Al Hirt was an American trumpeter and bandleader. He is best remembered for his million selling recordings of “Java”, and the accompanying album, Honey in the Horn (1963). His nicknames included ‘Jumbo’ and ‘The Round Mound of Sound’. Al was a member of The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
Alois Maxwell Hirt was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of a police officer. At the age of six, he was given his first trumpet, which had been purchased at a local pawnshop. He would play in the Junior Police Band with the children of Alcide Nunez, and by the age of 16, Hirt was playing professionally, often with his friend Pete Fountain. During this time, he was hired to play at the local horse racing track, beginning a six-decade connection to the sport.
Hirt’s virtuoso dexterity and fine tone on his instrument soon attracted the attention of national labels and signed with RCA Victor Records. Hirt posted twenty two albums on the Billboard charts in the 1950s and 1960s. The albums Honey In The Horn and Cotton Candy were both in the Top 10 best sellers for 1964, the same year Hirt scored a hit single with his cover of Allen Toussaint’s tune “Java” (Billboard #4), and later won a Grammy Award for the same recording. Both Honey in the Horn and “Java” sold over one million copies, and were awarded gold discs.
His 1964 hit “Java” was used as the soundtrack to a recurring Muppet sketch that was performed on several variety shows as well as episode 122 of The Muppet Show.