One of the many benefits our clinicians and volunteers receive from providing care to the Greatest Generation is the pleasure of listening to stories that may never be heard again. Sit down next to Clint Nordquist, 99, and you’ll be in for a treat. He will likely tell you about his experiences playing bass with some of the greatest musicians our country has ever produced, artists like Art Tatum and the “father” of the electric guitar, Les Paul.
Nordquist lights up when he begins talking about how he met Tatum, considered to be one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time. Suddenly, you are transported back to the 1950s-club scene in L.A. where Tatum marvels the crowd with his fast play and finesse.
“Jammed” with music legend Art Tatum
Nordquist saw Tatum play several times while living in L.A. and even had the opportunity to “jam” with the music legend. It’s clear he not only admires Tatum the musician but Tatum the man as well.
“Art was truly the best. Listening to him play was just out of this world,” he says. “Being able to be a friend of his and associate with him in such close conditions; I will never forget that time.”
Nordquist is quick to downplay his own skills when talking about Tatum but was obviously quite good in his own right. He was bass player for four years in the Les Paul Trio in Hollywood, California.
Played music all over L.A.
“Les wanted to be the most popular guitar player in the world and made a point to play in all the places where people would appreciate his talent, and spread his name,” Nordquist says. “I am telling you, we played everywhere, especially parties and dinners that movie stars would host. Sure enough, the next day in the society pages, a picture would appear and his name would be right there next to all the stars.”
When Paul left to pursue his career in New York City, Nordquist continued to play music in L.A. with another bandleader, playing local gigs and parties until he retired from music in the late 1950s.
Housecall Providers volunteer, Paul Sternberg, appreciates all the music history he learns each week as he visits with Nordquist.
“Listening to Clint’s stories about playing with musicians—Les Paul, in particular—has been a thrill! To be able to play with someone like Les Paul you’ve got to be better than just ‘good’,” Sternberg says.
A musician himself, Sternberg was matched up with Nordquist when he was admitted to hospice in February of last year. When his condition improved in early summer, he came off hospice and began receiving in-home primary care from Housecall Providers. Last month, Nordquist started receiving hospice care again.
In-home medical made a big difference
“It has been a godsend for dad to receive home-based medicine,” his daughter Anne Berry says. “The process of getting him to a doctor’s appointment would be very challenging for both of us.”
Berry knows firsthand the fondness her father has for telling stories, and music is just one aspect of his rich and fulfilling life.
“Clint has led a multitude of lives. His interests and abilities extend well beyond just being a musician,” Sternberg says. “I have also loved hearing about all his other adventures. Especially how he designed and built the entire interior of a 33-foot schooner named after his daughter—Annie II—from raw teak.”
One of Nordquist’s greatest abilities, of course, is storytelling. After 93 years, he is still breathing new life into his tales, amazing and entertaining his listeners with memories from one well-lived life of the Greatest Generation.