NJ. Internment is at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Bloomfield.
Known as Billy throughout the music world, he was born in Norwalk Ct. in 1930 He began his musical career at age fifteen playing trombone with the Jess Stacey Band. He went on to play and write arrangements for all the big bands (Charlie Spivak, Claude Thornhill, Jimmy Dorsey, Charlie Barnet), of his generation, culminating his road days with his idol, Tommy Dorsey. For the next forty years he was one of the busiest studio arrangers and conductors in New York, writing every thing from jingles, films, documentaries, record dates, as well as producing 20 cd`s for his wife, Marlene VerPlanck. His passion for music was all consuming and he never wrote an indifferent note in his life.
Among his other interests he loved life, traveling the world with his wife, enjoying great food and wine, the New York Mets, his country and his fellow man. He was a diehard advocate of free enterprise and tried to convert anyone who would listen to his beliefs. Details of Billy`s career can be found at: email@example.com. Click on Billy`s page.
Billy is survived by his wife, Marlene, of 52 years, his sister in law, Barbara Marshall, his brother in law, Phil and his wife, Arlene Pampinella and extended nieces, nephews and cousins. A sister Anne Durland preceeded him in death in 2008.
In honor of Billy`s love of jazz, a scholarship has been established at William Paterson University. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the J. Billy VerPlanck Jazz Scholarship Fund: c/o Office of Institutional Advancement. William Paterson University, 300 Pompton Road, Wayne, NJ 07470 .
To view the article visit JazzBeat Magazine.
J. Billy VerPlanck fought a year long battle with lung cancer and died peacefully in Hackensack Hospital on Tuesday, June 2, 2009.
Known as Billy throughout the music world, he was born in Norwalk Ct. in 1930. He began his musical career at age fifteen playing trombone with the Jess Stacey Band. He went on to play and write arrangements for all the big bands (among them, Charlie Spivak, Claude Thornhill, Jimmy Dorsey, Charlie Barnet and many others), of his generation, culminating his road days with his idol, Tommy Dorsey. For the next forty years he was one of the busiest studio arrangers and conductors in New York, writing every thing from jingles, films, documentaries, record dates, as well as producing 20 CDs and hundreds of arrangements for his wife, Marlene VerPlanck. His passion for music was all consuming and was unable to write an indifferent note in his life.
Billy and Marlene were virtually inseparable for 52 years. They loved working in many countries and traveling the world together. Billy enjoyed life to the fullest, devouring great food and wine with a perfect palate, the New York Mets, quoting all the stats, his country and his fellow man, constantly touting the greatest players. He was a diehard advocate of free enterprise and tried to convert anyone who would listen to his beliefs.
In honor of Billy's love of jazz, a scholarship has been established at William Paterson University. Donations may be made to the J. Billy VerPlanck Jazz Scholarship Fund: c/o Office of Institutional Advancement. William Paterson University, 300 Pompton Road, Wayne, NJ 07470.