From the Archives: Earth, WiND and Fire

Author: University Archives

It was around 1:50 pm on Friday, March 29, 1963, when the Jazzmen of Crane Junior College in Chicago began their set at the 5th Annual Notre Dame Collegiate Jazz Festival in the Fieldhouse. The Jazzmen, one of 22 groups invited to the festival, competed for prizes like music scholarships and more than $5,000 worth of instruments. The best combo would be invited to play at the Village Vanguard Club in New York City.


All groups were judged in three preliminary sessions, and six finalists (including the Jazzmen) were picked to play in the final session on Saturday. Their roster consisted of band leader Don Myrick on alto sax, Maurice White on drums, Louis Satterfield on trombone, Fred Humphrey on piano, Charles Handy on trumpet and Ernest McCarthy on bass. Two of the musicians, Myrick and McCarthy, earned praise from the judges as the "Most Promising Instrumentalists" of the festival.


All the members of the Jazzmen moved on to become noted session musicians — Handy, Myrick and Satterfield even released a studio album under the band’s new name, The Pharaohs, in 1972 — but one name from the lineup may sound particularly familiar.


After leaving the Jazzmen, Maurice White went on to found Earth, Wind, and Fire, one of the most influential funk bands of the 1970s. The group would win 7 Grammy Awards in the course of its career and rack up such Billboard hits as “Shining Star,” “September,” “Boogie Wonderland,” and “After the Love Is Gone.” In the early ’70s, two of White’s fellow Jazzmen, Myrick and Satterfield, would even join the band as members of its horn section, the Phenix Horns — a subgroup that would later play alongside Phil Collins and the rock band Genesis.


At the Collegiate Jazz Festival, Crest Records recorded all of the finalists’ performances, and jazz enthusiasts could place their orders for the three-vinyl set in front of the Fieldhouse during the festival. The archival clips featured below include two versions of a short segment of the Jazzmen’s 1963 performance. The first clip is the unaltered original; the second has been cleaned up with audio editing and restoration software. The clicks and pops have been removed and the sound has been enhanced by audio-visual archivist, Erik Dix.


In addition to the Jazzmen, many other promising jazz musicians played at the Notre Dame Collegiate Jazz Festival that year, including Count Basie collaborator Oscar Brashear, noted film pianist Mike Lang, and saxophonist Jamey Aebersold, who would go on to become a preeminent jazz educator. In the 55 years since, many more soon-to-be stars have played with their college bands at Notre Dame. The oldest festival of its kind in the U.S., the Collegiate Jazz Festival will convene for its 61st year this weekend, February 22 and 23, in Washington Hall.



From the Archives is written by the staff of the University of Notre Dame Archives highlighting notable pieces from their collection. Through its rich historical resources, the University Archives provides campus, national and international communities with a broad historical focus on the evolution of the University of Notre Dame, its contributions to higher education, and its place in history.