bhumibol adulyadej performing with the preservation hall jazz band

On this Day:

May 5, 1950 Bhumibol Adulyadej was crowned King Rama IX of Thailand in the Royal Palace in Bangkok, Thailand.


Bhumibol Adulyadej (5 December 1927 – 13 October 2016), conferred with the title King Bhumibol the Great in 1987 (officially conferred by King Vajiralongkorn in 2019), was the ninth monarch of Thailand from the Chakri dynasty, titled Rama IX. Reigning since 9 June 1946, he was the world’s longest-reigning current head of state from the death of Emperor Hirohito of Japan in 1989 until his own death in 2016. He is the second-longest reigning monarch for which exact dates are known, reigning for 70 years and 126 days. During his reign, he was served by a total of 30 prime ministers beginning with Pridi Banomyong and ending with Prayut       Chan-o-cha.

Bhumibol’s fortune – including property and investments managed by the Crown Property Bureau, a body that is neither private nor government-owned (assets managed by the Bureau were owned by the crown as an institution, not by the monarch as an individual), was US$30 billion in 2010 as estimated by Forbes. He  headed the magazine’s list of the “World’s Richest Royals” from 2008 to 2013. In May 2014, Bhumibol’s wealth was again listed as US$30 billion.

After a period of deteriorating health which left him hospitalized on several occasions, Bhumibol died on 13 October 2016 in Siriraj Hospital. He was highly revered by the people in Thailand. Some saw him as close to divine. Notable political activists and Thai citizens who criticized the king or the institution of monarchy were often forced into exile or suffered frequent imprisonments. Yet many cases were dropped before being proceeded or were eventually given royal pardon. His son, Maha Vajiralongkorn, succeeded him as King.


Bhumibol was an accomplished jazz saxophone player and composer, playing Dixieland and New Orleans jazz. He also was highly proficient at the clarinet, trumpet, guitar, and piano. It is widely believed that his father, Mahidol Adulyadej, may have inspired his passion for artistic pursuits at an early age.  Bhumibol  focused on classical music exclusively for the first two years but eventually switched to jazz since it allowed him to improvise more freely. It was during this time that he decided to specialize in wind instruments, especially the saxophone and clarinet. By the time Bhumibol turned 18, he started to compose his own music, with the first being Candlelight Blues. He continued to compose even during his reign, following his coronation in 1946. Bhumibol performed with Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Benny Goodman, Stan Getz, Lionel Hampton, and Benny Carter. Throughout his life, Bhumibol wrote a total of 49 compositions. Much of it is jazz swing but he also composed marches, waltzes, and Thai patriotic songs. His most popular compositions were Candlelight Blues, Love at Sundown, and Falling Rain which were all composed in 1946. Bhumibol’s musical influences included Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Benny Carter, and Johnny Hodges. The Bhumibol Adulyadej (King of Thailand) Collection, 1946–1954 at the Library of Congress Music Division includes some of his compositions, including 13 music manuscripts, 100 pieces of printed music, clippings, correspondence, and other miscellaneous documents.

Bhumibol initially received general music training privately while he was studying in Switzerland. His older brother, King Ananda would later join him playing the clarinet. On Bhumibol’s permanent return to Thailand in 1950, he started a jazz band, Lay Kram, whom he performed with on a radio station he started at his palace. The band grew, being renamed the Au Sau Wan Suk Band, and he would perform with them live on Friday evenings.

Bhumibol also performed with his band at Thai universities, composing anthems for the universities of Chulalongkorn, Thammasat, and Kasetsart. Bhumibol performed with Benny Goodman at the Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall, in 1956, and later played at Goodman’s home in New York in 1960. Many bands such as Les Brown and His Band of Renown, Claude Bolling Big Band, and Preservation Hall Jazz Band recorded some of Bhumibol’s compositions and can still be heard in Thailand. A 1996 documentary, Gitarajan, was made about Bhumibol’s music.

Bhumibol still played music with his Au Sau Wan Suk Band in later years, but was rarely heard in public. In 1964, Bhumibol became the 23rd person to receive the Certificate of Bestowal of Honorary Membership on behalf of Vienna’s University of Music and Performing Arts. In 2000, he was awarded the Sanford Medal for his contribution in music from Yale School of Music. He was the first Asian in both cases to be honoured as such. In 2003, the University of North Texas College of Music awarded him an honorary doctorate in music. Bhumibol’s influence is widely regarded as one reason why Thailand, and Bangkok in particular, has for decades had a strong jazz and improvised music “scene” relative to other Asian nations (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

What does the King of Thailand wear daily in Thailand?

A Suit & Thai, of course…

Second, a Song:

Courtesy of pygmeseahorse and, here is a clip of His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej performing a Solo with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in 1988. We hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“Thailand was built on compassion.” – Bhumibol Adulyadej

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Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2022 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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