See more of the story

When Leo Fine, the trumpet player and orchestra leader, was out with his family, well-wishers would approach, happy to remind the St. Louis Park resident that he performed at their wedding or bar mitzvah.

He owed it all to a burlesque show.

Fine served in the Fifth Army Band during World War II, collecting extra pay to perform in officers' clubs but never accepting money to play Taps for a dead soldier. A former touring musician, he teamed with Mort Kaufman to open Park Music Center — an important player in the Twin Cities' garage rock scene.

Fine, who continued to back the greats when they came to town yet passed on a chance to play with the King of Rock & Roll, died on Dec. 28 at age 95, still managing to play a bit of trumpet after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

"He obviously touched a lot of lives through music," son Steven said.

Leo Fine was 7 years old when he and his brother Elliot went to downtown Minneapolis to see a cousin play on the burlesque circuit, he recounted later. He was drawn to the trumpet and Elliot to the drums. The brothers toured across the Midwest in territory bands — dance bands of the era — and performed, too, in a burlesque theater pit band.

It was during Elliot's tenure with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra when they notched one of their more memorable moments.

Occasionally, Leo received calls to play trumpet with the orchestra, and he strolled in one day predicting an easy time of it. But he learned then he had to do a solo, and a difficult one at that, son Dale recalled at his funeral.

As Leo tried to figure it out, conductor Antal Dorati arrived for rehearsal, set down his baton and said, "I want to hear that trumpet solo." There, among world-class musicians, Leo nailed it, and the principal trumpet player gave him the OK sign. And his brother?

"Elliot almost fainted," Leo's wife, Maureen, said this week.

In April 1966, Park Music Center opened at 7200 Minnetonka Blvd. This was the era of the "Big Hits of Mid-America" bands, groups like the Underbeats and Gregory Dee and the Avanties, and Leo and Mort supplied powerful amps and promotional support to up-and-comers like Jokers Wild and the Nickel Revolution.

"We'd love to listen to his stories about what music meant to him," Jerry Lenz of the Nickel Revolution said this week. "On that level, musician to musician, we could really identify."

Fine did not offer much detail about who he'd performed with, Lenz said. But as a member of the musician's union, he often was called when celebrities like Harry Belafonte, Liberace and Nat "King" Cole came to town needing support.

Years earlier, Fine toured with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. He left the touring life, but Dorsey moved on to television — specifically a variety series, Stage Show, that in 1956 hosted the network debut of Elvis Presley.

Fine, asked to rejoin the band, declined, and would joke later that "he wasn't going to leave home to play with an unknown guitar player," Steven said.

Added Maureen, "It was good for conversation."

Along with his wife and sons Steven, Dale and Michael, Fine is survived by three grandchildren. His brother Elliot died in 2012. Services have been held.