Skip to main content

The Beginnings


A Young Warren Durrett

Warren Durrett was born in Lebanon, Kansas on December 28, 1920, to Benjamin and Wilma Durrett. Growing up, he took piano lessons from Mrs. Scott. Warren practiced his music only on the provision that his mother pay him ten cents an hour. 

Upon graduating from high school, Warren says in his chronology, "My dad gave me a dollar bill to seek my fortune when I graduated from high school- the only financial help I ever got, or needed." After gigging around with several bands, he saved enough money to attend Northwest Missouri State Teachers College in Maryville, Missouri. Durrett also went on to attend the University of Oklahoma before finally achieving his Bachelor of Arts from Kansas City University in 1951, at which point his career with the band and his jingle business was already well under way.


When Warren first began to play in Lebanon, he borrowed an old trumpet from his brother. Later, in his high school band, Doodle Durrett and his Doodlebugs, he took up piano, tenor sax, and trombone. When he formed the Warren Durrett Orchestra, he focused entirely on alto and piano. Eventually, he gave up the sax in order to direct the band more effectively.


"And he didn’t think anything of his piano talents. He said 'I’m not that good.' He wanted the guys in the band to be good. In the book, he talked about them and told all about them. He always admired his musicians who played with him." -Jan Durrett


Warren, age 18, pictured here with the Carl Colby Band Trailer

After Warren graduated from Lebanon High School in 1938, he joined the Carl Colby Band out of Omaha. This picture was taken while touring with the band in Alexandria, Minnesota. 

Warren left the band and subsequently started gigging around with Buddy Fischer. At one point, the band panicked after playing a gig in Cleveland and Warren was left stranded. To get by, he got a job selling ice cream cones at the Euclid Beach amusement park.