David Woodford’s name may not be instantly recognizable to all music lovers, but whether they realize it or not, most have heard his Tenor and Baritone saxophone mastery and enjoyed his vast body of work that has spanned over five decades. David grew up in Arlington and actually started out playing piano at eight years old, taking after his mother who was an accomplished pianist herself. His first paying gigs, “Casuals” or private party gigs came at only twelve years old. In October 1963, at fifteen, David played live on the “Ken Carter Pepsi Dance Party” on Boston radio station WCOP. The sheer volume of artists David has worked with, and the range of genres he has worked in, is rivaled by few musicians from any era. From P.Diddy to Aerosmith to Bonnie Raitt, and just about everyone in between.
David graduated from Berklee College of Music in 1970, with a Bachelor of Musical Composition degree-additionally teaching R&B horn arranging at the college from ‘69-’70. His musical education included private study with the great Joe Viola from 1964-1970, Jimmy Mosher, and good friend Charlie Mariano. David on his Berklee years: “I can’t think of a better place to go to college than Boston. Half the population of the city between September and June is college students, and there are lots of places to play.” In 1968, while at Berklee, David co-founded the 9-piece (later 11-piece) horn band Swallow, with Boston Blues hero George Leh, Vern Miller from The Remains and Rick Engler from the band The Fifth Estate.
Woody has been a part of group efforts, such as 1979’s Dr. Strut among others, but the majority of his work has been as a session and touring musician. Touring and recording with Rod Stewart, Jeff Golub, producer Giorgio Moroder, The Shirelles, Aaron Neville, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and of course Aerosmith. David was the also the house horn player at Intermedia Sound Studios-the infamous Newbury Street recording studio-where the bad boys from Boston recorded their eponymous debut album. Interesting Aerosmith footnote: Woody played saxophone on “Walking the Dog” at the Hollywood Bowl concert on May 7, 1999 and this was the first time he had been on stage with the guys since 1974. He had not seen Joe, Tom, and Joey for 25 years, and it took Tom and Joey a minute to realize it was actually him.
Before leaving the James Montgomery Band and Boston in 1977, Woody added Tom Rush, Livingston Taylor, and Martin Mull to his working credits. In the 1980’s D.W. also worked on the Star Search television show, arranging and playing with the studio band.
In the 1990,’s Woody played at Woodstock and performed on Broadway in the musical hit “Smokey Joe’s Café.” He also contributed the riveting sax riff on Glen Frey’s “The Heat is On”- from the movie Beverly Hills Cop. Woody even worked on “The Hockey Puck Song” sung by ex. Boston Bruin Phil Esposito, contributing the sax solo on the record. Movie scores for Beverly Hills Cop I & II, Top Gun, Over the Top, and Quicksilver, are just a few of David’s Hollywood movie soundtrack credits. D.W. also worked on television soundtracks including the Happy Days television show, The Tonight Show, and countless others.
David Woodford stopped playing music in 2016…and in his own words…”It was a nice run, and I got to play with many of my musical heroes. One of them was Billy Vera. I only played one gig with Billy and The Beaters…at the Baked Potato in Pasadena…around 1995. Ironically, Billy and The Beaters were the band that replaced The Dynamic Groovadelics, otherwise known as Dr. Strut, on the midnight on Monday show at The Troubadour.”
Whether it be movie scores, radio and television jingles, Broadway shows, TV and movie studio work, or the hundreds of albums Woody has played on, one thing is certain; you have heard him play at some point in his over fifty years of entertaining audiences the world over.
David insists that nothing that happened to and for him from 1970 on would have happened at all without the help and support of his first wife, Caryl “Weinstock” Woodford. “I just write and play music. Caryl did all the hard stuff that made it possible for me to write and play music in the right places at the right time. Love and thanks Caryl!”
David’s remarkable success and accomplishments are equaled only by his affability, and a heartfelt thanks to him for his gracious contributions to this piece.
David Woodford passed away in Los Angeles, CA (where he had lived since 1977) on December 20th, 2022.
(by Mark Turner)
Live performance credits:
Aerosmith, Gregg Allman, The Angels, Brian Auger, The BAND, Jimmy Barnes, Bobby Bland, Gary “US” Bonds, Bonnie Bramlett, Rick Braun, Randy Brecker, Jackson Browne, Billy Burnette, Canned Heat, The Coasters, James Cotton, Cheryl Crowe, Billy Crystal, The Drifters, Dr. Strut, Cornell DuPree, Yvonne Elliman, Victor Feldman, Mick Fleetwood, Flo & Eddie, Robben Ford, Steve Gadd, Jeff Golub/Avenue Blue, Emmy Lou Harris, Don Henley, Howlin’ Wolf, Etta James, Rickie Lee Jones, Chaka Khan, Nicolette Larson, T. Lavitz, Albert Lee, Will Lee, John Mayall, Sam Moore (Sam & Dave), Graham Nash, Ivan Neville, Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Rivers, Tom Rush, David Sanborn, Sha Na Na, Boz Scaggs, The Shirelles, Ben Sidran, Jimmy Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Steven Stills, Sting, Stuff, Supertramp, Richard Tee, Tower of Power, Phil Upchurch, Billy Vera, Joe Walsh, Tony Williams, Bruce Willis, and Edgar Winter.
Gold and Platinum Record Credits:
The Heat is On (Glenn Frey), Danger Zone (Kenny Loggins), Ain’t Even Done with the Night (John Mellencamp), Long Distance Lover (Sheena Easton), Get Your Wings (Aerosmith), Live Bootleg (Aerosmith), Top Gun (Soundtrack), Beverly Hills Cop (Soundtrack), Beverly Hills Cop II (Soundtrack), Over The Top (Soundtrack), The California Raisins Album, The Best of Rod Stewart, Camouflage (Rod Stewart), Foot Loose and Fancy Free (Rod Stewart), Downtown Train (Rod Stewart), If We Fall in Love Tonight (Rod Stewart), and Pretty Woman (Soundtrack).