Clyde Doerr

Clyde Doerr is known today as a pioneer saxophonist, who first got noticed playing with the Art Hickman Orchestra in San Francisco. Born in 1894, Doerr was originally from Michigan and while he played the sax since high school, his formal musical training was as a violinist (jhe studied concert violin at the King Conservatory in San Jose). In 1919, however, Art Hickman hired Doerr to play the saxophone in his band and Doerr’s career took off.


For a great overview of Doerr’s accolades and biography, check out Tim Gracyk and Frank Hoffmann’s book Popular American Recording Pioneers: 1895-1925. And here is Clyde Doerr and his Dance Orchestra performing in 1927.


What both of these excellent sources are missing, however, are an explanation of how Doerr ended up in San Francisco. Doerr’s photo in the SFPL’s Historical Photo Collection has an answer. Here is the copy that accompanies this portrait:


“Who says musicians aren’t as romantic in their private lives as in the music they make? Here’s Clyde Doerr, who directed orchestra and played saxophone in his own distinctive style on NBC programs in the East – until a wedding anniversary came around. ‘Let’s celebrate it in San Francisco where we first met’, suggested his wife and the two packed their car with baggage and trekked all the way across the continent to the city where they were married – between performances of the Art Hickman band, all those years ago. They discovered so many loved corners and scenes in San Francisco that when the program department there suggested Clyde stay awhile, he signed on the dotted line. He is the musical director of ‘Night Court’ popular new hour-long variety show broadcast over KPO every night except Saturday and Sunday at 10:00 o’clock P.S.T. Colorful, brilliant rhythms mark his music, and originality his own compositions, ‘Impromptu’, ‘Technicality’, ‘Valse Chromatique’, ‘Saxophist’s Dream’ and a tribute to Mrs. Doerr – ‘Valse Hilda’. NBC Photo 5/16/34.”


[Photo and copy courtesy of SFPL Historical Photo Collection]