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John Hightower

John Hightower

Host of Brass, Reeds and Percussion

Born in Natchez, Mississippi, in 1951, John moved to Huntsville in 1975, where he worked for a communications training firm. From 1997 to 2022, John worked for the Lanier Ford law firm. During his tenure, He served as Lanier Ford's law librarian, marketing specialist, trainer, and professional recruiter.

From 7th grade to 12th grade, John was involved in band (he played flute and piccolo), a fact that explains his fascination with band music.

John graduated from Mississippi State University (MSU) with a degree in communications and from the University of Mississippi with a law degree. While attending MSU, he worked in professional radio in Starkville for WSSO and WSMU-FM (sister stations). While attending law school in Oxford, John worked for WSUH and WOOR-FM (sister stations). .He served as program director at both sets of stations. Radio was always a lot of fun for him, and he said, "I can't believe how lucky I am to be working in radio again."

John says he has big shoes to fill in following Darryl Adams as host of Brass, Reeds, and Percussion. Darryl passed away on October 18, 2011. But since that time, John has continued a Huntsville tradition at 1 p.m. every Saturday on WLRH.

Thank you, Darryl Adams, for the many wonderful years you dedicated to WLRH. You are missed!

  • This edition of Brass, Reeds, and Percussion features original classical wind-band music by Haydn (harmoniemusik), Advent music, and a medley of Medieval Christmas carols. In Christian denominations that observe it, Advent is a period of waiting and anticipation that begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. There are many good and old hymn tunes that are associated with this period of the Christian liturgical calendar. So today’s edition will begin with “Savior of the Nations, Come,” the words of which can be traced back to a hymn written by St. Ambrose of Milan. The words most commonly used can be traced to Martin Luther, who may have also adapted the hymn tune heard from a Gregorian chant.
  • As I prepare for Brass, Reeds, and Percusion, I audition many band works. From time to time, I come across a march that I haven’t encountered before, but that really excites me. It immediately becomes my new favorite march. And today’s edition of Brass, Reeds, and Percussion opens with one of those: “The March of the Olympians,” written for the opening of the 1960 Olympics. There are two composers: Tommy Walker and Robert Linn. I haven’t been able to locate any information about Tommy Walker, but Robert Linn was the head of the Composition Department at the University of Southern California for 17 years and a prolific composer. Today’s edition of Brass, Reeds, and Percussion opens with the U.S. Navy Band performing “The March of the Olympians.”
  • In preparing for the Veterans Day edition of Brass, Reeds, and Percussion, I wanted to air one of the most popular songs of the WW II period to salute our veterans: “The St. Louis Blues March.” But I also wanted to make sure you heard what the original version of the “St. Louis Blues”sounded like. So we aired a 1922 version, with W. C. Handy himself playing the cornet. Today, we are going to air a version of the same arrangement made with modern recording equipment and contemporary musicians by the W. C. Handy Beale Street Reenactment Band of Memphis. And yes, the 1922 arrangement uses a tango rhythm. Handy used the tango rhythm in hopes of making his recording more successful. And to demonsrate that the “St. Louis Blues” is truly one of the most recorded tunes, we are also going to hear Pete Fountain’s version of the same composition.
  • The Veterans Day edition of Brass, Reeds, and Percussion salutes our veterans with the “St. Louis Blues March” made famous during WW II by the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band. First, we’ll hear a 1922 recording of the “St. Louis Blues,” written by Alabama’s very own W. C. Handy and performed by his Memphis Blues Band. Then we’re going to hear the 1947 hit version recorded by Tex Beneke and His Orchestra. Finally, we’ll hear the stereo version of the march from the 1954 movie The Glenn Miller Story. The “St. Louis Blues,” by the way, is one of the most recorded tunes in the history of making recordings!
  • Robert W. Smith was a prolific wind-band composer with over 600 publications in print. He was born in 1958 in Daleville, Alabama, and unfortunately died in September in Montgomery from complications of heart surgery. He graduated from Daleville High School and then went to Troy State University, where he played lead trumpet in the Sound of the South Marching band. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music education and then received a master’s degree from the University of Miami. Eventually, he returned to Troy State University and served as band director and as an instructor in its music industry program. This edition of Brass, Reeds, and Percussion is presented in his memory.
  • Mysterious and macabre and reflective of mortality—that’s the type of music for this edition of Brass, Reeds, and Percussion because it’s the Halloween edition.In 1936, before a concert to be broadcast on radio, Artie Shaw needed a theme tune. Theme tunes were important because they helped to indentify a big band. In short, having a theme tune was part of big-band marketing. Many big bands simply chose a song from Tin Pan Alley, but Shaw decided to write his own and to make it truly unique and therefore vastly more memorable. The name of the tune is “Nightmare”—and its unique sound is a great way to begin the Halloween edition. This theme tune became a hit in its own right in 1938.
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