Blood, sweat and back pain
By Gina Carbone
Stop me if you've heard this one: A kid from Brooklyn starts playing trombone in salsa bands, is tapped by a friend to pay in what will become an internationally famous rock/jazz band, tours more than 250 days a year from Woodstock to the Iron Curtain to Caesar's Palace, quits the band after four years, develops a partial facial paralysis impeding his musical talents, decides to go to chiropractic school, travels the world from Italy to the Chech Republic to study yoga, movement and rehabilitation, then moves from Los Angeles to Rye, N.H., to set up a chiropractic clinic.
Same old clich, right? kid from Brooklyn starts playing trombone in salsa bands, is tapped by a friend to play in what will become an internationally famous rock/jazz band, tours more than 250 days a year from Woodstock to the Iron Curtain to Caesar's Palace, quits the band after four years, develops a partial facial paralysis impeding his musical talents, decides to go to chiropractic school, travels the world from Italy to the Chech Republic to study yoga, movement and rehabilitation, then moves from Los Angeles to Rye, N.H., to set up a chiropractic clinic.
Perhaps not. Though about 40 musicians have moved through the ranks of that rock n' roll university known as "Blood, Sweat & Tears," it appears only trombonist Jerry Hyman has taken the aforementioned track route, opening his clinic to patients late last month.
"Back to work ... Back to play," Hyman's business card reads, "a unique movement therapy, specializing in the resolution of problems involving painful back, neck, legs and shoulders."
It's an old card, complete with a map to his former office off Glendale Boulevard in Los Angeles. Now, if you want to get to Hyman's office, you have to go to the lower level of the idyllic woods-and-pond-encircled home he and his wife Carol bought back in September.
It's a long way from the New York music scene to L.A. movement therapy to hobnobbing with locals in Market Square. Not that this is a Dr. Jerry/Mr. Hyman story. The blood, sweat and tears that shape any 55-year-old's lifetime involve many twists and turns, and Hyman is quick to point out parallels between his music and clinical passions.
"In music there are two schools of thought, whether it's pop music or even classical music: There are people who play the notes and play them perfectly; and there's the idea of looking at the principles that govern," Hyman says. "Even in classical music, the best teachers teach somebody how to improvise. There are rules for that that you study and are made to be broken, so to speak, so you can create new music."
That idea of looking toward guidelines rather than seeing things as carved in stone was extremely liberating for his clinical work. Science may be defined by itself, but he doesn't have to be.
"I'm deeply influenced by science, but I'm not defined by it."
Spinning youthful wheels
No, that honor belongs to the accordion.
"While I hate to admit it, I started out on the accordion," Hyman says with a chuckle, sitting in his new living room, overlooking the wooded back yard through floor-to-ceiling windows. "You see the bumper stickers, 'Use an accordion, go to jail.'"
As if that wasn't uncool enough, he was a band geek in junior high and high school, taking up the trombone.
Eventually, the coolness factor kicked in and he found himself working as a book clerk at Doubleday on 5th Avenue during the day and playing his brains out in salsa bands at night.
"I was actively involved in the salsa scene in New York," Hyman says, "they were heavy on trombones in that area."
Dick Halligan, who played trombone then keyboards for Blood, Sweat & Tears, became a good friend of Hyman's after they worked together in a showband in the Catskills. Hyman was originally offered a place in the fledgling band when founder Al Kooper was still playing in 1967. He wasn't ready to go yet, but when Kooper left the band a year later, Hyman reconsidered.
"When Al Kooper left the band there was a change in personnel. Dick Halligan went from trombone to primary keyboard and they asked me to play trombone."
At the time, the band was more underground than commercial, but Hyman knew who they were. From 1968 to 1972, he played and toured with the band, watching them rack up success after success with the new lead singer, Canadian David Clayton-Thomas.
Blood, Sweat & Tears' second album sold 10 million copies worldwide and launched three gold singles, "Spinning Wheel," "You've Made Me So Very Happy" and "And When I Die." The album was nominated for Grammy Awards in 10 categories and won an unprecedented five, including, Song of the Year for "Spinning Wheel." It also won Album of the Year and Best Male Performance by a Male Vocalist for David's rendition of Billie Holiday's "God Bless The Child," which became a contemporary classic.
"We traveled 250-plus days a year doing one-nighters," Hyman recalls.
"From what I can remember of it," he says, laughing, "it was a grand time. I was in my 20s. I had some professional experience - I had been on the road with big bands, like dance bands at the tail end of the era in the '50s and '60s - but that was an experience not to be equaled in most people's lives."
Being a rock 'n' roll star is the dream of many young folk, but in a band with so many people playing such a different jazz/rock mix, fame didn't hit Hyman like his colleagues.
"Lead singers, drummers and guitar players are the seminal kinds of iconic rock stars," Hyman says, then laughs. "Trombone players would recognize me everywhere I go."
Another aspect of success is dealing with the changing personalities, choices and disruptions to the creative process.
"It was a dysfunctional family," Hyman says of the band. "When you're with someone day and night for the good part of the year there's more face-to-face time than in most relationships.
"The other thing too is, I was one of the younger members of the band but we were all growing up and faced lots of issues most people don't have to face; lots of friction, but there was a lot of good stuff too. If the relationship survives that kind of environment then it becomes like having survived a war together."
Speaking of which, some controversy surrounded their 1971 tour behind the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe. It was seen as a blight by a few anti-Nixon/anti-Vietnam activists to have Blood, Sweat & Tears represent the U.S. government to the Eastern Bloc during a time when a lot of young hippies and freedom fighters - essentially the band's core audience - were vehemently attacking anything the Nixon administration supported.
From the tour, Hyman gleaned lessons in freedom and perspective.
"Seeing what life was like there for those people made me realize, out of all the problems we think we have, one problem we don't have is choice."
Hyman was the first of his crowd of musicians to leave the band in 1972.
"I think I had had enough," he says. "I had seen the experience for what it was. I had learned about, shall we say, the art of artifice. It was time for me to follow my heart and my nose. That was a grand experience because it enabled me in essence to get here."
Hyman looks around his home.
"The idea of having the courage to get into something and the wisdom to leave it when the time is right - it felt nothing but right when we walked through the door."
Back in action
How does one go from trombonist to chiropractor?
After leaving the band, Hyman ran an antique shop in the Poconos in Pennsylvania and worked in studios in Los Angeles. In the early '70s he had his first experience with Bell's palsy, a partial facial paralysis of unknown causes afflicting about 40,000 Americans a year.
"I just couldn't control my facial muscles, they just kind of drooped," he says. "I was told I wouldn't be able to continue my musical career. I didn't accept that."
Over the course of 10 years, he was afflicted three times. The first two times he was able to rehabilitate himself and play music again, taking odd jobs to pay the bills.
"The third time that happened I said to myself 'Somebody's trying to tell me something.'"
During one of his odd jobs as a gardener, Hyman hurt his back and went to a chiropractor. Coming from an old-school medical model, he said going to a chiropractor was like throwing dice into the air, "you might as well go into the deep dark beyond."
While the therapy didn't help him a lot, he liked his doctor and the idea of what he was doing.
"It was intriguing to me. I needed something to do with my life so I decided to go to chiropractic school."
He began to do body work and massage therapy to work his way through school, graduating as a doctor of chiropractic from the Cleveland College of Chiropractic in Los Angeles in 1983.
Special training took him around the world to learn movement practices like yoga, Pilates and Gyrotonic, developed by "one of these mad Romanian guys who's extraordinary clever" named Juliu Horvath.
"(Horvath) has come up with and is continuing to develop a movement system that I find intriguing, and, again, I can take that and kind of weave it into what I already do. Just like music, you study as you're coming up, you listen to Charlie Parker and use it as an influence instead of just shadowing."
The point of this kind of therapy and training is to get someone who unknowingly or knowingly suffers pain from their own movements to learn to recognize that fact and change how they move, stand, sit or breathe so they don't continue to hurt.
Hyman says the uniqueness of his practice comes from the combination of chiropractic work with physiotherapy, occupational training, a bit of neurophysiology, positive reinforcement and a shoulder to lean on.
In 2000 and 2001, he developed something of a sub-specialty in Los Angeles, leading workshops for performing artists.
"There is a subset of particular problems that one has to know a little about performance art (to be able to help). So I saw a lot of cello players and violin players, dancers."
So very happy
There are plenty of performing artists in the Seacoast area, which Hyman and his wife Carol were surprised and thrilled to discover.
Together since the mid-1970s, the Hymans love to travel so much they started a file of places they'd never been but wanted to go.
They read something about this area and clipped the article for their file, but with his work as a chiropractic doctor and her work as a free-lance voice-over artist, they never found time to get here.
When they finally got "L.A.'ed out," they decided to visit Portland, because Carol had found a book including it - and Portsmouth - as one of the top 100 best art cities in North America.
"The one thing the book recommended to Portsmouth was, not only was it a great little town but it had three microbreweries," Hyman laughs. "A very high recommendation."
They spent a few days in Portland, but it didn't speak to them. It was more city-like than they wanted.
"We wanted to get away from the city. To see this," he gestures to the woods and pond, "you don't get this in L.A."
They commuted back and forth from L.A. for the sole purpose of wandering around, pestering locals.
"We'd go to Market Square and just go into shops and talk to people - 'Why do you live here?' 'We're thinking of living here, why do you live here, what do you like about it?' - and got into amazingly good conversations. Everyone says, 'Winter is always a month too long but we're not leaving.'"
Hyman laughs at the different cultural perspectives.
"In L.A. there's a kind of studied indifference to things; it's an industry town. You hear about the taciturn New Englanders and we had to tear ourselves away sometimes."
They were also most impressed with the art scene, which he calls "a click above."
"I'm in the thick of it here - I'm very pleased. I thought I'd have to give that up."
And though he hasn't played in the last few months, he still does play the trombone. On his "short list of things to do" is try to find a way to sit in with local bands - "I know there's a lot of music going on around here" - and send his resume to the University of New Hampshire for the possibility of continuing his rehabilitation teaching on the post-graduate level.
While he settles in to our neck of the woods, he hasn't forgotten the people who helped him get here. He still keeps in touch with former Blood, Sweat & Tears members like Freddy Lipsius and Jimmy Fielder and keeps tabs on many others.
Five successive gold albums and three more gold singles ("Hi-De-Ho," "Lucretia MacEvil," and "Go Down Gamblin'") followed the band's first major album, followed by eight more albums and most recently, the double compact disc "Live and Improvised."
"There are very few bands that have the capacity to endure with the same members," Hyman says. "The chemistry has to be right, the vision, just like any group effort. The structure and the name of it stays. They work a lot of county fairs. They're a very viable band - they're still out there."
Now that his office is also out there and he's "waiting for the tour buses" of patients to arrive, Hyman is prepared to merge his passions all over again. While he may not play Blood, Sweat & Tears' songs during clinic hours, patients can read the Recording Industry Association of America plaque hanging on the wall to be reminded of their chiropractor's other accomplishments:
"Jerry Hyman, to commemorate the sale of more than 1 million copies of the Columbia Records pop single record 'You've Made Me So Very Happy.'"
We're so glad he came into our lives.