Richard Eugene Bock was born in Syracuse, New York, on January 22, 1927. When he was eight years old the family moved to Appleton, Wisconsin, where Bock attended grammar and high school. Bock was active in music related classes in high school where his graduation picture in the 1944 high school year book noted that Band 2 and Orchestra 2,3,4 summed his credits along with Track 2, Talisman 1 (the school paper) and Modeler’s club 2,3,4.
Bock recalled that his early music influences were Lawrence Welk, Gene Krupa, Anita O’Day, “Shorty” Sherock, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Jimmie Lunceford, Charlie Christian with Benny Goodman, Bus Etri with Charlie Barnet, “Big Chief “ Russell Moore with Louis Armstrong, Lester Young and “Tab” Smith with Count Basie. In addition to listening to these groups on radio and records, Bock would catch a bus to Milwaukee to hear the Basie and Ellington orchestras in person when their tours passed through Milwaukee. Thankfully he moved beyond his Lawrence Welk appreciation.
After high school Bock joined the U.S. Coast Guard where he was based in Long Beach, California. His tour of duty from January of 1945 to May of 1946 allowed ample off duty time to explore Los Angeles and the music scene. Upon his separation from service Bock settled in Los Angeles where he enrolled in classes at Los Angeles City College on the G. I. Bill.
He was active in music activities at LACC, clubs that sponsored concerts on campus and he wrote a column for the school newspaper reviewing record releases in all genres.
During this time he worked as a store clerk at Wallich’s Music City where he began to acquire some knowledge of the music and recording business. During high school Bock had played trumpet in band and orchestra and he continued at LACC playing in the school band there.
In 1947 he took a part time job at Black & White Records that had their west coast offices at 4910 Santa Monica Boulevard, just around the corner from the LACC campus on Vermont Avenue. After six months at Black and White Bock worked briefly for Ben Pollack.
The combined experience at Wallich’s and Black and White Records enabled Bock to accept his next position with Albert Marx’s newly formed Discovery Records label. His position was officially noted as Vice-President and he performed a variety of jobs for Marx, most notable being the head of A&R where he was responsible for some of the recordings that became best sellers for Discovery.
One of his last duties as A&R head was recording Johnny Richards and Dizzy Gillespie with a string orchestra backing. The earlier pairing of Gillespie and Richards on Paramount Records had been withdrawn after objections from the Jerome Kern estate.
Bock worked on behalf of Discovery Records again in 1952 when he supervised recording the Art Pepper Quartet that had been getting rave reviews during their appearance at The Surf Club.
During Bock’s tenure with Discovery the label branched out from their initial releases on 78 RPM to the long play format in November of 1948. Later in 1950 Discovery started releasing albums in the 45 RPM single and extended play format. Bock used this record manufacturing knowledge when he and Harte launched the Pacific Jazz label where releases were initially available in all three record formats.
Bock summed up this early part of his career in a Down Beat profile:
Although the credit line on business card, LPs and other publications would read RICHARD BOCK everyone knew him as Dick Bock.
As noticed in previous posts, this blog occasionally departs from the primary purpose of presenting the entire line of labels issued by Pacific Jazz / World Pacific. The people behind the label are an integral part of the story and future posts will also depart to highlight other people who were associated with the label.
Inhad the honor of knowing Richard in the last years of his life. Never in the 26 or so years hence, have I met such a wonderful, brilliantly creative human being. He was one of a kind!