Jack McVea (November 5, 1914 – December 27, 2000) was an American swing, blues, and rhythm and blues woodwind player; he played clarinet and tenor and baritone saxophone. Jack McVea will always be most famous for his big hit "Open the Door, Richard." Although associated with the R&B world due to that 1946 bestseller, McVea was actually a swing stylist whose fairly mellow sound was a major contrast to the honking tenors of the time.
Born John Vivian McVea in Los Angeles, California, he started out playing banjo as a youth (1925-27) before switching to alto. McVea began playing professionally with his father (banjoist Satchel McVea), Dootise Williams' Harlem Dukes (1932), Charlie Echols (1934-35), Claude Kennedy, Edyth Turnham, Cee Pee Johnson and Eddie Barefield (1936). McVea mostly gigged in the Los Angeles area until joining Lionel Hampton in 1940 as a baritonist. He was with Hamp for three years and played with Snub Mosley, but McVea made a much stronger impression when he played on the first Jazz at the Philharmonic Concert.
From 1944 on, McVea led his own group most of the time. He appeared on a Slim Gaillard record date in 1945 that included Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker and was quite popular from 1946-48. McVea was leader of the Black & White Records studio band and was responsible for coming up with the musical riff for the words "Open the Door, Richard".
Ralph Bass got him to record it in 1946 and it became immensely popular, entering the national charts the following year inspiring covers by Louis Jordan, Count Basie and Dusty Fletcher himself. Of course Jack saw very little of the royalties, most of which vanished thanks to some creative accountancy by the record company. McVea’s last recording session for Black & White took place in March of 1947. In November and December of 1947 he recorded several sessions for Exclusive and then took to club work in locations as far apart as Honolulu, Alaska, Las Vegas, and even LA.
Jack signed up with Jake Porter’s Combo Records in 1953. His band was very much the house band at Combo, recording not only under Jack’s name, but also under various guises such as Jonesy’s Combo. They were on Combo’s biggest selling disc, the original version of “Ko Ko Mo” by Gene & Eunice, but once again saw little in the way of royalty payments. As the 1950s wound to a close, so did Jack’s recording career although he recorded a jazz album for 77 in 1962. Forced to collect scrap-metal for a living, he was relieved when Disneyland asked him to beguile visiters as a strolling clarinettist on their site in Orange County.
From 1966 till his retirement in 1992 he led a group (playing clarinet exclusively) which played traditional jazz at Disneyland, called "The Royal Street Bachelors" in New Orleans Square. The good looking "bachelors" as they thought, created their bands name after performing for the first time on Royal Street. The trio consists of the following men- Jack Mcvea, Herb Gordy, and Harold Grant.
Jack McVea died from cancer at the age of 86 in Los Angeles on December 27, 2000.
Most of Jack McVea's recordings are available on Blue Moon Records in Barcelona, Spain; Ace Records in London, England; and Delmark Records in Chicago. All are available in the U.S. Blue Moon covers the Black & White years (including Open the Door, Richard), Delmark his sessions on Apollo Records, and Ace his four years with Combo Records. Ace's Fortissimo! CD contains several alternate takes. (Info edited mainly from All Music Guide & Wikipedia)