New Teeth for Mister Chops
Originally printed in Down Beat magazine, Aug 19, 1960.
One night six years ago, trumpeter Maynard Ferguson was playing an industrial dance. Suddenly a drunk with a warped sense of humor-probably the kind who pushed other kid's heads down on drinking fountains in school-smacked the bell of his horn, driving the mouthpiece back into the trumpeter's mouth.
The immediate damage was one cracked tooth. But as time went on, it became evident that the damage had been more serious: because of the odd blow, a natural part between Ferguson's front teeth was growing wider. By this year, the gap had become so wide that it was causing a scar on the inside of his lip-a scar that would sometimes start to bleed as he played. A dental expert told him he'd better do something about it.
Last month, Maynard sat back in a dental chair and braced himself for 14 injections and seven hours of work. When he was through, his teeth had been ground down and work begun on capping. A few days later, he was back on the bandstand with his virile big band; but his mouth was so painful that he couldn't play. The next night it was better. By the third night, he was picking high ones out of the stratosphere, or scooping down for the fat low ones that are as much a part of his famous and phenomenal trumpet technique as the top notes.
Maynard was unconcerned. "That's an old wives' tale that you're ruined if anything happens to your teeth. Most of it's in the lip. I know three trumpet players who are having the same work done on their teeth that I did."
"The only thing is that it feels strange for a while. I have to build a whole new embouchure. I wish I could get four or five days off, but the band's booked so much this summer that I can't."
He grinned suddenly, revealing a brand new, improved (no gaps between the teeth) smile. "The guy who hit me," he said. "I'm not a fighting man, but I really wasted that cat."