Roland Stefani was born in San Francisco, California,
in 1925. One of five brothers, he took up the trombone as an
early teenager, and played in junior high and high school bands.
It was there that he met the love of his life, Margaret Marcus,
who played oboe and also led an all-girl band. Mom later became
the jazz vocalist in Pop's quintet, which featured Bay Area jazz
guitar legend, Eddie Duran, and his two brothers. For years they
played all the top hotels and venues in San Francisco.
Pop learned about
jazz by transcribing, using his family's wind-up Victrola. He
was a huge fan of blues and big band music, and began arranging
seriously at 18 years of age, writing for 6-piece, 9-piece, and
full orchestras. Over the years he developed a great reputation
for getting a big sound out of a small ensemble, probably due
largely to the influence of his notable jazz mentors, like Basie,
Ellington, Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, and others.
Despite numerous offers
to go on the road with top band leaders, Pop was a dedicated
family man who raised five sons of his own, so he remained a
local artist. However, he became very popular and well-known,
even outside of the Bay Area. Jazz pianist Earl "Fatha"
Hines would hire him every time he came through town, and Dizzy
Gillespie was one of many famous musicians who were well aware
of this soulful horn player from SF.