Trumpet Player Mac Gollehon of New York was born and raised in North Carolina and began playing guitar in blues and what was then called "uptown country bands" four nights a week at age 10. At around that same time his father Joe Gollehon, a trumpet player with natural ability and tone quality much like Billy Butterfield, started him on the trumpet. At the same time he taught Mac on trombone, euphonium, French horn and a few years later tuba. Mac's dad would always stress focus of tone center and not to over blow past pitch center.
Around age 13, Mac played the circus and the band-leader Merle Evans had returned from retirement briefly. Merle was well known as a great cornetist and on these gigs Mac did with him he was playing a pocket trumpet. Up to this point Mac was always trying to emulate the sounds he was surrounded by so listening and imitating was a valuable experience. Mac continued through high school playing rock, blues, and jazz on all the instruments he had learned and was performing occasionally with the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra. Mac gravitated more toward one nighters and club work just because he found it to be more fun. Also at age 17, Mac briefly raced late model modified stock cars.
At age 18, Mac went to Berklee School of Music in Boston during the day and in the evenings worked what was called the "Combat Zone." These clubs were strip joints and the gigs started at 8 pm and ended at 4 am. The band Mac was in was trumpet, drums, and Hammond B3 organ. The B3 players on that circuit were amazing players and most of them rivaled the performance level of the well known giants of that time on B3. Every night was like being on a gig with Don Patterson or Jimmy McGriff. Mac played that circuit for 2 years and it was great for developing endurance, learning hundreds of songs and playing up to the level the organists played every night. Mac also noted that these great players were living in virtual obscurity for various reasons. While in Boston, Mac did some recording for PBS but did not give it much thought to pursue past what just fell in front of him. Mac was real focused on a hardcore jazz life. Mac took some lessons with Dr. Elmer White from Appalachian State North Carolina and went on the road during the summer with Buddy Morrow and later ... Buddy Rich and Stan Kenton.
Trumpet Player Mac Gollehon moved to New York City in 1979 to pursue jazz opportunities, playing at clubs, Tin Palace, Greene St. etc but mostly found himself playing in punk-funk bands at CBGBs. For a hobby, Mac was boxing and sparring and he met Tony Anthony who was a retired light heavy weight boxer. Tony was up and coming and was defeated in 1957 or 1958 by Archie Moore. He decided to train Mac and Mac was to give him trumpet lessons in return. Tony just enjoyed trumpet as a hobby and kept referring to his previous teacher whom he was still visiting. Turned out Tony's teacher was Miles Davis. Tony took Mac over to Miles house on the west side and soon the three of them were getting together a couple of times a week to practice trumpet and hang out. Miles was not really active then but did become active about a year and half later. Miles called Mac chops and did give Mac some valuable advice. He said "you like to play fifty notes to a bar ... that's cool but make them all." Mac found that interesting because their playing styles were a real contrast; however, Miles encouraged Mac's style and he told Mac ... "don't ever be a grave robber stealing someone else's style." Also, at that time, Tommy Turrentine was living on the upper west side and he and Mac practiced together out of the Arban book. Tommy had his own stylistic identity.
Strangely enough, and with no intent, Mac was landing one disco and R&B recording after another. Strange because Mac's approach and interest was at that time only in hardcore jazz, and he did not look for commercial studio player gigs at all. Then came an avalanche of record dates for powerhouse producers such as Nile Rodgers, Bernard Edwards, Kashiff, Afrika Bambatta, Arif Mardin, Patrick Adams, Rick Derringer, Arthur Baker, Mike Chapman, Material, Latin Rascals, Russ Titelman just to name a few. In addition to this large volume of mainstream pop work, Mac was also involved in hundreds of Salsa, Soca Reggae, Zuk, punk, dance remixes, and Caribbean recording over a ten year span. The Salsa recording came about when Mac met the fine trumpet player Ray Maldonado in Don Pintos thirty piece big band. Ray was very specifically stylized in his phrasing and he and Mac developed an approach to playing together on Hector Lavoes band. They recorded with many artists as a section. Piano virtuoso Ricardo Ray and Doc Cheatham were on that band. Then work followed with Machito, Ray Barretto and a three year gig with El Cantante Hector Lavoe. Hector was truly a natural styled singer-musician. Hector many times advised that Mac should sing and play trumpet because he had heard Mac imitate Johnny Cash. Mac failed to heed his advice. Lavoe and his presentation, performance, and natural skills left a very good impression on Mac. Many other recording formats followed as Mac was in network promotions, cable tv, motion pictures, muzak and industrials. In the early to mid 80's, any given day could be a recording at noon, another one at 3pm and another at 7pm ... go to a club gig at 10pm and play an after hour until 5am to 8am get up the next day and start it all over again. That was then and Mac states that he cant imagine such a reality exists for anyone today.
Trumpet Player Mac Gollehon states, "Such a large amount of this type of recording was placed on the producers so I would go into the studio with no preparation, there were no charts, and either myself or someone would invent parts on the fly. It became commonplace to do instant arrangements and very often without the presence of a producer. Producers could often be busy doing three albums at one time with very strict deadlines. This sharpened my production and arranging skills. It was necessary to enhance the artists work and the producer could count on you as part of a successful team. One session that stands out in my mind is the solo I played on David Bowie,s song "Lets Dance." I played a solo with some intricate improvisation lines and David said, "brilliant, now double it." Stevie Ray Vaughn was also the solo feature on that track. There was also a bit of touring in this period with Duran Duran, Hall and Oates, Chaka Khan, Chic etc. Their albums smoked their way to the charts with Mac's fiery horn as Steve Winwood, Arrow, Laurie Anderson, Power Station, Mick Jagger, and many others signed him on time and again for more than 1000 recordings and more than 75 solos on Top-Forty singies. In the world of screaming guitars, synths, and samplers, Mac Gollehon's trumpet rules; his solos can be heard all over the airwaves. Listen for his solos on David Bowie's Let's Dance, Jagger and Bowie's Dancin' the Street, Grace Jones's Inside Story, Duran Duran's Notorious, Billy Ocean's Get Out Of My Dreams, and on "Coming to America," Eddie Murphy's film soundtrack.
Trumpet Player Mac Gollehon states, In 1991 I meet Lester Bowie while I was playing a club downtown with Larry Harlow. It was not until 1993 that he called me to go to Poland to start a tour with Brass Fantasy playing lead trumpet. We had many things in common, same birth date, cigars, sense of style and musical compatability. In the seven years I worked with Lester we became good friends and I learned a lot from hearing his vast collection of trumpet sounds, techniques, and harmonic palette. Also his phrasing and tone when playing ballads on flugelhorn reminded me of Ben Webster. Lester was able to connect with every audience he was ever put in front of and displayed showmanship while maintaining a very high level of artistic presentation, always remaining accessibile. Lester Bowie inspired and encouraged me to become a leader. He was a featured guest on my first two solo recordings as were Nile Rodgers and Hilton Ruiz.