What is worse than a name such as Orville Minor would be acquiring the nickname of "Piggy" to go along with it. Thankfully from the point of view of recording credits, "Piggy" seems to have stayed in the sty and it is under the full name of Orville Minor that this famous denizen of Kansas City is identified, seemingly without exception. Minor may have acquired the nickname from overdoing it on local specialities such as hickory-smoked turkey breasts. Or possibly it was for placing his lips on more than what it considered a normal amount of brass instrument mouthpieces at one time. A legendary oldtimer who remained active on the Kansas City jazz scene through the '80s, Minor attracted major attention with his personal habit of blowing trumpet and valve trombone simultaneously, a mouthful even when chewing according to Kansas City standards.
Minor also minored in vibraphone. His use of all three instruments as the focal point of his own group in the '50s represented a flowering of talent first noticed in romping pianist Jay McShann's small '30s combos. When the path leads to McShann's door, an early Charlie Parker sighting inevitably doth follow. Even alongside a prodigous talent such as Parker the abilities of this trumpeter attracted the attention of critics. From the Downbeat magazine archive comes this song of praise, immediately following more of the same for no less than a Charlie Parker solo: "As for trumpets, Bob Merrill and Buddy Anderson seem to get the hot work but my tastes prefer the more delicate and well-controlled solo performances of Orville Minor, who also does well on much growl trumpet work. This lad needs only a couple of years to be one of the country's top-notchers, I think. His talent has been underestimated."
This description involving three trumpets signifies that bandleader McShann had expanded his activities to a big band. Minor was additionally involved with the groups of players such as Dee Stewart and Clint Weaver. His discography is simultaneously as accessible as a tan in the summer and frustratingly incomplete. Of course the early McShann material in which Parker was involved helps fill a tote bag full of anthologies, compilations, Kansas City jazz tributes and "historical" abominations (i.e. the Ken Burns project). The fact that Minor's career continued for some 40 years after that does not seem to have gone entirely without recorded evidence--there are discography credits here and there for Minor up through 1984, but nothing involving his own groups has remained in print. In 1999 he received a standing ovation at the an honorary Charlie Parker symposium and monument dedication, but did not survive past the summer of that year.