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Sax - and Lisa Simpson

Everything you need to know about the Musical genius in the Simpsons


Lisa Marie Simpson (voiced by Yeardley Smith) is a fictional character on the animated television series The Simpsons. Matt Groening, the creator of the series, named her after his sister. Lisa is an extremely bright girl, with an IQ of 159. Officially, her highest grade is an A+++ which she earned by cheating in a test, (he later re-marked the test as an F.)  Her musical abilities are extensive: she sings with a powerful voice, and has been seen playing both the acoustic six-string and electric bass guitar proficiently. However, her great love is jazz & blues performed on her much mis-shapen, mis-proportioned baritone saxophone of many hues. She uses a 4 & 1/2 reed, a fairly stiff reed for an 8 year old. Her musical inclinations were greatly nourished through her relationship with the late jazz musician 'Bleeding Gums' Murphy.  Lisa is someone who is very eclectic in her knowledge and shows a deep understanding of the world around her. She may be seen as a child prodigy. Critics have also pointed out that the character of Lisa is a hint to the slighting of children in the real world though they may be a lot more knowledgeable and perceptive than the adults.

"Bleeding Gums" Murphy'' was a fictional character on the cartoon television series Saxophone player and long-lost brother of Dr. Julius Hibbert, Bleeding Gums was a mentor for Lisa until his early death although he did have a heavenly return gig. He recorded one album called Sax on the Beach, which was extremely lucrative, but he soon went broke after spending too much of his money on several Faberge Eggs a day (Did he boil Them?). This jazzman always wore dark glasses on the show. In the episode "Moaning Lisa", he played and vocalized a song written by Lisa. It pleased Lisa to see the televised performance of her own blues song, but not everyone in the family room was happy with lyrics that criticized her family members. Murphy makes his first appearance playing his saxophone on a bridge in the middle of the night, a probable reference to Sonny Rollins.
The voice of Bleeding Gums Murphy was provided by
Ron Taylor.

Bleeding Gums Murphy: You know, you play pretty well for someone with no real problems.
Lisa: Yeah, well I don't feel any better.
Bleeding Gums Murphy: The blues isn't about making yourself feel better, it's about making other people feel worse. And makin' a few bucks while you're at it.

In many episodes' opening sequence, Lisa plays the saxophone. Mr. Largo dismisses her, and she walks out the door still playing. Who performs Lisa's solos and other sax music?
According to Alf Clausen, since (his first episode), this has been Terry Harrington. (He is also mentioned here and there on SNPP, e.g. in the LISA.) Before that, under Richard Gibbs, this was apparently Kim Richmond. Bonus tip: Bleeding Gums Murphy's sax was played by Dan Higgins starting in season 2.
So who is this Terry Harrington and how did he land such a cool gig? This article mentions that the Motown veteran was nominated by the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences as "most valuable woodwind doubler for three consecutive years." We're not sure what that means, but it sounds pretty darn impressive. And despite his obvious mastery of the saxophone, Harrington says he's most comfortable playing the clarinet.

"Ahhh - those Jazz guys are just makin' that stuff up!" - Homer Simpson

Who wrote the solos? Are there any official names for them
Again according to Alf Clausen, though he composes the in-episode pieces, the main title solos are improvised by Terry Harrington to give Lisa's performance a more spontaneous feel. There are no official names for the classroom solos which differ but relate to the Simpson's Theme tune 
- and then there are those other celebrated Saxophone players

Zoot - 'Forgive me Charlie Parker'               Pink 'Lockjaw' Panther    'Bird' in the Pink                 'Bean' Cookie Monster

The Prez- Kool for Katz

Does anyone remember Betty Smith - Tenor Sax - Booting delivery and played with Freddy Randall & Eddie Thompson

Tenor Saxist Betty Smith on the left with two Trumpeters - Ron Simmonds and June Robinson on the Right
Both girls were playing locally with Blanche Coleman's band, while Ron was with Teddy Dobbs on the pier in Clacton-on-Sea. The photo was taken in 1946

I knew Betty on the ships - specifically on the Franconia, round about 1969/70, when Betty was doing cabaret on the ship with Jack Peberdy, her husband, who came to join us on bass some of the time: I was pianist in the 'big band' (all of 7 piece, as far as I remember !). Betty was terrific - had a sound like a double-decker bus on tenor, sang her head off, and cheerfully insulted the audience (largely American) as well. Always did a grand job, and always went down well.
She enjoyed the odd drink (or two .... or three...) and (usually) played the sax all the better for it. She also played piano really nicely, and my most vivid memories of her are of her accompanying herself on piano in one of the ship's bars, totally solo and 'unplugged', long after it was closed, singing 'My Funny Valentine'.   She did indeed know Eddie Thompson, and on one occasion we hired a taxi and tracked him down (with considerable difficulty) in New York, where we knew he was playing. We found finally in a dreadful little bar with sawdust on the floor, and after listening to him playing for a few minutes, she said "Watch this..." and went up to Eddie, who was playing his head off in the corner. She simply went up to him and said "Hi Eddie ..." ; he never missed a beat, despite not having heard anything from her for several years, but simply said "Hi Betty" kept his head down, and and kept on playing - with just a bass player (can't remember his name, but a guy who could double-stop and sing in harmony with himself !!) and no drummer. What a pianist !
She had a lot of contacts ashore, and when I teamed up with a drummer and left the ship after a couple of years she got us a summer season in Scarborough - where I have happily lived, worked as a musician, and brought up a family, for some 40 years now.  I owe a lot to Betty - and indeed to Jack: what a lovely guy ! I made contact with them briefly 12 months or more ago, and was very sorry to hear that she had some sort of alzheimers.  Frank James

She appeared at the Beach Ballroom in Aberdeen Circa 1957 with fishnet tights and bootin sax with Eddie and Freddy Randall - and Eddie's dog.- when i was about 16 - (53 years ago) she seemed to approve then of my interest in her legs   


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Last modified: 18/02/2012