Herbie Russ to play Maumee River Jazz SeriesWritten by Betsy Woodruff | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Millions of people have heard Herbie Russ sing, they just don’t know it. That’s because Russ has sung in commercials for a number of companies, including AT&T, Chevrolet and Ford. He also sang the theme for the new Comerica Park in Detroit.
Russ began playing saxophone in grade school. While playing in his school band in sixth grade, his band director noticed he had learned how to improvise — Russ could turn on the radio and play along with it.
The director put him in the high school jazz band before Russ had even entered high school. He was the only performer in the group who could improvise, so the director started writing arrangements around his solos.
That was when Russ knew he wanted to be a full-time musician.
The band director encouraged Russ’ parents to send him to the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, a boarding high school designed for students interested in pursuing careers as artists.
At the school he studied classical music, blues and jazz.
After graduating, he got the attention of a Vegas-style band. They needed a saxophone player to replace their old one, who also sang. Russ looked like their former band member.
“You gotta sing at least two songs and we’ll hire ya’,” Russ remembers them saying.
So without receiving any formal training or voice lessons, he began singing in the band.
“I’m not sure if Ray Charles or Otis Redding did either,” he said.
He got his start singing in commercials by another stroke of luck. He was playing sax for someone else’s recording and the studio engineer got him to record a car dealership commercial after hearing him sing into the microphone to check it.
Since then, he has recorded several CDs and numerous commercials.
Russ said he looks forward to his performance in Toledo, where he will play saxophone and sing. He said he might play two horns at once.
“You have a big mouth and a lot of hot air, you can do stuff like that,” he said.
Russ will perform at the Maumee River Jazz Series on June 30.