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Pioneer resident celebrates ten years at Highland Springs

Big band leader marks milestone with release of first book

Created date

August 9th, 2016
Jack Melick and his Orchestra have been playing at Highland Springs for the past nine years.

Jack Melick and his Orchestra have been playing at Highland Springs for the past nine years.

Highland Springs is poised to celebrate its tenth anniversary next month, and the community’s first residents are marking the milestone with a look back over the past decade.

“A lot of great things have happened to me since I moved to Highland Springs,” says Jack Melick, who reserved his one-bedroom Brighton-style apartment while the North Dallas community was still under construction.

Jack, a big band leader and pianist who played his first professional gig in 1946, recently celebrated the release of his first book, Famous in Certain Circles: 70 Years of Big Band Memories and the Beat Goes On.

The book’s title stems from a comment Jack made to his young daughter Mandy, who heard her father’s music on the radio and asked if he was famous.

Jack’s reply, “I’m famous in certain circles,” hints at the unique trajectory of his career. After landing in Hollywood at the age of 25, Jack went on to play for Orrin Tucker, Mickey Rooney, Milton Berle, and Guy Lombardo, among others.

“I think I’m the last big band leader standing,” says Jack. “It was just me and Ray Anthony, but he’s retired now.”

Texas bound

Jack’s journey as an itinerant musician took him to Texas, where he began to put down roots.

In 1960, Jack Melick and his Orchestra played a recurring engagement for three to four months each year at the Chaparral Club in Dallas, where Jack met prominent city leaders, including R.L. Thornton Jr., John Stemmons, Cecil Green, Tom Landry, and Tex Schramm.

“The arts scene in Dallas was just coming into its own in the early 1960s,” says Jack. “Even though the Great American Songbook was giving way to rock ‘n’ roll in other parts of the country, there was still a demand for big band music in the South. I decided to make Dallas my home base.”

In the early 2000s, wanderlust set in, and Jack settled in Mexico for six months each year. He spent the other six months in Dallas, fulfilling his music engagements. After three years of living in both places, Jack’s children convinced him to return to Texas full time.

“I saw an advertisement for Highland Springs while it was still under construction,” says Jack. “I met with Lauren [Rozdilsky, sales associate], and everything added up. I liked the financial structure and the amenities planned for Highland Springs.”

The beat goes on

To be certain he was making the right move, Jack planned a visit to Eagle’s Trace, the Erickson Living community in West Houston, which opened in 2005. 

“My orchestra was playing at the Chandelier Ballroom in Houston, so I visited Eagle’s Trace the following day,” says Jack. “I liked the small-town feel of the community.”

Confident in his decision to move forward, Jack reserved his apartment at Highland Springs and moved in November 2006.

These days, Jack Melick and his Orchestra maintain a semiretired schedule, playing four to five gigs a month.

“We’ve been playing at Highland Springs since the second year after I moved in,” says Jack. “Some of the musicians in my orchestra have been with me for 40 years. Our greatest enjoyment is to play for people who love big band music.”

Four years ago, Jack and cowriter Nick LaVecchia began working on his book. 

“I was so excited as I waited for the first copies to arrive,” says Jack. “I kept rushing down to the mailboxes to see if they’d come.”

In late May, Highland Springs hosted Jack’s first book signing. 

“I’ve been lucky,” says Jack. “In 70 years of leading the band, I’ve never been out of work. I’ll keep playing as long as the dance floor’s full.”