Jazz clarinetist Michael “Peanuts” Hucko, who played with Glenn Miller’s band during World War II and briefly led the band in the 1970s, died Thursday June 19 in Fort Worth, Texas, after a long illness. He was 85.
Known for his version of “Stealin’ Apples,” Hucko played with some of America’s greatest musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Eddie Condon, Benny Goodman, Al Hirt, Ray McKinley and Jack Teagarden and was a featured player on Lawrence Welk’s television series in the 1970s.
He made appearances as a soloist at national jazz festivals including a prolonged stint at the Newport one. He celebrated his 80th birthday in 1998 when then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush declared the first Texas Big Band Jazz Festival in honor of his birthday.
Syracuse, N.Y., native first heard sax at a church dance when he was 11, and he took up the instrument thereafter. In the 1930s, he played with numerous bands and later did national radio broadcasts and commercials.
He played in the Army during WWII, switching to the clarinet to protect his tenor sax from the rough conditions. And he found he preferred it. He later played lead alto sax and clarinet with Miller’s band throughout Europe. He was with the band on Dec. 15, 1944, when Miller’s plane went down in the English Channel. The band members agreed not to break up, to honor Miller’s wishes, and continued to play for troops. After the war, Hucko played with Armstrong’s All Stars and for a time led the Glenn Miller Orchestra.
Hucko is survived by his wife, big band singer Louise Tobin; two stepsons; eight grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.