When Toots Thielemans, a Belgian musician and composer, played a little instrument, it produced heartfelt tones. He created a reputation for himself in the jazz genre thanks to his chromatic harmonica skills. Throughout his musical career, he also played guitar and professionally whistled his way up international charts. On what would have been Toots Thielemans’ 100th birthday, today’s Doodle—illustrated by guest artist Melissa Crowton—hits all the right notes by honouring his contributions to the jazz world.
Toots began playing the accordion at the age of three and soon found himself entertaining others. He would eventually grow up and work at his parents’ cafe as a performing musician. He first picked up a harmonica when he was a youngster, but it wasn’t until he heard Louis Armstrong on record that he discovered jazz.
He picked up the guitar in the early 1940s and began performing and touring with other skilled musicians. Toots earned a name for himself on radio and television by performing alongside jazz and blues legends such as Quincy Jones, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, and Frank Sinatra. He released 21 albums and was featured in advertisements for Old Spice and Firestone as well as movie soundtracks. One of his most well-known harmonica solos was for the Sesame Street theme song on PBS-TV.
Toots is widely regarded as the best harmonica musician in the world and a great jazz master. Late in his life, he continued to record with other musicians and appear in public. Many people gathered and displayed his recordings, ticket stubs, and autographs after his death, while museums displayed donated objects and instruments from his personal collection.
Happy birthday, Toots Thielemans!