Community: Hal Wetherwax left behind a musical legacy in Burbank

July 31, 2013|By Joyce Rudolph
  • Burbank's Harold "Hal" E. Wetherwax inspired hundreds of children to follow their dreams in music.
Burbank's Harold "Hal" E. Wetherwax… (Photo courtesy…)

Walking down the street, I couldn't remember which house it was, but suddenly I heard the familiar trombone and it guided me to my destination.

Students of Harold "Hal" E. Wetherwax had made a circle around the grand piano in the living room and they were remembering their teacher by playing lively music after the morning funeral. The piece was "Sunny."

Wetherwax passed away on July 18. Family members, including his wife, Virginia, and daughter Leslie were seated around the room.

The musicians were Hal's three sons — Michael (piano), Pete (guitar), and Randy, (drums) Randy's son Jules (bongos), Tom DiLiberto (saxophone), Keith Myatt (trumpet), Rob Rudolph (trombone) and vocalist Andrea Robinson.

They are a sliver of the legacy left by Wetherwax. Hundreds of his former students continue to play professionally or just for enjoyment.

Wetherwax moved to Burbank as a teen and attended Burroughs Junior High and Burbank High School, graduating among the Class of 1942. He was vice president of the student body, yell leader and played in the school swing band, concert band and orchestra and sang in the a cappella choir.


At age 17, he joined the Navy and was in the admiral's band stationed in Trinidad. After the war, he returned to L.A., where he formed a jazz trio that played at clubs and was the house band for the "Ralph Edwards Show" on NBC.

One day after taping the show (still in full makeup and costume), he met Virginia Porcaro at Caro's, an Italian restaurant owned by her family. They fell in love and married six months later.

For the next 60 years, Wetherwax taught hundreds of kids and adults music, along with teaching at St. Francis Xavior and St. Robert Bellarmine schools. He was the band leader for marching bands, jazz bands and pop bands. As a teacher, he emphasized the value of playing in groups and performance, said his eldest son, Michael.

In the 1970s, he assembled two bands made up of his sons and several elementary and junior high students, called the Reflectors and the Starlighters (all members lived in the Starlight Hills area of Burbank).

He even had a group of girls called The Moonmaids, who sang "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head."

Wetherwax secured gigs for the groups at weddings, parties, Disneyland, Burbank's Golden Mall and cast parties for the "Laugh-In" TV show.

Many of Wetherwax's students attending last week's post-funeral reception have achieved success in music.

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