Mr. Trombone Man

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Mike Ullery

Staff Photographer

PIQUA — During the late 1920s, as the Great Depression gripped America, Clifford and Marie (Bucholtz) Miller, of Covington took their young son Cliff shopping in downtown Covington.

In spite of the depression, the Millers, like families before, and after them, were shopping for a musical instrument for their son.

Young Cliff left Etter Music Store that day, proudly carrying a used King trombone. It is likely that his parents were thinking the same thoughts that run through the mind of most parents after making a similar purchase … “I sure hope that he sticks with it.”

This past weekend, young Cliff celebrated his 96th birthday and he did, indeed, “stick with it.” The Daily Call visited with young Cliff at Piqua Manor Nursing home on Monday, and listened to him play tunes on another King trombone, this one a gift from his wife, Ruth, sometime around 1960.

As he picked up the trombone, carefully working the slide back and forth to make sure it was oiled, he put the instrument to his lips, paused, and said, “my lip isn't in very good shape right now.”

He began to play. Strains of melodies from several tunes, filled the living room at Piqua Manor, as Miller serenaded those around him with trombone music of a quality that kept his talents in demand for more than 70 years.

Miller learned to play in elementary school and later became a member of the Covington High School band before graduating with the class of 1935. He was drafted into the United States Army in 1941, going first to Fort Thomas, Ky., then to Camp Shelby, Miss. to be trained as an artilleryman.

It was there that a call went out for volunteers who could play a musical instrument. Miller said that he could play the trombone and was immediately transferred to the 136th Field Artillery Regimental Band. Not long after, he was transferred to the 381st Army Service Forces Band in South Carolina. He traveled the country with them, primarily entertaining troops, until his discharge as a T4 Sergeant in 1945.

Following his discharge from the Army, Miller was employed at the Troy Sunshade Plant, where he worked for 43 years.

His love of music remained and he continued to play his trombone. He was a part of the house band at The Crystal Ballroom, near Celina, which was one of the most popular music and dance halls in Ohio for many years. Miller played there for more than 25 years.

Miller later joined the One More Time band and continued with them until the age of 93, when his eyesight made it difficult to read sheet music.

Ruth, who passed away in 1983, and Cliff, raised two children, Donna Gayhart, who resides in Oregon, and a son, Joel, who lives in Covington, with his wife Kathy.

Now, a resident at Piqua Manor, young Cliff, still holding on to the same trombone given to him by his late wife, plays snippets of tunes, from memory, still entertaining others with his wonderful gift — the gift of music.