Alum Larry Vuckovich Survives the Nazis to Play with Jazz Greats

Thursday, June 22, 2017
Photo of Larry Vuckovich playing the piano

NAPA VALLEY REGISTER -- Larry Vuckovich was born in Kotor, Montenegro, Yugoslavia, in 1936. By 1942, he’d begun to study classical piano, practicing every day in his family’s 16-room villa. Unbeknownst to him, at one point while he practiced downstairs, upstairs his father had hidden away a downed American airman to keep him safe from his Nazi pursuers.

“The Nazis came to our house and were only a few inches away from finding him,” Vuckovich said. “I didn’t even know it was going on at the time because my father kept the whole thing secret — you know how kids can talk. If they’d found him, they would have killed all of us.”

Eventually, Vuckovich went on to study music at San Francisco State University, and he occasionally performed or subbed for Gauraldi at shows, which gave him the opportunity to accompany singers such as Mel Torme and Irene Kral.

By the mid-1960s, Vuckovich had joined singer John Hendricks and accompanied him to clubs and festivals around the world. Then he spent a year as house pianist in Germany at Munich’s Domicile Jazzclub, where he played with such jazz giants as Slide Hampton, Clifford Jordan and Philly Joe Jones, with whom he briefly toured.

Photo courtesy of Larry Vuckovich