Trumpeter Teddy Kyle was 17 years old when he composed and recorded the horn section for the San Diego “Super” Chargers theme song with the Modoc Horns. The 1978 Santee studio session was the first of many for the Linda Vista native. Kyle refined his skills jamming in garages with local legends Carl Evans Jr. and Hollis Gentry (of San Diego funk band Power and later the jazz quintet Fattburger) and bassist Nathan East, who went on to work with Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, and Stevie Wonder.
The Modoc Horns (Kyle, trumpeters Ray Smith and James Zollar, trombonist Lennon Honer, and saxophonist Paul Bunyan) played venues such as the El Cortez hotel, Infinity disco club in La Mesa, Chuck’s Steakhouse, and the Suede Market downtown.
“We were minors, so we used to sneak into two or three jazz clubs in one night, play two songs, and run out,” Kyle says. “That’s how we cut our chops.”
The group kept busy enough that Kyle, as a senior at Kearny High School, was able to rent a two-bedroom apartment in North Park for $180 a month.
“We were playing so much we had to lie to get out of a gig so we could go to the prom!”
Kyle recollects. “As soon as they passed us our diplomas, we were on a plane to Japan. We were living fast and young! We were hanging out with Dizzy Gillespie’s drummer Candy Finch. We sat in with Freddie Hubbard. He used to come down to the Catamaran in San Diego back in the day. We learned his solos note for note. Freddie was a trip. You’d have to watch him because he’d change key on you in a minute. But that’s how we learned. That’s how we became the Modoc Horns.”
With one member now living in Hawaii and others officially retired, the Modoc Horns still get together every once in a while to play a show, having reunited at local venues like Humphrey’s and the Horton Grand Hotel.
“No matter how long it’s been since we played together, we always sound the same,” Kyle says.
As of 2010, trumpeter Teddy Kyle plays with the Micah Whitley Trio and the Taboo Band, a Sade tribute band. Former San Diegan James Zollar (a veteran of the Count Basie and Duke Ellington orchestras) has recorded and/or performed with Tony Bennett, Eddie Palmieri, Wynton Marsalis, and others, as well as releasing several solo albums.