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Thursday, January 29, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 27.0° F  Overcast
The Daily
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Wisconsin jazz genius Woody Herman deserves props on his centennial

I don't know what made me buy a Woody Herman album at age 12. Maybe it was because the name sounded fun, like Woody Allen or Woody Woodpecker. Maybe it was because the record cost only a dollar in the bargain bin.

But no matter why I bought Woody Herman's Greatest Hits, it's one of the luckiest things I ever did. That album of big-band jazz was like a ticket to another world.

Herman was a Milwaukee native, born a century ago on May 16. He worked as a vaudeville singer while still a child. At 15 he started playing the saxophone professionally and later switched to clarinet. He formed his own bluesy orchestra in the 1930s and led various incarnations until his death in 1987.

In a just world, Wisconsin would make a big deal about Herman's centennial. The state is that much cooler for the fact that he's our native son.

To see why, check out this audio tribute, which originally aired on Wisconsin Public Radio's Wisconsin Life.

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