Remembering past bandleaders, musicians, arrangers and ballroom operators.
Illinois Jacquet, 81; Innovative Saxophonist
Illinois Jacquet, a tenor saxophonist whose inventive solo on "Flying Home" helped make the song a jazz standard, died Thursday at his home in New York City of an apparent heart attack. He was 81.
Jacquet was also involved in one of the most influential performances in jazz, the first Jazz at the Philharmonic concert, which was produced by promoter Norman Granz in Los Angeles in 1944. A tape of that concert would become the first commercially released live jazz recording.
Among the first to employ the saxophone technique known as honking or screeching, Jacquet came to prominence in a generation of players who used musical showmanship to create crowd-pleasing excitement.
Most comfortable in the big-band format, he played with many of the giants of music in his seven-decade career and recorded more than 300 original compositions, including three of his biggest hits, "Black Velvet," "Robbins' Nest" and "Port of Rico."
He first came to fame as a 19-year-old playing with vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, who had just started his own big band. Nat King Cole, a friend of Jacquet who was known at the time only as a jazz pianist, had recommended Jacquet to Hampton in 1940.
Hampton agreed to take Jacquet if he switched to tenor saxophone from the alto saxophone, which he had been playing since his days growing up in Houston. The reason was simple: The band already had an alto player. In need of a job, Jacquet agreed.
A year later, Hampton took Jacquet into a recording studio. While playing "Flying Home," Jacquet launched into an 80-second solo -- a single note in syncopation, repeated 12 times -- that astonished jazz fans.
"It was raw, lascivious, embodying the worst fears parents had about jazz," Jeff McCord wrote in Texas Monthly magazine in November 2002.
In his book "Rhythm-a-ning," critic Gary Giddins wrote: "Jazz was now finally as erotic and vulgar as the women's magazine Ladies Home Journal had always warned, and the crowds that came to hear Jacquet with Hampton ... expected nothing less than a shot to the glands."
Jacquet never expected there to be such a demand for his solo night after night while performing with Hampton. He found it overwhelming and exhausting, and he left the band in 1943.
"Sometimes you have to quit to save your life," Jacquet told McCord. "I looked in the mirror and said, 'You're dying and [Hampton is] is getting rich.' "
After leaving the Hampton orchestra, Jacquet played for a time with Cab Calloway's and Count Basie's bands.
Between stints with those great bandleaders, however, Jacquet returned to Los Angeles, where he appeared alongside saxophonist Lester Young, trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison and guitarist Barney Kessel in the Academy Award-nominated short film by noted photographer Gjon Mili, "Jammin' the Blues" (1944).
And he became a featured member of Granz's groundbreaking Jazz at the Philharmonic groups. Performing during a time when segregated seating was the norm, the groups would play only to audiences in which all races were seated together.
Jacquet was among the headliners at the first Jazz at the Philharmonic concert at Philharmonic Hall in Los Angeles on July 2, 1944. The event was a fundraiser for the Latino youths wrongly convicted in the notorious Sleepy Lagoon murder case.
A tape of that concert, which included performances by Cole, Benny Carter, Les Paul and Jacquet -- whose 2 1/2-minute solo on "Blues (Part Two)" was considered a highlight of the night -- is acknowledged as the first commercially released live jazz recording.
The saxophonist was born Jean-Baptiste Illinois Jacquet in Broussard, La., the son of a French-Creole father and a Sioux mother. He once told Associated Press that he was named Illinois because one of the nurses was a native of that state and thought one of his names should be American Indian.
His family moved to Houston when he was a toddler, and he performed at the age of 3 as a tap dancer with his father's band.
He learned to play the drums at an early age but switched to the alto saxophone in high school and soon was playing with a leading local band.
He left Houston in his late teens and moved to Los Angeles.
Jacquet led his own bands on a number of occasions throughout his career and also took up the bassoon. His post-'50s playing showed a range of styles, and he became known as an exceptional ballad interpreter.
He performed at the White House for Presidents Carter and Reagan and in 1993 played "C Jam Blues" there with amateur saxophonist President Clinton.
Jacquet's last engagement was July 16, when he led his band at Lincoln Center in New York City.
[Source: Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California), dated July 24, 2004]
Bandleader Harry James dead at 67
By Robert Macy
The Associated Press
Las Vegas, Nev. - Bandleader Harry James, one of the last great talents to emerge from the big band era of the 1930s and 1940s, died early Tuesday in Valley Hospital, a family spokesman said. He was 67.
Sal Monte, a family friend and brother of James' manager, Frank Monte, said the bandleader, once also known as the "world's greatest trumpeter," had suffered from lymph gland and lung cancer since April.
Despite the illness, James had continued to travel with his band, playing in Denver June 10-11 and at a performance in Los Angeles June 26.
James' two sons and two daughters came to Las Vegas over the weekend to be with their father. He had entered the hospital Friday.
James, who toured several months a year with his band, was a resident of Las Vegas.
One of his four marriages was to pin-up star Betty Grable, who died July 2, 1973, of cancer. The famous couple had two daughters prior to their divorce.
James got his start with another big band star, Benny Goodman, and later launched careers for stars such as Frank Sinatra and Kitty Kallen.
In an Associated Press interview three years ago, James talked of old times and his revival of the sound to which other generations swayed.
"To me, there are no old times - there's only today," said James. "I don't like to talk about what we used to do, I like to talk about what we're going to do."
At the time of the 1980 interview he was touring the country with his band, presenting a musical revue "The Big Broadcast of 1944."
The program also included disco and rock - which he said surprised many young people.
"They are just in shock, because they figured every time we play their mother or father would have to tell them the name of it," James said. "If I like something I play it - I don't care when it was written."
James had five children from his four marriages. One of them, a minor son, was not at the hospital. Monte said his other four children were at his bedside when he died at 7:30 a.m. CDT.
James had a penchant for horse racing and owned several horses.
He left the Goodman band in 1939 to start his own group. After two lean years his band recorded "You Made Me Love You." It became the staple for the Beaumont, Texas, native.
The group toured the country for years, bringing the big band sound to major metropolitan areas and small towns. They later played Las Vegas lounges when they were a showcase of the nation's top talent.
James moved to Las Vegas, but continued to operate out of Los Angeles.
[Source: Rockford Register Star (Rockford, Illinois), dated July 6, 1983]
Jenney, True E. (Jack)
Ex-Iowa Trombonist Dead in Hollywood
Waterloo, Ia (AP) – True E. (Jack) Jenney, 35, former Iowan, several times selected on All-American dance bands as a trombonist, died in a Hollywood hospital Sunday of peritonitis.
He began his professional music career in Dubuque, Ia., at the age of 13. He was born in Mason City, Ia. His father, John Jenney, lives in Waterloo; his mother, Mrs. J.F. Heitter, in Oelwein, Ia.
[Source: Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), dated December 17, 1945]
Henry Jerome - Norwich native, musician dies at 93
Big band leader lived generously and humbly, friends say
Henry Jerome was the kind of person who would offer garbage workers in upscale Westchester, N.Y., a glass of juice on a hot summer day, or a glass of brandy in the dead of winter.
"He was a humble guy he'd invite the gardener into the house and say, 'Have breakfast with me,' "friend and business manager Dan Castaldi said.
Jerome, 93, who died Feb. 23 in Plantation, Fla., was a Grammy Award-winning big band leader who grew up in Norwich and played with the likes of artist Leonard Garment, later counsel to President Richard Nixon, and Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve.
"First and foremost, he was an absolutely wonderful human being," Castaldi said of Jerome. "He stayed humble throughout all his successes, he was a great listener and he never put anybody down."
Jerome's funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. today at the First Hebrew Society Cemetery in Norwich.
Born Henry Jerome Pasnik on Nov. 12, 1917, in New York, Jerome's family moved to Norwich when he was a baby. As a teenager in the 1930s, he put together an ensemble that performed throughout Eastern Connecticut. Allan Cramer, Jerome's nephew, said Jerome's band was selected by the ocean liner company Cunard to be the house band for travels abroad.
"I don't think many of them had been out of Norwich at all and suddenly these kids are in Hong Kong and Paris," Cramer, of Westport and formerly of Norwich, said.
Leave of absence Castaldi said Jerome was able to persuade the Norwich Free Academy principal at the time to let him and the other 18 or so teens apply for a leave of absence for several months.
"They let him out of school so he could take the band on the road," Castaldi said.
"Throughout the world. They told him, 'You could learn more than you could here in school.' That's how he initially started. As he grew professionally, he traveled around the world."
Jerome studied trumpet, orchestration and composition at The Juilliard School in New York, and changed his stage name, dropping his last name.
According to Castaldi, Jerome spent more than six decades on the music stage and earned a Grammy Award for the 1969 album "Promises, Promises," and four of his 11 "Brazen Brass" albums reached the top 10 worldwide.
Castaldi, who had been taking care of Jerome since 2005, is also in charge of Jerome's business, Henry Jerome Inc., a management/publishing and recording company.
Jerome's music is sold through the company and used by various organizations, such as CBS' "60 Minutes."
"I got a call from CBS, from '60 Minutes,' almost two years ago," Castaldi said.
"They said they were doing a special segment with Alan Greenspan, but all he does is talk about Jerome music."
Castaldi said CBS was interested in pictures of Jerome for the segment, but he offered one better - he put together the CD "Henry Jerome Orchestra 1944-1945: The First Big Band to Ever Play Bebop." The CD is of live air checks Jerome had recorded in New York with the orchestra.
Cramer said he found it odd that the man who would later become the chairman of the Federal Reserve not only played saxophone for his uncle's orchestra, but also was the band's bookkeeper.
"(Jerome) said (Greenspan) was a better bookkeeper than musician," Cramer said with a laugh.
[Source: Norwich Bulletin (Norwich, Connecticut), dated April 6, 2011]
Johnson, Johnny (Manford Warren)
A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20, 1998, in Calvary Lutheran Church in Warren for Manford Warren Johnny Johnson, who died Oct. 14 at age 69.
Mr. Johnson was born July 24, 1929, in Pierpont, S.D. He moved to St. Helens in 1942. He was an assistant manager for various Safeway stores in Oregon and then opened a Shell service station on U.S. 26 in Manning. He worked for Marx Bakery before becoming an environmental laboratory technician for Crown Zellerbach, which became Boise Cascade, retiring in 1990 after 31 years. He lived in McMinnville from 1987 until moving to Warren in July.
Mr. Johnson was a tuba player, and his groups included the Eva Lyons Band, the Monte Ballou Castle Jazz Band, The Goodsounds and Dr. Jons Jazz Band, with whom he was invited to three Sacramento Dixieland Jubilees and to the Kobe, Japan, Dixieland Festival in 1986. He played at the Mt. Angel Octoberfest for 12 years with the Tyrolean Village Band and with Country Dutchman. He was a member of The Goodsounds from Albany from 1978 to 1987 and afterward of Capitol City Jazz Band of Salem, with whom he played the Worlds Fair in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1986. He also had been a guest performer with Turk Murphy and Mickey Finn.
He married Mary Lewis in 1960.
Survivors include his wife; sons, Mike W. of Portland, Allen O. of South Africa and John J. of Beaverton; daughter, June Brady of Warren; brother, Harold Johnson of Atlanta; sisters, Priscilla Kimball of Milwaukie and Mary A. Stein of Aloha; and 13 grandchildren. A son, Paul, died in 1956. A daughter, Nola, died in 1964.
Interment will be in Bethany Memorial Cemetery in Warren. Arrangements are by Columbia Funeral Home in St. Helens.
[Source: The Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), dated October 20, 1998]
Isham Jones Dies; Wrote 200 Songs
Hollywood, Fla. (AP) – The composer of the oldtime hit songs “It Had To Be You” and “I’ll See You In My Dreams” died Friday. Isham Jones, 63, bandleader and composer of some two hundred other songs, died at his residence. He had been ill of cancer about nine months. Mr. Jones, who moved to Hollywood about a year ago, was one of the top bandleaders in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
[Source: Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), dated October 19, 1956]
Bandleader Spike Jones Dies at 53
Los Angeles, May 1 – (AP) – Bandleader Spike Jones, a madcap musical rebel who found fame and fortune punctuating songs with pistol shots, fire sirens, dog barks and even hiccups, burps and sneezes, died Saturday. He was 53.
The sandy-haired entertainer with a sad, square face succumbed in his sleep at 12:30 a.m. at his Bel-Air home. His vocalist and wife, Helen Grayco, and their daughter Leslie, 13, were at his side.
A spokesman said he died of emphysema, a respiratory affliction.
A professional music mangler who called himself the dandruff in long-hair music, he suffered from asthma and respiratory ills. He was released three weeks ago after treatment at nearby Santa Monica Hospital for an attack suffered during an engagement at Lake Tahoe.
The band’s instruments included washboards, auto horns, cowbells, kitchen utensils, anvils, small cannon, bird calls, dog barks. Burps and raspberries sounded also from an aggregation that included an apparently two-headed drummer.
Rosary will be recited at 8:30 p.m. Monday in St. Victor’s Roman Catholic Church, West Hollywood. Requiem mass will be celebrated there at 10 a.m. Tuesday, with burial in Holy Cross Cemetery, Los Angeles.
[Source: Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), dated May 2, 1965]
Band Leader Dick Jurgens, 85; Toured, Had Several Hit Songs
Dick Jurgens, a composer and orchestra leader considered one of the greats of the big band era, died of cancer Thursday evening in Sutter General Hospital in Sacramento. He was 85.
A native Sacramentan who became an internationally known musician, Mr. Jurgens and his band played in the White House and in virtually every state.
Mr. Jurgens got his start as a trumpet player in the basement ballroom of the Travelers Hotel in Sacramento. He later played regularly at the Senator Hotel.
At one time during World War II, he had three tunes simultaneously on the "Lucky Strike Hit Parade." He was a co-writer of "Elmer's Tune," "One Dozen Roses" and "Careless," each of which he played and plugged into hit status.
"People got a lot of joy from his music," longtime friend H.L. McMillen recalled Thursday night. "It was pleasant, happy-sounding music . . . full-bodied music that was very harmonious."
"One Dozen Roses" was dedicated to his brother-in-law, the late Bert Geisreiter, a florist and former Sacramento mayor.
His theme song, which he wrote in place of taking an exam for a music course at what was then Sacramento Junior College, was "Daydreams Come True at Night."
He came from a family that stressed the importance of music.
Mr. Jurgens' father, Dietrich Heinrich Jurgens, operated a grocery at 10th and J streets during World War I and the 1920s. At the urging of their parents, Mr. Jurgens, his brother and two sisters all learned to play musical instruments.
Mr. Jurgens was a professional musician by the time he reached 14 in the mid-1920s. In addition to playing at the Senator Hotel, he played for summer dances at Donner Lake Resort.
From 1925 until 1930, he played at a variety of Lake Tahoe locations, including Meeks Bay, Moana Villa (next to Chamber's Lodge), Globin's Al Tahoe and Bal Bijou.
During the 1930s and 1940s, the 15-member Dick Jurgens Orchestra performed on nationwide radio broadcasts from the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago.
The band also performed at the Palladium in Hollywood, Avalon Casino on Catalina Island, Claremont Hotel in Berkeley and Statler Hotel in New York City.
At the time of his death, Mr. Jurgens still had three tapes and at least one compact disc being sold at retail music outlets, McMillen said.
Mr. Jurgens recorded more than 250 selections on 78 rpm records, 80 selections on long-playing albums and tapes, and wrote or collaborated on at least 12 songs, McMillen said.
During World War II, Mr. Jurgens served in the Marines, organizing and leading a band that performed on Pacific islands.
"After each island was taken, he would follow in behind with entertainment for the boys," McMillen said.
His marriage to the former Marian Davidson ended in divorce.
Survivors include a son, Dick Jurgens III, who lives on the island of Oahu in Hawaii; a daughter, Lisa Jurgens of Desert Hot Springs; and a sister, Elsa Geisreiter of Sacramento.
A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at Culjis Miller Skelton & Herberger, 1525 Alhambra Blvd.
[Source: Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, California), dated October 6, 1995]
Dick Jurgens, a composer and orchestra leader considered one of the greats of the big band era, has died of cancer.
Mr. Jurgens, who died Thursday at Sutter General Hospital in Sacramento, was 85.
Mr. Jurgens was a professional musician at age 14. He got his start as a trumpet player in the basement ballroom of the Travelers Hotel in Sacramento.
The Sacramento native grew to be an internationally known musician, whose band played in the White House and in virtually every state.
During World War II, he had three tunes simultaneously on the "Lucky Strike Hit Parade." He was a co-writer of "Elmer's Tune," "One Dozen Roses" and "Careless."
Mr. Jurgens served in the Marines during World War II, organizing and leading a band that performed in the Pacific islands.
"After each island was taken, he would follow in behind with entertainment for the boys," longtime friend H. L. McMillen recalled Thursday.
[Source: San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California), dated October 7, 1995]
Dick Jurgens; Composer and Big Band Leader
Dick Jurgens, 85, composer and big band leader who co-wrote such 1940s hits as "Elmer's Tune," "One Dozen Roses" and "Careless." In addition to those three tunes, which were all on "The Lucky Strike Hit Parade" at the same time, Jurgens co-wrote "If I Knew Then," "It's a Hundred to One," "A Million Dreams Ago" and his band's theme song, "Day Dreams Come True at Night." A native of Sacramento, Jurgens got his start as a trumpet player in the ballroom of the state capital's Travelers Hotel. He later became a hit with his own band at San Francisco's St. Francis Hotel and probably achieved his greatest fame at Chicago's Aragon Ballroom in the late 1930s. He was a Marine during World War II, organizing and leading a band that performed in the Pacific Islands. On Thursday in Sacramento of cancer.
[Source: Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California), dated October 12, 1995]
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