Around two years ago, I met a local celebrity. Actually, I sat by him for about two hours without realizing he was a local celebrity. But then I heard him play.

Let me set the scene: I was playing a gig in Keokuk and was sight-reading the lead trombone music. It all went pretty well until around the end of the set, when a tune featuring the lead trombone was pulled. I knew that there was no way I was going to be able to play it, when a trumpet player leaned over and said: “Give this one to Bob.”

At this point I still didn’t know exactly who I was sitting next to, and I gave my music to the older man sitting next to me. I had been playing pretty well that night, but even I knew that I had to concede this one.

He proceeded to absolutely blow me away.

I have been playing for around twelve years now, but his performance made me look like I just picked the instrument up yesterday. He hit every note, every rhythm, just did everything perfectly without even breaking a sweat. At that point I realized that the person I was sitting next to was Bob Havens.

Yes, that Bob Havens. The Bob Havens who was watched across the nation as he played dazzling solos on The Lawrence Welk Show. The Bob Havens who played with some of the all-time greats in New Orleans. I had just been casually blown away by world-famous trombonist Bob Havens. And how did he finish his song? He sat down, grabbed the music, and handed it back to me without saying a word.

At that point I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the trumpet player again.

“That’s why you give this one to Bob.”

Check out Bob in his prime on The Lawrence Welk Show.

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