Toots Thielemans

(Gulp.)  wdydfae here. I must start with a slavish thank you to the incomparable BoFN crew for asking me on!

Well, OK, let’s be realistic about this. In fact, it was probably just Amb and Liz cornering Dave and pleading, “But, Dave. Just look at him. We have to do something to help the poor thing. We just have to!”

Noble humanitarian interventions notwithstanding, not only have I been a huge fan of BoFN from the moment I stumbled upon it, I’ve also been an open and shameless copycat

However, so far my approach has been substantially different. While BoFN covers (yawn) lots and lots of funny names (cough cough boooorrring cough cough), my policy has been to focus on one funny name, and then milk it endlessly for all it’s worth.

Or, as I like to think of it, depth rather than breadth.

So this post represents another milestone for me—one that I approach with trepidation. Yes, I am leaving the comfort of the known, and stepping into the unknown. I am posting on . . . a funny name that is not Kyary Pamyu Pamyu!

Hiya, Toots!  (Forgive me, Kyary! I'll be thinking of you the whole time.)

Hiya, Toots! (Forgive me, Kyary! I’ll be thinking of you the whole time.)

Actually, Toots Thielemans has not been a total stranger to wdydfae. I posted him playing The Beatles’ “Blackbird” with Jaco Pastorius.

But let’s get started already.

Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor (“Toots”), Baron Thielemans is widely regarded as one of the greatest harmonica players ever, though he actually started out on guitar, and is also well known as a professional whistler. A good example of his bright, warm, whistful, versatile, unpredictable, inimitable, and instantly recognizable sound on harmonica can be heard in the following Youtube of “Bluesette”–his own jazz standard which became an international hit in 1962 when Norman Gimbel added lyrics.

Toots’ massive musical resume includes playing with such greats as Charlie Parker, Max Roach, Miles Davis, Zoot Sims, Benny Goodman, fellow Belgian Bobbejaan Schoepen, Ella Fitzgerald, George Shearing, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Oscar Peterson, J.J. Johnson, Bill Evans, Quincy Jones, Joe Pass, Astrud Gilberto, Peggy Lee, Elis Regina, Natalie Cole, and so many more.

But it turns out that I heard Toots hundreds of times before I even knew who he was, and if you’re anywhere close to me in age, so have you. It was Toots playing the haunting theme to Midnight Cowboy.

It was Toots whistling in the old Old Spice commercials.

And it was Toots playing the Sesame Street theme.

His harmonica can also be heard in such movies as Sugarland Express, The Getaway and French Kiss. In addition, he wrote the music for a Swedish film, Dunderklumpen! (included here for obvious reasons).

According to our trusty Wikipedia, Toots celebrated his 90th birthday last year at Lincoln Center in a concert with greats that included Herbie Hancock, Eliane Elias, and Dori Caymmi.

It’s a year late, but happy 90th, Toots! And may you live to have a 100th birthday concert, too, at least!

About wdydfae

Parasitizing YouTube and guest posting on BoFN for more than a decade.
This entry was posted in funny names in music and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Toots Thielemans

  1. Pingback: Blog News: My BoFN Debut | What Do You Do for an Encore?

  2. Dave says:

    So glad to have you on board! I’m trying to figure out which pronunciation (“toots” as the 1950’s slang for a wife/significant other, or “toots” that rhymes with boots) is funnier – both are very good. In any case, congratulations on breaking new ground – not only is this your first post, but it’s also our first post about a harmonica player. Toots may also be the oldest living person we’ve featured on our blog (Oberia Coffin was the longest-living one). In any case, you’re setting some impressive precedents!

  3. Dave says:

    Oh, and I LOL’d at Zoot Sims. That’s a first name that really needs to be used more!

  4. amb says:

    You’re here you’re here you’re here !!! Oh, I’m excited. This is going to be fun.

    That Sesame Street clip made me so happy – so much easier to ignore my return to Corporate World while humming that particular tune 😉

  5. Welcome aboard. Great first post. If I could whistle, I’d be driving my co-worker’s crazy right now.

  6. Liz says:

    Very nice, Diddy. Great to have you here 🙂 You’re a natural fit-perfect post and it’s like you’ve been here the whole time. Oh, right, you have. But now you’re headlining!!! We hardly dragged you in off the street, though I will say that we may have helped convince you that the rest of the world needs to read what you write 🙂 Liking the youtube clips and also knowing who played that zingy harmonica for the SS opening and whistled his way through Old Spice commercials. Great name and I look forward to seeing what else you will be pulling out of that hat.

  7. pmahaney says:

    Ditto to Toots love his style…he truly demonstrates ownership of the harmonica. Happy 90th Toots.

  8. allamagoosa says:

    “which makes Night Sky Grandpops”

    Look at that, we have grandkids already. [How do we have grandkids our age or older? – NSR] Diddy, please explain or you don’t get to come to the wedding.

    • wdydfae says:

      Hi, Mom!

      There is precedent. I saw this sit-com in the 60s where the grandfather got frozen in the snow in Alaska during the Gold Rush, then got defrosted in contemporary times (the sixties) and lived with his mod grandson, with all kinds of interesting clashes of old time frontier values etc. etc. But I can’t remember the name of it.

      Congrats to you both! I’ve answered your kind and gracious invite over at your place!

    • wdydfae says:

      It was The Second Hundred Years and it was a young grandfather with an elderly son:

  9. Pingback: Stevland Hardaway Judkins, aka Stevie Wonder | The Blog of Funny Names

  10. Marcus Ampe says:

    Two years ago I had the last opportunity to see him being witty and joyful, with an innocent childlike ‘joy de vivre’ and enthusiasm. It was incredible how lively he still could be and bring so much energy unto the public, letting us be spirited going back into the real world full of positive energy.

    Though he did not make it to his hundred birthday his music will go on and inspire many after him and us.

  11. Pingback: & Toots Thielemans & RIP | What Do You Do for an Encore?

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