By Samantha Pidde
Herald Staff Writer
Don Karol was growing up in Boston when an older cousin, who was a professional drummer, took him to hear the Count Basie Orchestra play. He was backstage when the band started up its first song.
“It was all brassy of course and I said, ‘Oh, I love that music. I want to play it,’” Don, 85, of Clinton, said. “I was such in awe over those guys that played those instruments. So that got me started on jazz.”
From that point on, Don’s dream was to play in a jazz band. Don will turn 86 on Tuesday and said he still has not given up his love of music.
Fellow musician Robert Bullard, of Camanche, feels that Clinton does not know how lucky it is to have Don, adding that Don could have been a big-time musician on the East Coast. He said Don is one of the best musicians he has ever worked with.
Don was in Ohio attending Kent State on a GI bill when he went on the road as a professional musician. He was in the Quad-Cities with his band and went to a club in Rock Island, Ill. It was there that he met his wife, Jean.
After another year of him playing on the road, Don and Jean married in November 1953 and they moved to Clinton. The couple have two daughters, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
During his years in Clinton, Don has worked for several companies as a mechanical draftsman. He also continued to play with bands in the Quad-Cities and Clinton. Jean said the house is filled will all kinds of instruments, including a piano, an organ and a set of drums. Don mainly plays trumpet and trombone. His favorite types of music are big band and dixieland.
Don has played in bands of his own: the Continentals and the Don Karol Orchestra. Currently he and Bullard play together in the six-piece Main Avenue Jazz Band. The band has played at Gumbo Ya Ya in Rock Island. They also play at local nursing homes and events. Don said they are always looking for a gig.
“He still gets excited if he gets a job. He loves to play,” Jean said.
Don plans to continue playing as long as he can. He added that music is just a lot of fun and good therapy.