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Dick Cathcart; Jazz Trumpeter Played in 'Pete Kelly's Blues'

November 11, 1993|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dick Cathcart, the jazz trumpeter behind actor Jack Webb's portrayal of the legendary Pete Kelly in the 1955 film "Pete Kelly's Blues," has died. He was 69.

Cathcart, who met his wife, singer Peggy Lennon of the Lennon Sisters, when they both worked for "The Lawrence Welk Show," died Monday in Woodland Hills.

A friend of jazz fan Webb since the two met during World War II, Cathcart was easily persuaded to play the music for the Pete Kelly film and for the related radio and television series. Afterward, he kept the movie band together. They performed around Southern California and recorded as Pete Kelly's Big 7.

Charles Richard Cathcart was born in Michigan City, Ind., on Nov. 6, 1924. His father played cornet and his three brothers also were professional musicians.

Young Dick began playing the clarinet at age 4 and switched to trumpet at 13. His first job was with Bob Barnes at Indiana University. He worked with the U.S. Army Air Force Radio Orchestra during World War II, and with big bands before and after--Ray McKinley, Alvino Rey, Bob Crosby and the MGM studio bands.

But in the early 1950s Cathcart discovered jazz--in Los Angeles.

"A friend insisted on taking me to the Hangover on Vine Street to hear Red Nichols, and I wound up sitting in with him," Cathcart told The Times in 1987.

But after the decade or so with Webb (he played for "Dragnet" as well as the Pete Kelly outings) and six years with Welk, Cathcart put away his horn for 14 years.

He sang, occupied himself as musical coordinator for the Lennon Sisters and did other jobs until 1982, when he was persuaded to play in the annual Dixieland Festival in Sacramento.

In addition to his wife, Cathcart is survived by their four sons.

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