Three Little Words (Or More)
Recently, I had the pleasure of hearing from Virginia "Ginny" Maxey, who sang with several famous big bands of the 1940s, including Charlie Barnet, Tony Pastor, and Ziggy Elman.
"Yes, I lived in a most exciting musical time," she acknowledged. "The quality of the musicianship was superb. I worked with some of the best."
Ginny reminisced for me about Elman in particular, including his signature song, And the Angels Sing.
"As a young high school student I sat in the front row at the Lyric theatre in Indianapolis, Ind and listened to the Benny Goodman band with Ziggy and Martha [ Tilton ]," she recalled. "I learned And the Angels Sing from watching the shows all day and eating my lunch while waiting through the movies."
Who could have imagined that one day, Ginny would be on stage, doing that very song?
"Years later after getting my experience with the local bands in Indianapolis, I had the distinct pleasure of singing with Ziggy," she confirmed. "Unfortunately it was the last big band he had except for some local gigs in L.A. I did those with him as well. I also recorded And the
Angels Sing and others with the band."
Besides the three name bands mentioned above, Ginny also worked with The Pied Pipers, Mel Torme and the Mel-Tones, and, a few times, filled in for Paula Kelly with The Modernaires.
"I worked with them on the Bob Crosby radio show and subbed for Paula a couple of times on the TV show," she explained. "I also recorded with them."
In 1953, Ginny married composer Matt Dennis.
"After a couple of kids later, Matt and I worked together until retirement," she reported.
Of Dennis' songs, I think that Love Turns Winter to Spring, written in 1940, is especially beautiful.
"Matt wrote some good songs and Love Turns Winter to Spring was, and still is, a money maker," she responded. "The biggest song for him is Angel Eyes, and of course, all the T.D. era songs."
Those included Everything Happens to Me, Let's Get Away From It All, Violets for Your Furs, and The Night We Called It a Day, each with Tom Adair's lyrics, and recorded by Tommy Dorsey's band on Victor, featuring Frank Sinatra.
"Sinatra didn't hurt," Ginny quipped.
Dorsey also recorded two other notable Dennis tunes, Will You Still Be Mine?, sung by Connie Haines, and Little Man with a Candy Cigar, an early Jo Stafford solo.
Dennis passed away in 2002.
"We were married for 49 years. I miss him terribly, he was a very sweet man and loved by many," she said.
In later years, Ginny and her husband ran into Elman every now and then.
"Needless to say he was a great trumpet player and a good friend as well," she observed.
"He would come to the clubs Matt and I worked and sit and chat with us for the evening. I was a friend of Ziggy and Ruby's, better known as 'Mama' to Ziggy. Matter of fact I called her 'Mama.'"
I was proud to learn that Ginny read my biographical sketch about Elman.
"I didn't know of Ziggy's financial problems and it depresses me that he had to go through that," she told me. "His drinking was the biggest problem, and when he came in to see us work, he would have a drink and I'd chide him about the booze and he'd say the bartender just floated some on the top. I knew he was trying not to drink, but I'm sorry to say the booze won."
Elman died in 1968.
"We stayed friends until he died," Ginny pointed out.
And one thing has stuck in her mind ever since.
"Have to tell you a quick story," she offered. "One day I told Matt we had to call Ziggy and find out how he was doing. It wasn't a day later that we got a call from a friend of his saying he'd tried to reach us, but had passed away before he had a chance. I've always wondered why he
[ Ziggy ] wanted to reach us."
Happy Birthday to You
Terry Gibbs, vibraphone (Rich '48; Herman '48-'49; T. Dorsey '50; Goodman '50-'52),
b. October 13, 1924
Betty Bennett, vocalist (Thornhill '46; Rey '47-'48; Ventura '49, Herman '50; Barnet '52),
b. October 23, 1921
Neal Hefti, bandleader ('51-'60s?) - trumpeter (Barnet '42 / '47 / '48 / '50; Herman '44-'45;
Ventura '46; James '48-'49) - arranger / composer (Basie '50-'60), b. October 29, 1922
And Congratulations Are in Order
Frank Wess, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and Dan Morgenstern are among the latest people to be given the nation's highest jazz honor, being named among the National Endowment for the Arts' "Jazz Masters."
Wess played saxophone with the orchestras of Billy Eckstine in 1944-45 and Lucky Millinder in 1948, but once he joined Count Basie's band in 1953 -- also arranging, composing and playing flute -- his talents became widely admired. He remained with Basie until 1964.
Akiyoshi, who emigrated from Japan in 1956 and founded the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra, featuring herself on piano, was cited for her efforts in helping to "remake the
big-band tradition for contemporary audiences, with a vibrant new sound and new international influences."
Morgenstern, an acclaimed jazz historian and author, was selected in the jazz advocacy category. He has written about many musicians, including, for example, Bunny Berigan, Bobby Hackett, Jimmie Lunceford, and Paul Whiteman.
The honors were announced during a concert held October 7th in Washington, D.C., as part of a five-day "Duke Ellington Jazz Festival." The new "Jazz Masters" will officially receive their awards, which include a $25,000 fellowship, at a ceremony January 12, 2007 in New York City, during the annual conference of the International Association for Jazz Education.
Irv Manning, 88, bassist (Goodman '56-'57; Armstrong '61-'62), Oct. 8, 2006
Al Goodling, 68, clarinetist - saxophonist (Miller Orch. '68-'77), Oct. 20, 2006
Where's the Bunny Berigan Book?
"At the moment, it's sitting on my computer," jazz aficionado Perry Huntoon, a former President of the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors (IAJRC), told me.
He's one of several people who have been helping to see Bozy White's lifelong project through to publication, since White was murdered in 2004.
"I have the latest updates," Huntoon noted.
A publisher has not been determined; he said it will not be published by the IAJRC, but suggested that Scarecrow Press is a possibility.
Huntoon hopes that Bozy's work, once announced as 1500 pages in 2 volumes, will at last be available around spring 2007.
Time for "T"? Not Yet!
Collectors have also been waiting for the release of Joe Showler's biographical work about Jack Teagarden; it had been hoped that the book would be ready for publication in 2006, but that now seems unlikely, due to money problems in Joe's personal life.
"I don't mind you telling anybody that my financial position has halted my work on finalizing the book - that's the truth and that's the problem," he responded to me this month. "Maybe some real rich jazz fan will come forward with some help!"
A sample of Joe's 900 pages of research, which he prepared as 28 chapters, is presently in the hands of a potential publisher, but nothing has been decided at this time. (Some editing may be necessary.)
Kenton Kalendars Are Cool
The limited-edition 2007 "Kenton Kalendar," prepared by Stan Kenton expert Steven Harris, is now available. It has 25 rare photos of Kenton and his bands (most published for the first time anywhere), and is loaded with facts, including hundreds of historical dates and bits of background information about various star soloists and musicians who played with the bandleader from the 1940s to the '70s. For more information, contact Harris by e-mail via
A Landmark, the Steel Pier, Fades Into History
It began in 1898 as a resort spot for Quakers, but soon afterwards opened to the public and became one of the most popular entertainment attractions on the East coast. In fact, during the glory days, including when big bands reguarly performed there, it was called the "showplace of the Nation." But those glory days are long gone, so this month, the famed Steel Pier in Atlantic City, NJ will close. The property is owned by billionaire Donald Trump, who reportedly plans to build a "shopping, gaming, and condo complex" on the site.
Where to See Big Bands Now
Count Basie Orchestra directed by Bill Hughes: Oct. 7, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts,
Columbus, GA; Oct. 12, Michigan State University, Lansing, MI
Les Brown's Band of Renown directed by Les Brown, Jr.: Oct. 2-5 / 7 / 9-12 / 14 / 16-19 /
21 / 23-26 / 28 / 30-31, Mickey Gilley Theatre, Branson, MO
Cab Calloway Orchestra directed by C. Calloway Brooks: Oct. 13, Reinhardt College,
Tommy Dorsey Orchestra directed by Buddy Morrow: Oct. 10, University of the
Cumberlands, Williamsburg, KY; Oct. 12, Ford Community & Performing Arts Center,
Jan Garber Orchestra directed by Howard Schneider: Oct. 8, Medina Entertainment Center,
Harry James Orchestra directed by Fred Radke: Oct. 13, Fulton Education Center,
Gene Krupa Orchestra directed by Michael Berkowitz: Oct. 7, Eichelberger Performing
Arts Center, Hanover, PA [ with vocalist Rob Zappula ]
Glenn Miller Orchestra directed by Larry O'Brien: Oct. 1, Hemmens Cultural Center, Elgin,
IL; Oct. 3, Civic Center, Benton, IL; Oct. 5, Bluffton University, Bluffton, OH; Oct. 6, private,
Waterford, MI; Oct. 7, Civic Auditorium, Tecumseh, MI; Oct. 8, Warner Theater, Erie, PA;
Oct. 9, private, Canton, OH; Oct. 11, Skate World, Kettering, OH; Oct. 13, Chase Park
Plaza Hotel, St. Louis, MO; Oct. 14, Three Rivers Community College, Poplar Bluff, MO;
Oct. 15, Woodland Hills Ballroom, Memphis, TN; Oct. 16, Homewood High School,
Homewood, AL; Oct. 17, Martin Theatre, Panama City, FL; Oct. 18, Florida Community
College, Jacksonville, FL; Oct. 20, Louisburg College, Louisburg, NC; Oct. 22, Renfro
Valley Entertainment Center, Refro Valley, KY; Oct. 24, Upper Darby Performing Arts
Center, Drexel Hill, PA; Oct. 25, Auletto's Catering, Woodbury, NJ; Oct. 26, Penn's Peak,
Jim Thorpe, PA; Oct. 28, Sandhills Community College, Pinehurst, NC; Oct. 29, Broyhill
Civic Center, Lenoir, NC; Oct. 30, Newberry Opera House, Newberry, SC
Russ Morgan Orchestra directed by Jack Morgan: Oct. 20, Wichita Country Club, Wichita,
KS; Oct. 21, Starlight Ballroom, Wahoo, NE
Doc Severinsen: Oct. 20, "Doc's Big Band Salute to Skitch [ Henderson ]," Carnegie Hall,
New York City [ with singer Lynn Roberts, drummer Ed Shaughnessy, The New York
Four Days At Four Points
The Los Angeles Jazz Institute sponsored "One O'Clock Jump," a four-day celebration of Count Basie's music, October 5th through the 8th at the Four Points Sheraton LAX. The festival brought together an impressive array of concerts and panel discussions featuring a number of Basie alumni, including (the aforementioned) Frank Wess, Frank Foster, Clark Terry, Johnny Mandel, John Clayton, Joe Wilder, and Snooky Young.
New Compact Discs - Select List
Count Basie Orchestra: "Ray Sings, Basie Swings," Concord 30026 [ a mid-'70s Ray Charles concert
combined with newly-recorded backing from The Basie Orchestra directed by Bill Hughes ]
Buddy DeFranco: "Wailers," Definitive ( Sp ) 11253
Jimmy Dorsey: "The Champ," Sounds of Yesteryear ( UK ) DSOY719
Duke Ellington: "Blue Light / Hi-Fi Ellington Uptown," Collectables COL-CD-7843
[ = Columbia LPs CL 663 and CL 830 ] ; "The Capitol Sessions," Definitive ( Sp ) 11361 [ 4-CD set ]
Bobby Hackett: "Complete Live At the Voyager Room," Lonehill Jazz ( Sp ) LHJ10271;
"Last Encounter: Hollywood Bowl," Rare Live Recordings 88628 [ 1963 ]
Coleman Hawkins: "Saxes, Inc.," Lonehill Jazz ( Sp ) LHJ10270
Woody Herman: "Ebony Concerto," Sounds of Yesteryear ( UK ) DSOY718 [ 1946 broadcasts ]
Lionel Hampton: "In Paris," Collectables COL 0839
Ted Lewis: "A Jazz Holiday," Sounds of Yesteryear ( UK ) DSOY 720
Mills' Blue Rhythm Band: "Harlem Heat," ASV Living Era ( UK ) CD AJA 5634
Vaughn Monroe: "The Main Event," Jasmine ( UK ) JASCD 444 [ 2-CD set of 57 songs, incl. several
lesser-known recordings from the 1950s ]
Teddy Powell: "Time Out for Teddy," Joyce 1025
Boyd Raeburn: "Out of This World," Audiophonic 60612 [ 2-CD set of 1945-46 performances ]
Buddy Rich: "Rich In London," Mosaic Select MCD-1009 [ = 1972 LP RCA Victor LSP-4666 +
4 additional tracks previously released on RCA ( UK ) DPS-2031 "Very Alive At Ronnie's Scott's" ]
Not An Average Guy
The controversy over The Guy Lombardo Music Centre in London, Ontario, Canada continues. A volunteer at the Centre, Doug Flood, has complained that the city isn't doing enough to honor Lombardo. For one thing, the Centre isn't shown on the city's tourist map. Flood says that the city should have allowed a proposed non-profit group to take over the museum's operation, making it eligible for grants. And when Lombardo was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto last year, he says no one from the London city council attended. So Flood has threatened to pull out all of the material he's loaned to the Centre in January, if things don't change.
Lombardo died in 1977, but he and his Royal Canadians orchestra remain Canada's biggest-selling recording artists.
In Print and / or On the Internet
Borgman, George A. "Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra," Mississippi Rag,
Oct. 2006, pp.1-6 and 8-10.
Buffington, Jim. "Talking with Trigger Alpert," Miller Notes, Oct. 2006, p.1+.
Friedwald, Will. "Stepping Out of Sinatra's Shadow," New York Sun / nysun.com,
Oct. 2, 2006. [ about Dick Haymes ]
Rasmussen, Frederick N. "Ethel Ennis," Baltimore [ MD ] Sun / baltimoresun.com,
Oct. 21, 2006. [ Ennis, who went overseas with Benny Goodman's band in May 1958, is now 74 ]
Varga, George. "Jazz Icons DVD set a treasure trove of classic concerts," San Diego
[ CA ] Tribune / signonsandiego.com, Oct. 22, 2006.
Those Fabulous Dorseys
Jazz historian - writer John R. Tumpak will be "Remembering Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey"
on October 21st at the Brand Library & Art Center in Glendale, CA. He will talk about them
and play recorded audio and video examples of their respective bands.
According to publicity, "The complex and often contentious relationship between the two brothers will be addressed in depth. Come to relive the music and personal lives of two of the most popular bandleaders of the Big Band Era, a time when driving, fifteen-piece swing bands dominated American entertainment."
It was pleasant to learn that a tribute to the late bandleader - vocalist Skinnay Ennis was to be given during the "Somewhere in Time" program which aired October 1st on radio station WMUZ-FM 103.5 in Detroit. Unfortunately, a Detroit Free Press writer mistakenly called him "Skinnay Ellis" in the newspaper.
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