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Behind the Suit: Licensing guru Gary Caplan trumpets his love of jazz

With more than 30 years spent helping to shape and grow the licensing industry - 20 of those as president of his own marketing and consulting firm Gary Caplan Inc. - Gary Caplan has made an indelible mark. And were it not for his failed career as a jazz trumpeter, it might never have happened.
February 1, 2004

With more than 30 years spent helping to shape and grow the licensing industry – 20 of those as president of his own marketing and consulting firm Gary Caplan Inc. – Gary Caplan has made an indelible mark. And were it not for his failed career as a jazz trumpeter, it might never have happened.

Growing up in Iowa in the mid-’50s, Caplan says listening to the first notes of a Charlie Parker album that belonged to a musician friend of his changed his life. From that first encounter with the sweet-sounding tunes, he couldn’t listen to any other type of music.

At the time, Iowa’s small-town scene wasn’t exactly teeming with modern jazz enthusiasts, but Caplan became a devoted follower of jazz legends Parker, John Coltrane, Clifford Brown and Oscar Peterson. Already a trumpet player, he even started picking up their playing styles.

During high school and college, Caplan was torn between playing basketball and performing gigs at weddings and dances with his first band, a rhythm & blues/jazz ensemble called Alan Martin and the Ooya Coos. Fortunately for the North American licensing industry, Caplan decided he didn’t want to put in the practice time required to become a jazz pro. Instead, he got married at age 21 and set about earning a serious living.

Retired for 40 years, the trumpet sits in his attic, but Caplan has never lost his love of jazz. ‘Good jazz is thrilling music,’ he says. ‘It inspires the soul and the creative mind, and it’s amazing to watch good jazz players perform.’

Caplan can name the top five revenue-generating licenses dating back to 1993, and his knowledge of jazz is just as encyclopedic. A devoted student of the art form, he reads trade journals, buys CDs of up-and-coming artists and travels the world to attend concerts including the Montreux, Montreal and Newport Rhode Island jazz festivals.

Most recently, Caplan says he played hooky from work for a few days to take in a Stan Kenton festival in Newport Beach, California. And when he’s not able to travel or catch a show at a local club, Caplan draws on his collection of 1,200 jazz albums and CDs to get his fix. He has a copy of the songs ‘Joy Spring’ by Brown and ‘Giant Steps’ by Coltrane on hand at all times and says he often turns to jazz for its restorative powers. ‘When I’m really down in a blue funk and I want something to lift my soul, I put on Coltrane’s Blue Train. That’s enough to fix me up.’

If you’re also a jazz fan and would like to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the KidScreen Summit to talk turkey with Caplan,

e-mail him at gcaplaninc@aol.com to set something up.

About The Author
Lana Castleman is the Editor & Content Director of Kidscreen and oversees all content for Kidscreen magazine, kidscreen.com and related kidscreen events. lcastleman@brunico.com

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