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Alois Maxwell Hirt (7 November 1922 – ) was an Americanmarker trumpeter and bandleader.


Hirt was born in New Orleans, Louisianamarker, the son of a police officer, and was known as "Al" or "Jumbo." At the age of six, he was given his first trumpet, which had been purchased at a local pawnshop. He would play in the Junior Police Band with the children of Alcide Nunez, and by the age of 16, Hirt was playing professionally, often with his friend Pete Fountain. During this time, he was hired to play at the local horse racing track, beginning a six-decade connection to the sport.

In 1940 Hirt went to Cincinnati, Ohiomarker to study at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music with Dr. Frank Simon (a former soloist with the John Philip Sousa Orchestra). After a stint as a bugler in the United States Army during World War II, Hirt performed with various Swing big bands, including those of Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and Ina Ray Hutton. In 1950 he became first trumpet and soloist with Horace Heidt's Orchestra.

Hirt then returned to New Orleans, working with various Dixieland groups and leading his own bands. Despite Hirt's statement years later "I'm not a jazz trumpeter and never was a jazz trumpeter", he made a few recordings where he demonstrated ability to play in that style during the 1950s, notably with bandleader Monk Hazel and a few other recordings on the local Southland Records label.

Hirt's virtuoso dexterity and fine tone on his instrument soon attracted the attention of national labels. Hirt had 22 different record albums on the Billboard Pop charts in the 1950s and 1960s. The albums Honey In The Horn and Cotton Candy were both in the top 10 best sellers for 1964, the same year Hirt scored a top hit single with his cover of Allen Toussaint's tune Java (Billboard #4), and later won a Grammy award for the same recording.

Hirt's top 40 charted hit single of Sugar Lips in 1964 would be later used as the theme song for the NBC daytime game show Eye Guess, hosted by Bill Cullen and originally airing during the mid-to-late 1960s. Hirt was chosen to record the frenetic theme for the 1960s TV show "The Green Hornet", by famed arranger and composer Billy May. Thematically reminiscent of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee, it showcased Hirt's technical prowess. The recording again gained public attention in 2003 when it was used in the film Kill Bill.

Planting deep roots in his community, in the middle-'50s through the early-'60s, Hirt and his band played nightly at Dan's Pier 600 at the corner of St. Louis and Bourbon Street. The club was owned by his business manager, Dan Levy, Sr. In 1962 Hirt opened his own club on Bourbon Street in the French Quartermarker, which he ran until 1983. He also became a minority owner in the NFL expansion New Orleans Saints in 1967.

Al Hirt also used to frequent local High Schools in the late '60s; he would talk and practice with the kids in the band department. His encouragement has helped many kids stay in school just to stay in the band.

On February 8, 1970, while performing in a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleansmarker, Hirt was injured while riding on a float. It is popularly believed that he was struck in the mouth by a thrown piece of concrete or brick. Factual documentation of the details of the incident is sparse, consisting primarily of claims made by Hirt after the incident. Whatever the actual cause of his injuries, Hirt underwent surgery and had to wait a while and then practice slowly to make a return to the club scene. This incident was parodied in a Saturday Night Live skit from their second season Mardi Gras special, the "Let's Hit Al Hirt in the Mouth with a Brick Contest"

In 1987 Hirt played a solo rendition of Ave Maria for Pope John Paul II's visit to New Orleans, a performance Hirt considered one of his most important.

In 1999, Hirt died, aged 76, in New Orleans of liver failure after spending the previous year in a wheelchair due to edema in his leg. Despite the bout with edema, Hirt continued to play in local clubs including Chris Owens Club. Hirt was laid to rest in Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans.

Other nicknames include "Al (He's the King!) Hirt", "Sugar Lips" (after one of his most popular pieces) and "The Round Mound of Sound".

Al Hirt had 8 children, 10 grandchildren, and 6 great-grandchildren. In 1990, Al married Beverly Estabrook Essel, a friend of 40 years. According to one trivia source, Hirt had the names of his children engraved on his trumpet.

He is referred to in Lieutenant Hauk's broadcast in the movie "Good Morning Vietnam", along with Stan Getz.

Limited Discography

30 Greatest Trumpet Hits Of All Time

A Living Legend

Al (He's The King) Hirt And His Band

Al Hirt

Al Hirt At The Mardi Gras

Al Hirt Blows His Own Horn

Beauty And The Beast (with Ann-Margret)

Cotton Candy

Have A Merry Little Al Hirt

Here In My Heart

Honey In The Horn

Horn A Plenty

In Love With You

Jumbo's Gumbo

Live At Carnegie Hall

Louisiana Man

Music To Watch Girls By

Our Man In New Orleans

'Pops' Goes The Trumpet

Soul in the horn

Struttin' Down Royal Street

Sugar Lips

Super Jazz

Swingin' Dixie! At Dan's Pier 600 AFSD 5877 1959

That Honey Horn Sound

The Best Of Al Hirt

The Best Of Al Hirt Volume 2

The Best Of Dixieland Jazz

The Greatest Horn In The World

The High-flying Trumpet Of Al Hirt

The Horn Meets The Hornet

They're Playing Our Song

This Is Al Hirt

Trumpet And Strings


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