Alpert, Herman, SSgt

Deceased
 
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Last Rank
Staff Sergeant
Primary Unit
1944-1945, Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF)
Service Years
1941 - 1945
Staff Sergeant

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Home State
Indiana
Indiana
Year of Birth
1916
 
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Sgt Mark Bartovick to remember Alpert, Herman, SSgt.

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Home Town
Indianapolis
Last Address
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Date of Passing
Dec 21, 2013
 
Location of Interment
Not Specified
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Not Specified

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1916-2013: Trigger Alpert of Ponte Vedra, bass player for Glenn Miller, dies at 97

 
Posted: December 31, 2013 - 3:14pm | Updated: January 1, 2014 - 12:56am
By Matt Soergel

Ponte Vedra Beach‚??s Trigger Alpert, who as an exuberant young stand-up bass player was credited with adding some needed swing to Glenn Miller‚??s famous big band, died Dec. 21 at an assisted-living facility in Jacksonville Beach. He was 97.
 

Mr. Alpert was a favorite of the band leader, who was declared missing in action after he disappeared in December 1944 on a flight from England to France.
 

In a 2009 Times-Union interview, he said he was crushed by Miller‚??s death ‚?? and said he regretted he hadn‚??t been an even better friend to him.
 

‚??I loved the guy,‚?? Mr. Alpert said. ‚??He was so good to me. He was like a father to me, and I was a jerk. Swell-headed.‚??
 

Rob Ronzello, a Connecticut man who‚??s writing a book on musicians who played with Miller, became a friend of Mr. Alpert, whom he last visited in 2011. He said he has spoken to more than 50 band members, who all credited Mr. Alpert with putting some needed swing into a rhythm section that many had labeled stodgy.
 

Miller appreciated the bass player‚??s talent, Ronzello said. But the often stoic band leader liked him for more than that.
 

‚??Trigger had a joie de vivre, such an outgoing carefree attitude,‚?? he said. ‚??Glenn loved the guy. He was like the son Glenn had never had.‚??
 

Mr. Alpert was born in 1916 and raised in Indiana. His first name was Herman, but he‚??d been known as Trigger since he was 5 or 6, he said in his 2009 interview. He said he wasn‚??t sure how he got that nickname, but he was sure that Trigger was a better name for an aspiring musician than Herman.
 

Mr. Alpert was just 24 in 1940, a broke musician in New York City, when he was invited to join the superstar‚??s band. Before he was drafted in 1941 Mr. Alpert appeared with Miller in numerous concerts and in the film ‚??Sun Valley Serenade.‚??
 

Miller himself later joined the Army Air Corps as a captain and set about forming an all-star band to raise morale and money for the war effort. He had his pick of any of the many jazz musicians who had been drafted, and one he chose was Mr. Alpert. He was just one of four members of Miller‚??s old band plucked to join the military band.
 

Mr. Alpert played at war-bond rallies across the United States before going with the band to England in June 1944. After Miller‚??s death, the band went on to the European continent without him. Mr. Alpert said they often slept in barns and empty houses in a devastated Europe, entertaining troops in France and eventually Germany.
 

Following the war, Mr. Alpert and his wife Connie moved to the Connecticut suburbs. He played bass on recording sessions with stars such as Frank Sinatra, and was a band member on an early TV show, ‚??The Garry Moore Show.‚?? In 1956 he became a band leader himself and recorded an album called ‚??Trigger Happy.‚??
 

By 1970 he had quit music and was following his other passion, photography. He and Connie began taking vacations in Ponte Vedra, and moved there full-time in the 1980s. He worked as a portrait photographer until he retired in 2000 after Connie died.
 

Even into his late 80s and 90s, fans, biographers and journalists ‚?? including a TV crew from Japan ‚?? sought him out in Ponte Vedra, to talk about the old days.
 

Ronzello said there were no public services for Mr. Alpert, who is survived by a daughter in New York and a grandson in Connecticut.
 

 Matt Soergel: (904) 359-4082
http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2013-12-31/story/1916-2013-trigger-alpert-ponte-vedra-bass-player-glenn-miller-dies-97

   
Other Comments:
Ponte Vedra man helped put the swing into the Glenn Miller Orchestra
Seven decades later, Bass player Trigger Alpert reflects on time with band

Posted: July 12, 2009 - 12:00am

By Matt Soergel

As the Glenn Miller Orchestra romps through "Chattanooga Choo Choo" in the movie "Sun Valley Serenade," it's clear there's one musician who's having way more fun than the rest. That's Trigger Alpert, the dark-haired kid in the ski sweater, shoulders bopping as he slaps the bejeezus out of his stand-up bass, right leg pumping to the beat, mouth open at the sheer "ain't this amazing?" joy of being at this place, playing this song, at this time.

It's 1941, and Trigger Alpert is swinging. Just swinging, laying down the bass beat that keeps this "Choo Choo" chugging.

Almost seven decades later, he sits under a framed photo in which he's wearing a big grin - and that same ski sweater. It's a signed publicity shot, and he's clowning around with Miller, whose writing, though faded, can still be read: "Hello Mom. How do you like the stars of Sun Valley? GM."

The photo hangs over Alpert's favorite chair in his Ponte Vedra Beach house, a corner post from which he can see the golf course and lake off to the east.

He's looking at a book with a grainy photo of Miller's Army Air Force band, posed in front of planes on a British air base. That's Alpert in the back row.

He points out the musicians he knows, puzzles over the ones whose names no longer come to him. He smiles: "Bunch o' bums."

Alpert is 92 now, and his memory - of things that happened decades ago, of things that happened minutes ago - is failing him.

He gets frustrated sometimes, tapping his fingers on his forehead as if that could knock down the dam blocking his memories, bring them flooding back.

But he's still able to uncork a wry smile at his predicament. "I do remember well enough from time to time," he says. "Well enough to fake it."

'Big instrument, little boy'

Trigger Alpert's real first name is Herman, but he's been Trigger since he was 5 or 6. It might have been taken from a character in a cowboy movie at the Rialto in Indianapolis, but he's not sure about that.

What he is sure about is that "Trigger" is a darn sight better than "Herman;" for a be-bopping bassist, it does have a certain snap to it, doesn't it?

And he's sure that the first time he picked up a gigantic double-bass, he could play it. He was a teenager, and it was made for him. He got it.

"Big instrument, little boy," he says.

And jazz? That was it, after his mother took him to see Red Nichols and His Five Pennies (his father favored opera; young Trigger did not).

Alpert went to New York after studying music at Indiana University, moving into an apartment on 52nd Street with four other musicians. He was in his early 20s, and got good gigs quickly. He was playing with Alvino Rey's band when Miller - already one of the biggest stars in music - came to check him out in New York.

The invitation to join Miller's band came in September 1940. Alpert was just 24, and sat in with the group without practicing. But he wasn't intimidated. "No, not at all. I had a pretty good reputation at that point."

Miller was huge, but some critics complained that the rhythm section didn't swing. That's why Alpert was needed - because he could swing.

"They called the rhythm section stodgy," says Rob Ronzello, a Miller fan and archivist from Connecticut who's written extensively on the orchestra. "There was a noticeable difference when Trigger came in. Trigger added some bounce. When he joined the band, things really started to gel."

Ronzello, 50, began corresponding with Glenn Miller Orchestra members when he was 15. He befriended Alpert years ago and has visited him often in Florida. He calls him his best friend.

Alpert and Miller had a special bond, Ronzello says. The band leader had a reputation for being prickly, a perfectionist and a taskmaster. He was hard to get close to. But by numerous accounts, the superstar took instantly to the young bass player.

"He was Glenn Miller's favorite guy in the band; Glenn was something between a big brother and a father to him," Ronzello says.

He thinks he knows why. "Trigger was so young and so full of happiness and joy. I think he represented something that Glenn Miller himself, with his Midwest, stoic upbringing, just could not be. Trigger was just a young, early-20s, happy-go-lucky guy, just living his dream."

What a dream, too: Making a movie, touring the country, playing with the top singers and performers. Miller even sometimes placed Alpert out at the front of the band, close enough to the crowd to wink at the girls.

Alpert was with Miller's civilian band until he was drafted in June 1941. After he played in an Army band in Indianapolis for a while, Miller came calling. The band leader, who'd joined the Army Air Corps as a captain, recruited Alpert for the hand-picked, all-star military orchestra he was assembling. Alpert was one of just four members of Miller's original band to be chosen for the super group.

They played at war-bond rallies around the U.S., raising millions of dollars, before going to England in late June 1944. They played for pilots there, worn-out men who'd managed to survive the bombing raids over Europe.

After the Allied push into Europe, Miller, by then a major, wanted to play for troops in France and made arrangements to fly the orchestra there. In December, frustrated by a spell of bad English weather that kept most aircraft grounded, Miller hitched a plane ride to France, ahead of his band.

The orchestra arrived a few days later. Miller wasn't there. No one knew where he was; his plane had simply disappeared. "There was no Glenn Miller," Alpert says. "They looked for him. But there was no Glenn Miller."

They carried on without him, entertaining troops in France and eventually Germany, sleeping in barns and empty houses in a devastated Europe. Alpert was crushed. He doesn't say much about it now, other than to express regret that he hadn't been even a better friend to the band leader.

"I loved the guy," Alpert says. "He was so good to me. He was like a father to me, and I was a jerk. Swell-headed."

'Ring-a-ding-ding'

After World War II, Alpert and his wife, Connie, settled into the Connecticut suburbs. He commuted to New York to work on numerous recording sessions, including some with Frank Sinatra.

He had style, Sinatra did: He'd stroll into a recording session with his entourage, a camel-hair jacket slung over his shoulder, and he knew exactly what he wanted out of every song. When he approved, he'd give a thumb's up: "Ring-a-ding-ding," he'd say.

Alpert was hired by CBS and was a regular band member on an early TV show, "The Gary Moore Show." He was a busy session musician, too, playing with some of the biggest names in jazz. In 1956, he became a band leader and, with musicians such as Zoot Sims, made a record called - what else? - "Trigger Happy."

He had three children, two of whom are alive today. His daughter, Betsy, lives in New York; she says her dad was a homebody with a dry sense of humor. In staid Connecticut, he was considered an oddity.

"We were the wild family of town. Everyone was advertising agents and bankers, and here's this crazy family with a jazz-musician father. We just never fit in."

Alpert had another passion apart from jazz: photography. He'd taken home movies of Miller's band, and he always had a camera with him. Gradually he started working as a professional portrait photographer - often catching offbeat images, for the time, of people outside, in bare feet, in nature. Music was changing too: He didn't like rock 'n' roll at all, says Betsy Alpert.

By 1970, he had quit music and took up photography full-time. He and Connie began spending vacations in Ponte Vedra, longer and longer each time, moving there full-time in the 1980s. He shot portraits in Florida, too, working into his early 80s, until Connie died in 2000.

Now he has a couple of small dogs and a cat he loves, with views of golf courses out the front and back windows of his single-story home. And people - fans, biographers, even a TV crew from Japan - still want to talk to him about his days playing with Glenn Miller. He's happy to oblige, traveling back decades to those perilous times when he helped America and Europe swing.

"I think of the memories," says Trigger Alpert, settled into his favorite chair. "Some good. No, most good."

matt.soergel@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4082
 
   
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