Classics: Maynard Ferguson – Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky) (Columbia)
Hard to believe 40 years have already gone since the release of what would be the part 1 of a film saga dedicated to boxing champion Rocky Balboa. A saga which would get its main actor, Sylvester Stallone, to international stardom. And in the meantime Jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson to the legend with this famous ‘Theme from Rocky’. A cut we also know as ‘Gonna Fly Now’ which appeared as a part of his 1977 ‘Conquistador’ album. And also as the theme tune to French longest radio talk show ‘Les Grosses Têtes’ on RTL!
On a complementary note, let’s not forget the presence of other Jazz luminary Bob James as the executive producer of this project. This in addition to Harvey Mason on drums and Ralph McDonald on percussion. Not to mention Patti Austin among the backing vocalists.
Gonna fly now! Please, fasten your seatbelts, it’s time for take off…
A native of Verdun (now a part of Montréal), QC, Walter Maynard Ferguson, C.M. got the support of his parents since day 1. As a result, he started playin’ piano and violon at the early age of 4. He came to hear a cornet for the first time in his local church five years later. And eventually asked his parents to purchase one for him. He first soloed with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Orchestra, aged 13. Then he won a scholarship to the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal where he studied from 1943 through 1948 with Bernard Baker. This before relocating to the United States with the intention to play with Stan Kenton, joining his new band after a year.
A quick look at his discography says it all as to how prolific he happened to be at the end. Releasing some 76 albums between 1955 and 2006, the year that saw him passing. Eventually sharing the bill at times with luminaries such as Chris Connor, Count Basie and Tito Puente. But also guesting among others with Chicago on the memorable ‘Street Player’.
‘Gonna Fly Now’, also known as the ‘Theme from Rocky’, is probably his most famous gem. This in addition to his outstanding rendition of Jimmy Webb penned classic ‘McArthur Park’ back in 1972. With his name also associated to the ‘Theme For Star Trek’ and ‘Stars Wars’ as a matter of fact.
Quite interestingly, Brighton-based DJ/producer Adam Dubock aka Love Drop came with an edit of ‘Gonna Fly Now’. Eventually retitling it ‘The Buzz’ which he dubbed with ‘Temptation’ back in 2015. With the latter being itself an edit of ‘Please Don’t Tempt Me’ from the Lenny Williams‘ ‘Choosing You’ album.
Maynard Ferguson sadly died on Aug 23, 2006, at the Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, CA. His death was reported as being the consequence of kidney and liver failures brought on by an abdominal infection.
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