The Houston Oral History Project is a repository for the stories, accounts, and memories of those who have chosen to share their experiences. The viewpoints expressed in the Houston Oral History Project do not necessarily represent the viewpoints of the City of Houston, the Houston Public Library or any of its officers, agents, employees, or volunteers. The City of Houston and the Houston Public Library make no warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the interviews and expressly disclaim any liability therefore.
The Houston Oral History Project provides unedited versions of all interviews. Some parents may find material objectionable for minors. Parents are encouraged to interact with their children as they use the Houston Oral History Project Web site to complete research and homework activities.
The Houston Public Library retains the literary and publishing rights of its oral histories. No part of the interviews or transcripts may be published without the written permission of the Houston Oral History Project.
Requests for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to:
The Houston Oral History Project.
Houston Public Library
Houston, Texas 77002
The Houston Oral History Project reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to decline to post any account received herein and specifically disclaims any liability for the failure to post an account or for errors or omissions that may occur in posting accounts to the Virtual Archive.
For more information email the Houston Oral History Project at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interview with: Ed Gerlach
Interviewed by: Louis J. Marchiafava and Charles Stephenson
Date: October 18, 1989
LJM: Today is October 18, 1989. This is Louis Marchiafava along with Charles Stephenson interviewing Mr. Ed Gerlach for the Texas Jazz Heritage Society and Archival Collection. We will begin the interview by getting basic background information. First, let me say I’m very happy to have you here today, and I look forward to interviewing you.
CS: Why don’t we start at the beginning and tell us when you were born and where?
EG: I was born in Livingston, Texas. My mother died when I was born, and I was raised by my grandmother. My entire family were musical, but not professional, musicians. They just loved music. They sang and played the piano. And I guess that’s how I got interested.
CS: Did you have any brothers or sisters?
EG: No, I did not. I was a spoiled only-child and the whole family raised me.
CS: When was your first involvement in music?
EG: Well, I started taking piano when I was five. My aunt who lived next door was a graduate of Boston Conservatory and played beautifully and sang well. And I started out taking piano lessons on her knee, and it just went on. I did not practice. And later on, when I became older, I talked them into letting me stop piano, and my grandmother bought me a soprano saxophone.
CS: Was that her choice or was that something that you wanted?
EG: It was what the local band director thought I should have. We didn’t really have a band director. We had a plumber in Livingston who used to be with the Barnum and Bailey Circus Band, and anything musical on an instrument, in Livingston, we consulted Mr. Rooder. And Mr. Rooder came and told my grandmother, “Start him out on soprano saxophone.”
CS: So that’s how you got into the sax?
EG: That’s right. And she was a very strong lady. And in order to help me, she borrowed an alto saxophone and tried to learn how to play it herself so she could help me with mine.
CS: That’s good . . .
EG: That’s a pretty hip grandmother, don’t you think?
CS: Yes. I think she’s right on the ball. I assume, then, that you went all through school in Livingston.
EG: I did. I graduated from high school in Livingston. We eventually did have a band director during my junior and senior year[s]. And mother . . . . Somebody talked them into buying me a tenor saxophone, and my grandmother would have me driven to Houston in the family car for a saxophone lesson with Cliff Drescher here in Houston, who was the saxophone teacher in Texas.
LJM: Can you tell me something about your early training? You said you were introduced to the instrument when you were five. Was it a very formalized education from the beginning?
EG: No. It was piano mostly until I was in junior high. And I seemed to play rather well by ear, and I would end up listening to my aunt play things, and then, without reading the music, try to copy them. And this was my big problem because I could sit there and pick out almost anything I wanted, and especially popular things, and this annoyed her very much because she wanted me to stay on the classics.
LJM: How many hours a day did you practice.
EG: They had a hard time getting me to practice thirty minutes a day. And I was even supposed to keep a report. And I fudged.
CS: Did that change when you switched over to saxophone?
EG: Yes. Not as much as I wish it had. Dr. Dresher immediately put me on Flight of the Bumblebee and In Charge of the Hussers. I’ll never forget that. He, too, said, “If you don’t practice thirty minutes every day, don’t come for your lesson next week!” So, I tried, and some days did practice more than that, but usually I was trying to pick out jazz tunes that I had heard Chu Berry play with the Cab Calloway band.
CS: But the point is, you were playing the instrument.
EG: Yes. I was. I was blowing the horn, so to speak, much to the chagrin of my neighbors in Livingston.
LJM: The background of your family in music, did it lean more toward classical music?
EG: Church music and classical. There was a Gerlach playing for every religious service in the Presbyterian Church, probably, for forty years. Yet none of them are professionals. Nobody played any jazz, or so-called “popular” music in those days other than a first cousin who played really, really well, good popular music.
CS: What was your first experience with jazz as a listener? How far back does that go?
EG: There used to be a second-hand record place down in an old store at home. They sold records for a penny apiece. Second-hand records. I found some Basie records, some Billy Holiday records, some Jelly Roll Morton records, some “Pinetop” whatever-his-name-was [Smith] that was the original so-called boogie player. And I like the sounds I heard. Bessie Smith. They had a bunch of things. They didn’t know that had collectors’ items. In those days they weren’t collectors’ items at all, just records. And I would buy them and go up home and listen. And I remember I bought a couple of Cab Calloway records because I like the way he sang. I like the way he sang Minnie the Moocher and St. James Infirmary. And there was a guy name Chu Berry who was one of the great jazz tenor players of all time, and I loved his sound. It was just something there, and I tried to copy that sound.
CS: Do you still have some of those records?
EG: No. I wish I did. They were, of course, 78’s, and on Vocalion and Decca, a bunch of old labels.
EG: You bet!
CS: Then you went to Texas A & M?
EG: I went to A&M first, majoring in architecture and knowing very well that I’d rather be doing something in music. But at that time of my life, in those years, a person from an old family that were imbedded in raising cotton and banking and running an oil business, you just, as the son, did not dream of being a musician. You just didn’t make money playing music. You went into the family business. Well, I like to sketch and design things and so forth, so I thought I would enjoy architecture. So I got into architecture for a couple of years and ended up realizing that I was not going to do anything other than play music.
CS: Is that when you transferred to Sam Houston [State Teachers’ College]?
EG: yes. I was offered a scholarship at Sam Houston. And I think it frankly inflated my ego because I had never had anybody offer me any help financially other than my family who were fairly well-off. And I could go to Dad and say, “Look, they’ve offered me a scholarship. Now let me major in music.” And I will never forget his answer, and he told me, “Son, you can go to anywhere in the world to the school that you want to go to as long as you do something, but you’ve got to do something.” I had made bad grades at A&M, especially in math and anything that involved math. My grandmother, one year, when I had to go to summer school in order to get back in school, brought the maid and moved a whole apartment full of furniture and rented an apartment for the summer up to College Station so I would stay there and study and she could make me pas my courses.
CS: But after you went to Huntsville, then, there was no problem?
EG: When I went to Huntsville, I got a break. The young fellow that was running the college dance band got a job and had to leave school because he was in financial trouble. The Head of the Music Department, Mr. C. B. Hackney, turned the college dance band over to me. This gave me some encouragement. I had left A&M really with my rail between my legs and really guilty about not making my grades. And so it gave me a chance to show my family that maybe I could do something.
CS: You were leading the band as a student?
EG: Yes. It was the stage band, the dance band, but he turned it over to me. There was a marching band which we all had to participate in. But then we had the dance band that played all the college dances.
CS: Did the college furnish the arrangements?
EG: Yes. They were the kinds you’d go down to Parker Music Company and buy for seventy-five cents. So after the first year I bought some arrangements from the guitar player with Milton Larkin’s band who is now the famous Wild Bill Davis now, the organist that Count Basie built the arrangement of April in Paris around. Bill wrote seven arrangements for me for seven dollars and fifty cents apiece.
LJM: What year was this?
EG: This was probably 1938 or 1939.
CS: Then how did you get from there to the Air Force?
EG: Well, the band started doing real well, playing all over the State of Texas. The college band . . . . We broke from the college, not with any ill feelings, but we just became an independent organization, a college dance band that we booked ourselves and furnished our own equipment and so forth.
CS: What was your name?
EG: The Ed Gerlach Orchestra. It was first The Houstonians, and then it became Ed Gerlach and The Houstonians.
LJM: How many members did the band have?
EG: Sixteen. It was almost unheard of then because we had four trumpets and four trombones. Of course, most band were five to eight pieces. But World War II came along, and we were on the road during the Christmas holidays doing thirteen one-nighters during the holidays all over Texas. Mostly A&M clubs. Like, we did the Laredo A&M Club; Beaumont A&M Club; Port Arthur A&M Club; Longview A&M Club. We played from Longview to Laredo during that thirteen days. After that my dad called and said, “You better think about going into the Army or you’re going to get drafted into the infantry, and you certainly won’t be able to play a horn.” He said, “I’ve made arrangements for you to enlist in the Air Force and get in a band at Ellington Field.” So I talked to my band about it, and all of them said, “Well, let us go, too.” So the whole band enlisted with me at Ellington Field, and we were enlisted into the Air Force.
LJM: Did the Air Force keep its word?
EG: Yes. We got in the band; stayed in the band. Stayed at Ellington for two years, and the war got real bad, and we started getting a guilt feeling about it. So I went in to see my first Sergeant. They had had an offer to send a band overseas. . . right into the fighting. The band would entertain and also help as stretcher bearers. So Twenty-six of us volunteered. So they wrote up our orders. We got together; told our families, “Goodbye”; got on the train to go to Charleston and ship out on a hospital boat and they lost our orders: didn’t know where we were going; where we were from. So we sat in Charleston for nine months. Then they shipped us up to the armpit of the world, Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, and we stayed there until the war was over. But we sure had a good band!
CS: But you never got out of the United States?
LJM: The whole band stayed together?
LJM: Tell me something about the two years at Ellington. What was it like? What did you do?
EG: Well, it was wonderful! We had a good concert [and] military marching band combination. Out of that band we had three dance bands. The dance bands played the NCO Club, the Officers’ Club and then, with the big cadet training center there, there was a cadet graduation dance every weekend at the Rice hotel because that’s how many classes of cadets they had. Well, we played those. We would come in on weekends and play at the Rice Hotel and be paid a few dollars for it and [we] got to get off the post. I would check in at the Rice [Hotel] every Saturday at three o’clock in the afternoon and play my job that night, and my girl friend would meet me afterwards, and we’d have a wonderful, wonderful weekend. And then on Sunday afternoons there’d be somewhere to go to jam. There’d be some place in town where I could go play my horn. Many times out at the El Dorado Ballroom where Milton Larkin was playing a tea dance.
CS: Any other places that you can think of where you would jam?
EG: Yes. There was a dime-a-dance hall on Congress and Franklin down here. I think it was on Congress. It was on Franklin, down in back of what the Old Market Square used to be. And there was a five-piece band there, a black band, and I would go there on Sunday nights and take my horn, and they’d let me sit in all night long.
LJM: Tell me about the El Dorado. How did you get connected with that facility?
EG: Well, when I was at Sam Houston, Milton Larkin brought his band which was just an amazing band! As good as the Lunceford band at that time, with Arnett Cobb on tenor and a bunch of great people: Bill Davis, and so forth. They would come to Huntsville to play at the Black Community Center. And we would hear about it. And I got to know Milton and Arnett by going out and listening to the band. So when I got to Ellington Field, I kept it touch with them. [I] had their home phone numbers and [I] used to go out and try to get Arnett to teach me and so forth. But if Arnett picked up a horn, I tried to be there and listen. And I would go out there, and Milton would get us in. We two were the only white people that were allowed in the ballroom. So I would hang out there. And it got so the black community who followed music and bands got to know me. And Jimmy Ford was around the, too. Jim was a little younger. He wasn’t in the service. They would let us in. There were several black promoters, very well-to-do, nice gentlemen that would bring in Duke Ellington or Jimmie Lunceford or Earl Hines or whatever, and they would let us in because we’d just stand and listen all night long without causing any trouble. And it was an education.
LJM: Did you play also?
EG: Yes. Milton would let me sit in. As bad as I played, he would let me sit in on a tune or two out at the El Dorado. There was another place . . . . Don Robie [phonetic] was the big, big promoter there, and he owned a club called “The Bronze Peacock.” Milton would go out there every now and then and play. And they have what they’d call an “after party” and bring all the celebrities that would come into town: the black singers, like Ella Fitzgerald or whoever, Billy Eckstine and this is where everybody would go out for an after-party, beginning at two o’clock and go until four or five in the morning. I would always show up out there to either listen or to beg somebody to let me sit in.
CS: Did you have any problem when you did play with them?
EG: Yes. I didn’t play well. Not good enough for them to let me play, but they let me. They were so kind! I thought I played very badly, but I was trying.
CS: Did anyone give you any tips along the way?
EG: Sure. Lots of them! Arnett helped me a great deal. Getting to listen to him helped me more than anything else as far as playing jazz. And there was a wonderful young man by the name of Cedric Heywood that wrote most of Milton’s library, a piano player. He and Bill Davis wrote the whole library, and it was outstanding! And they helped me in writing because, actually, writing is my first love: orchestration.
LJM: When did you start doing that?
EG: I started writing at Sam Houston. I wrote the theme song for my band, and it was a Glenn Miller-style thing called Junior with the Light Brown Hair. I thought, “Well, that will lay very well with the saxophone like Miller does.” And I did the “da-da-da-da-da” behind it, you know, and I still have that.
CS: You still have the arrangement?
EG: I still have the parts. I sure do! But that’s some of the only music that I seemed to have ended up keeping from ‘way back then.
CS: Why do you think the music disappeared?
EG: In and out of the Army; the college thing; moving into different rooms at college. Mainly that break from college going into the Air Force. Traveling. Not being allowed to take a lot of equipment like that with me. And also loaning it to kids at school who wanted to copy it or borrow it and not having it ever returned.
LJM: Before we leave the Army completely, let me follow up. You went to Virginia from Houston where they lost your orders and you weren’t around. What happened there. What kind of music did you get involved in? What opportunities were available?
EG: In Virginia, they stationed us out in the woods in tarpaper barracks. Well, we didn’t feel we were too good for it; it was just such a comedown from the Air Force. This was a division of the Transportation Corps, and they assigned us there, and all we did was march down to where the train cars would pull up and unload soldiers off the hospital ships that had docked down at the port. These were guys that were coming back to Virginia to be discharged. We marched them from the train to their barracks, and that was our duty, which was boring. But we still had the dance band so that we would rehearse the dance band, and I spent a lot of time writing; learning; trying to write; listening to records. Also we were near New York. I could get a three-day pass and get on the train and be in New York in about six of eight hours and spend a wonderful two-and-a-half days in New York listening to everybody in the world down on 52nd Street. So that period in Virginia we got to play with the band a lot in rehearsal, and I got to listen to a lot of people in New York and got to know New York pretty well and enjoy a lot of time trying to learn to write.
LJM: Are there any particular individuals in New York that stand out in your mind as helpful to you?
EG: Oh, yes! Dizzy Gillespie was a lot at The Three Deuces. Sidney Catlett was next door with Billie Holiday. It was like . . . Anything! Just name it. They were all there. Tad Dameron; Lester Young would show up. Ben Webster would come in with a group. I’d go over on Broadway and go up to the Hurricane Restaurant and listen to Duke Ellington all night [and] get to meet the band. Buys in the band would see a soldier sitting at the table along, “Come up. How are you doing? Let me buy you a drink.” It was wonderful! Billy Eckstein was out on his own then doing the jazz clubs with a combo behind him. Anything you wanted to hear, it was there!
Then another wonderful thing was I could go to the Metropolitan Opera. I sat at Toscanini’s feet one time on the front row and hear the NBC Orchestra on their Saturday afternoon concert over at NBC with “Mr. T.” right there at my feet!
LJM: That’s quite an experience.
EG: For a country boy from Livingston, it was a big thrill for me.
CS: I can see how it would be. He was one of them I never got to see. Did you make a point of making acquaintance with those people in New York when you would go to New York?
EG: I didn’t do it as a grown, mature, ambitious person who wanted to get along in the business. I was scared to death of them. Every now and then, I’d get up enough nerve to walk up and introduce myself. Some they would be kind, like Rex Stewart. Do you remember the old plunger trumpet player with Duke Ellington? Rex was such a friendly, little guy. He would always come over and say, “Hello.” But I would never try to better myself in the business because I didn’t ever dream that I would ever get to work in New York or even be in the same state with any of those great guys. And I wasn’t as far as the players were concerned.
LJM: Beside playing in the Army during this time, were you offered any opportunities to play outside of uniform?
EG: No, because we didn’t dare get out of uniform. When the war was over, we go out . . . . Six or seven weeks later they discharge us. And while it was going on, if you were offered a job where you would need to be in civilian clothes, you wouldn’t dare try to it because you just didn’t want to be caught out of uniform. One time I decided to put some ‘civvies,” as we called them, on. We went to Richmond, Virginia, to hear Woody Herman at the Moss Theater. And that was when it was the glorious band of Davy Tough on drums and Sonny Berman on trumpet and Bill Harris, just the big ones. And we bought a pair of slacks and a sport short in downtown Richmond and went back to our hotel and changed and went to the concert in civilian clothes. And I was paralyzed, I was so afraid. But that was the one time I defied the Army and got out of my uniform.
CS: How did you make connection with Glenn Miller?
EG: Well, I didn’t. I went with Hal McIntyre first. Hal heard me after college when I graduated after the war. I had a jazz group out under Old Galveston highway at the Log Cabin. Hal McIntyre was playing the Metropolitan Theater. That’s when the big bands would come and play in between the movies. The McIntyre Band had made a big, big splash in the business. It was sort of the white Duke Ellington band. It was a very musical band. He and several of his people came out to the Log Cabin and heard my group. And they were very nice, and so forth, and nothing was mentioned. Two weeks later I get a telegram from Hal McIntyre to join his band in New York on the 8th of August. As so, I was, of course, ecstatic about it. And I got on an airplane and flew to New York and checked in a hotel and went to the corner of 48th Street and just off Broadway, and there was a chartered bus, and I got on the band bus with Hal McIntyre and went to play a one-nighter in Pennsylvania! And it was a great thrill for me to play with that band because I had been a big fan of the band because the band was so musical. It wasn’t just a sausage-grinder type dance band. It was a real thought-out, beautiful band. And I got to take the place of a tenor player who I had heard was so good, and I was petrified. I didn’t think I could do it. And probably had a hard time doing it, but it was fun.
CS: Didn’t McIntyre do some arranging for Miller?
EG: No. He was not a writer. He was a lead alto player with Miller. And when he wanted to form a band, Miller backed him. And when we played Post Lodge in Larchmont, New York, we had a CBS air shot every night. And Tex Beneke heard me play on CBS. So he sent his wife and his manager out to meet me. And then he called a week or two later and asked my dad in Livingston where the McIntyre band was; he wanted to reach me. And Dad told him. He called and offered me a job, so I joined the band at Meadowbrook Ballroom, at Frank Dailey’s Meadowbrook. It was then the Glenn Miller Orchestra under the leadership of Tex Beneke.
CS: The Meadowbrook. Is that on Long Island.
EG: The Meadowbrook was in New Jersey on the Pompton Turnpike. You’re thinking about Glen Island Casino. I played there with McIntyre, which was a big thrill for me. We had an NBC shot from there.
CS: Where else did you play with McIntyre that were the top spots?
EG: Well, we played the Capitol Theater on Broadway with Jackie Gleason and Gertrude Niesen, who was then a big Broadway star singer. Jackie was the headliner making about $250 a week as a comedian on Broadway. We played all the major ballrooms. We played the Roosevelt Hotel [and] The Blue Room in New Orleans which was a big kick for me . . .
LJM: What year was this that you played in New Orleans?
EG: It was about 1948. And there were jazz groups at the French Quarter. We lived in the French Quarter. There were little hotels that catered to bands that worked The Blue Room. You could go there . . . . The whole band could take the second floor. It was great for us. In fact, it was a little renovated whorehouse that had been decorated and cleaned up and made into a real nice little residential hotel. But the windows where the ladies used to open the shutters and solicit were still there; the shutters and everything! Well, my mother didn’t like it very much when I told her where I was living.
LJM: Do you remember the name of the place?
EG: The Anchor Inn on Dauphine. It had an anchor and some lights, and there was a place, a bar, across the street with a good little black trio: piano, bass and drum. I would get off in the Blue Room at 2:00 and go down and sit in with this group until 5:00 every night, which was fun for me because I got to play my horn a lot more than I did playing arrangements all night.
LJM: How long did you stay in New Orleans?
EG: Six weeks. I remember how thrilled we were when I found out we were going to play there because it was close to home and some of my friends from Texas could come over to New Orleans to see me, and they did. And also, Mac [McIntyre] was such a nice guy. He loved having somebody from Texas on his band. I think it was because Miller had Tex Beneke, he was glad he had a guy from Texas. And during the broadcasts on CBS and NBC from the Blue Room, Mac would yell my name. We’d be playing something, and every time I would play a little something, Mac would say, “Ed Gerlach.” This tickled my family to death! They would hear my name on the air from New Orleans.
LJM: Did you play solo?
EG: Yes, I did. There was a lot of jazz on the tenor book in Mac’s band, and he featured me a lot. And it was great fun. We had a lot of good arrangements.
CS; Did you go to the west coast?
EG: No. Never with Mac. When I went with Tex Beneke the first thing we did was play some one-nighters on the east coast. I think it might be fun if I told you just a little bit about the first night I was with the band. Tex and his manager picked me up at my hotel in New York, right on the corner there, in his Cadillac convertible. And here was Don Haines, Glenn Miller’s manager, [who] drove me out to the Meadowbrook Ballroom on Pompton Turnpike. I’d never been there, of course. It was like heaven to me because I’d listened to bands from there on the radio all of my life. So, he said, “Eddie, just listen to the band a while, and we’ll have you come up in just a couple of minutes.” The guy whose place I was taking was still there. So, in an hour, Tex’s manager came over and said, “Eddie, they want you to come up and play now. They’re going on the air.” The first note I played in the Glenn Miller Band was on NBC! And you can imagine how scared I was. I was really frightened. And they had some really tough arrangements then that were not the original Miller things but some new things that were very musical, very difficult. And one of the first things I got to play was called Percussion Production featuring Jack Sperling on drums [and] who was with the band at that time. It was about five pages long; had eight thousand notes in it and was in five-four time. That’s the way I opened my position with the Glenn Miller Band. I don’t think I got past page one!
But we went on to Canada and did the Canadian Exposition in Vancouver. Then did one-nighters down the west coast to the Palladium, and we stayed at the Palladium six weeks. And my wife and I had just been married while I was right in the Miller time that I was with the band. We had a week off from the Paramount Theater on Broadway. And I came to Texas, got married, and we went back, went to Canada. And then on to the West Coast. And the six weeks we were there, we also made a picture at Universal called Music in the Miller Mood. It was a “short.” Remember those good twenty-minute shorts? Well, we made one with the band. Billy May wrote the arrangements, and they were just wonderful! And while we were at the Palladium, Tex asked me to write for the band. I had never written for the band. So he asked me to start writing because we were going to do an album at Victor. And he had Billy May and Henry Mancini write an album together. We wrote two arrangements apiece. Six things. Music of Hoagie Carmichael. And that was a great experience for me.
LJM: You left the McIntyre Band?
LJM: Why did you leave his band?
EG: Because Beneke offered me a job with the Miller Band, and at that time the Miller Band was about the only road board that was really still very successful. The big band era was going downhill in a hurry, and Mac was having a terrible time even working. And the money was better. The Prestige of going with the Miller Band meant a great deal for me. And so I took it. I really hated to leave Mac because I had such freedom with the band. I could write what I wanted. I could play what I wanted. But I wanted to be with another band. I had been with Mac for two years.
LJM: What happened to Mac after you left?
EG: He kept doing one-nighters, and on the west coast, while he was playing I’ve forgotten where, he smoked in bed and burned up, very tragically.
LJM: Also to tie up some loose ends in your personal life, you said you got married. How did this come about?
EG: Well, I married my college sweetheart who was a . . . . had a minor in music and a bachelor of science degree from Sam Houston. We met there after the war when I went back to get my degree, only for one semester. We were at the Paramount Theater with Vic Damone and Corinne Calvet and the movie was Rope of Sand introducing Miss Calvet. And our band would come up and do a show with Vic in the pit between movies. We had a week off. We played Atlantic City at the Old Steel Pier and then we were off for one week. So I drove to Houston. And Doris and I were married at First Methodist Church downtown. We spent a very brief honeymoon and drove back to Reading, Pennsylvania, to meet the band and go on to Canada to do the Canadian Exposition. It was great fun to us. We were young. It was a paid honeymoon.
CS: Did she enjoy traveling with you?
EG: She loved it! She was a great trooper, and, believe me, there were some tough times. Like three months of one-day theaters in Northern New York in February [and] around the Great Lakes. I wrecked my car twice sliding down ice because I didn’t know how to drive on ice. I knocked the front end out of my new Buick convertible twice in a week’s time.
LJM: Apparently you all didn’t travel as a group then?
EG: They let the married couples drive their own cars. The band had a chartered bus. But four couples of us had our own cars, and we sort of carpooled together. Doris and I were the new people in the band, and all of the old bluebloods that had been with the band and knew all the ropes told us of the best hotels, the best restaurants, and where not to go and which route to take between this town and that town. And it really helped us.
LJM: You’ve traveled the four corners of the United States. Did you notice any difference in the receptiveness of the audience for certain types of music that was played?
EG: No. I noticed the differences in audiences, but what ever we played anywhere, they seemed to like it. With the Miller band, especially, because that was that “Miller format.” You know: In the Mood; String of Pearls. Of course we got sick of it. But Billy May and Henry Mancini and, luckily, me were bringing in new arrangements all the time. So, at least we had a few new things. Neil Hefty was doing some things for us which were fun. But the audiences were usually very receptive. It’s just that the audiences disappeared! The ballrooms . . . . I had played Lakeside Ballroom with the Glenn Miller Band with twenty-five people in the room. People just quit going out!
LJM: Why do you think that is?
EG: That was the end of the big band era. There was that slump. Everybody was out of the Army trying to build their careers. Television had come along. They could stay home and watch shows. Maybe that’s one reason. But business just got so bad [that] bands were disbanding, cutting salaries. Tommy Dorsey let all the strings go in his band and cut back to the original format. Tex let all the strings go that were with the Miller band. All that time during the war and after the war; cut back to a smaller band. I would hear business being discussed by both McIntyre and Beneke about how bad things were getting. But it got to be unpleasant playing to empty floors. And that’s why I left the band in Denver. It was not inspiration any more. It wasn’t fun because everybody was down. There just weren’t any people. And little by little the old original members of the Miller Band, the really fine players, were, one by one, leaving [and] taking studio jobs in Los Angeles and New York.
LJM: Did you do any recording during the heyday of your ./ . . .
EG: Yes. I recorded on MGM with Hal McIntyre: ten or fifteen records at MGM. Frank Lester was the singer, a fine, fine singer. He sounded like Frank Sinatra. And I recorded a lot of things with Tex at Victor, including an album which was a tribute to Hoagie Carmichael. And then we did a bunch of single records. In fact, when we’d be at The Palladium, we’d go over to Victor after work and maybe cut two to four sides.
LJM: How long would it take to cut a side?
EG; Not long. It would be all according to what we were doing. When we did the album, the Hoagie Carmichael album, it took four or five hours.
CS: Is that when you decided to come back to Texas?
EG: Yes. We were playing Lakeside Ballroom in Denver. Had been there for two weeks. And I gave my notice so that I could leave Denver and just drive right back to Houston. I was just tired of the road, and also the business was not inspiring anymore. To be with a big band on the road was not the fun it used to be.
CS: It was your intention to go on back to New York . . .
EG: It was my intention to come to Houston and visit my family up in East Texas and my friends in Houston [to] see what was going on and get right back to New York and start writing for Hal McIntyre and Tex Beneke and anybody else that would buy my arrangements.
CS: But they were having trouble at the time?
EG: Oh, yes. Mac was having trouble actually making his payroll.
CS: So, that’s when you decided to stay here?
EG: Yes. I came back to Houston, and the University of Houston offered me a job in the Music Department organizing a stage band department and teaching history of American Jazz and also Orchestration. And this appealed to me. I thought, “Well, this will be fun. I can write for the bands. I can organize a stage band out here and keep myself busy in music.
CS: Who was Chairman of the Department at that time?
EG; Dr. Cook, a retired army colonel. He was Fine Arts Chairman of us and the Art Department.
CS: How big was the department when you started out?
EG: Not big. Very small. We started adding string teachers. The band director at the university of Houston then was very active in the department. I taught saxophone and clarinet. It was very small.
CS: But the University did have a complete music program?
EG: No. I don’t think they, at that time, could offer a degree, but they were trying to expand it, as I mentioned, into other courses.
CS: Do you think they were going to use this program to build the department?
EG: Yes. It was good publicity. And a new chairman was brought in. A new music department chairman was brought in after my third year. He was a wonderful man and a very talented man in the vocal department. He was not at all sympathetic with jazz, stage bands and horn players. I became disillusioned because we were not given the support that we were given under Dr. Cook. We’d have to beg for a place to rehearse, beg for new equipment, etc. When Dr. Cook was there, we were a very big part of the Fine Arts Festival every year. One year I wrote a jazz ballet that was produced and dance by the Modern Dance Department. That was all great fun and good. We got very good publicity about it with the department. This new man and I, we got along fine. It was not that we didn’t. It was just that he didn’t care about having a stage band department. So I became disillusioned, and there was so much going for me at that time after being back in Houston in three years, I was excited about other things to do. So I resigned.
CS: Other things? Like what?
EG: Well, my band was going well. People started listening to the stage band and calling me to play dance jobs. So, little by little, I got to organize my own band again. And we were getting real busy playing all the fraternities, all the sororities, all the college dances; Rice [university] dances; Tennessee Gas; Humble; the whole thing.
LJM: What year was this?
EG: This all started in about 1949 and 1950. And then I resigned in about 1953. And at that time I was writing for two bands. I had fifty private students, both in popular piano and saxophone, teaching over at a private studio. I was teaching three courses at the University and jobbing with my band and with two local bands. So I was busy.
CS: I’d like to talk a bit about your history of American jazz. Did you design the course?
EG: Sort of. And I didn’t pretend to be an authority. I did a lot of research. I based a lot of it on the origin of jazz in the cotton fields and with our black people who really started the whole thing, and tried to bring in a little bit of everybody the way I had read about it and heard about it all my life. Mainly, not to give people such an [authoritative], beautifully outlined, idea of what jazz . . . how it started and all that, but at least let them know what jazz is; how it got started; the influence of different races and people and some of the names that really were big at that time.
CS: Did you ever get into an orchestration course?
EG: Yes. I had my students writing. Two or three of them wrote well. There were never more that eight or ten people in my orchestration class. But I would get them to harmonize things and let them learn about voicings; taught them a little bit about stylized writing, as to this band sounded that way and this band sounded band sounded that way. And two or three of them began turning in some very acceptable things.
CS: Did they get a chance to hear their arrangements?
EG: This did because that was the idea of the stage band. I would bring in things that I had done and people had given me; good arrangements from the Miller Band and the McIntyre Band that both leaders gave me and let them have the experience of playing those. Then we would, surely, by all means, have them come up and conduct a rehearsal with their own charts. Then we would constructively criticize . . . . “Well, that’s very good, and if you’d done this and this, that might have been better.” So I hope they got a little out of it.
CS: Did any of those go on to become orchestrators?
EG: Bernie Hatch is a very good orchestrator. And became a good writer later on. The others . . . . One girl I had, a French horn player, Pauline Oliveris, is now an internationally-known contemporary composer. Not that I taught her anything, but she is renowned. The San Francisco Orchestra has done several things. The last time I was in New York I read a review of a whole evening of Pauline Oliveris’ music in the New York Times.
CS: That should make you feel good.
EG: Well, it does, although I think it was mostly her own work.
CS: Well, from playing for the fraternities and sororities and Rice [University] and so on, is that how you got into playing out into the community?
EG: It sure is. People grew older and graduated and went into business and joined the country club and the dance club and [were] active in the various oil organizations that entertain, and we started playing for everything.
CS: Where did you play mostly?
EG: We played mostly at the Shamrock [Hotel]. One good thing that was a lot of fun was in the summer. I would play the International Club for six to eight weeks, six nights a week [that was] one of the last strongholds of clubs that used a big band six nights a week. And we had good shows, too. We played with Tony Bennett [and] people like that [who] would come in.
CS: That was my next question. Did you accompany any famous singers?
EG: Well, we did then, and we still do. In the last twenty or thirty years, we’ve worked with just about everybody. I was in New York a year ago with “Manhattan Transfer.” I was in Boston a month before that producing a show with Tony Bennett, and I have conducted and back Bob Hope four or five times. And I’ve conducted for Jack Benny with my band. In those days, sometimes the big stars didn’t bring a conductor. They would just walk in and say, “Here’s my music.” And we’d have to conduct. People like Vic Damone [and] Frank Sinatra. Everybody now brings their own conductor, and most of the time their own rhythm section. But our band has backed nearly every star in the business.
CS: Did you ever back Frank Sinatra?
EG: Yes. Sure have!
EG: At the Shamrock [Hotel].
LJM: Tell us about the Shamrock.
EG: The Shamrock was wonderful! In the beginning . . . . I sound like Genesis, don’t I? There were two rooms. The International Club was a private club in Houston and Texas area where people who paid dues could go in and order drinks. That was the reason for it. There was the Emerald Room, the big room, and there was the Shamrock Room, a smaller room. It was like a dinner club with a dance floor and a band. Well, for four years they would have to use the Emerald Room every night because everybody in Café Society in Houston and Texas would go to the Shamrock every night. It was just the thing to do. So they packed the place.
Then a few years later they used the Shamrock Room entirely, which was the smaller room, but it was a very good show room. And the main bands that played there were hotel-style bands like Paul Neighbors, Shep Fields, etc. Then they’d bring my band in in the summer, and we backed people like Anita Bryant two or three times, Rowan and Martin [and] a lot of impressive people.
CS: Comedians as well?
EG: You bet!
LJM: How long did you play the Shamrock?
EG: Well, we played at different times for four to eight weeks at a time, I think, three different summers. And then the International Club closed. Because it was the end of an era. But it sure was a lot of fun for me to live at home and play six nights a week, and my men loved it because the money was good.
LJM: Did you meet Glenn McCarthy personally?
EG: Yes. I sure did.
LJM: What was your impression of him?
EG: Mr. McCarthy was very much to himself. The most conversation he and I ever had was, “Hello. Good evening.” And that’s it. I’m sure you’ve read all the stories about his flamboyant nature. I was not involved with him at all at the hotel because he had sold it. The insurance company had taken it over when I worked there.
LJM: Did that have an impact on your playing at the Shamrock?
EG: No. It went on fine after him for a long time. As far as the music . . . . For years they kept a house band. Henry King was the house band for years, but the house band had been let go, and they just kept a good band in the Shamrock Room when I played there.
LJM: When did your tenure at the Shamrock end? What year?
EG: I don’t remember. It was sure in the early 1970’s.
LJM: Oh, so you were there that long?
EG: I was there only for three or four years in a row. Then they cut the budget down so to such small bands . . . . I wouldn’t cut my band down. And they finally closed, and I don’t remember the year.
CS: Did you play for any of the parties on in [the] River Oaks Country Club?
EG: Oh, you bet! That’s our home base.
EG: Yes. I was there twice last week. I played River Oaks Thursday night for the Colony Dance Club, which is a wonderful bunch of people that love to dance. I played Friday [for] the Queen’s Ball at the Tyler Rose Festival. Then I went back Saturday night and did a benefit for St. John’s Hospital at NASA at River Oaks Country Club for Nancy Robbins who is Dr. Horace Robbins’ chief surgeon, I believe it is, at St. John’s Hospital. We played the Houston Country Club a lot. We play a lot of annual functions like the presentation of their daughters in December as their debutante daughters. We do that every year. Houston Country Club and the Houston Club downtown and at River Oaks Country Club. I love playing the country clubs because, as old as I am, I’ve grown up getting to know just about everybody that is a member in both places and then for twenty-two years, I’ve lived two blocks from River Oaks Country Club on Inwood Drive, and it was wonderful to be five minutes from work.
LJM: Let me go back and ask you . . . We’ve kind of left Arnett Cobb lost back there in your . . .
EG: Let’s don’t do that.
LJM: No, we want to bring him back in with you. Tell me. How did you get reacquainted with him?
EG: Well, when I got back off the road, Arnett was back in Houston. He had had this terrible accident which had crippled him. And I think I’m right, he was ill, and I called him. We had a visit, and he said, “I really do need to get into a government hospital somehow,” so I went down to the courthouse and started the ball rolling for getting Arnett into a hospital in Tyler because he was having lung problems. He only has one lung. But he was having respiratory problems. So he got alright and came back to Houston. And we met in New York when I was on the road. He was with Lionel Hampton. And I’d go backstage and hear him on my night off. I’d go to the Strand Theater and visit with Arnett after he would get off. And, of course, he went with his own band in New York. Before the automobile accident he had, his band was going so well. He had already become very famous as a featured player with the Lionel Hampton band. And his band was doing so well traveling all around, the east coast especially. And as I mentioned a minute ago, when I came back to Houston and Arnett came back to town and we had a visit. He had this problem and had a time there in the hospital with a respiratory ailment. And then came back. Of course he’s done concert work all over Europe since he had the accident and lived in Houston and was very much in demand and could do anything he wanted to do as long as he felt like it. But we just sort of kept in touch with each other. We have appeared together on a lot of benefits. I’m delighted that I’ve been able to get to know his daughter and son-in-law who are certainly most active in this jazz archives thing.
I don’t mean to be morbid, but I am so glad for Arnett. His funeral service was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever attended in my life over at Antioch Church. His band was there. The sermon that the preacher gave was just magnificent, and the choir was just beyond belief. It was just all wonderful. People loved Arnett. At the funeral there were a bunch of us there that were his professional buddies and yet, there were bank presidents and corporate presidents and people that admired him and loved him like we did; there to pay homage to this giant of a man who had a great, great influence on every jazz saxophone player that plays that style of jazz in the world.
LJM: Did you renew your acquaintance with Milton Larkin?
EG: You bet! Milt came back to Houston to live. He lived in Harlem for years. And every time I’d go to New York I’d call him. And we’d always talk on the phone and sometimes visit. And then he came back to Houston. He’s an absolute ageless phenomenon. He does not age. He looks exactly like he did forty years ago, fifty years ago. He came back to Houston and got very active helping young people in music, organizing little groups and teaching and playing at the hospitals and so forth, like he’s prone to do. He’s an unselfish, wonderful loveable man. I am so please that I was asked to be a part of a dinner that I think one of the jazz organizations honored Milton one night a year or two ago. And I was asked to be one of the speakers honoring Milton. Yes, we see each other, not as often as I’d like, but [we] certainly keep in touch.
LJM: I wanted to touch a bit on some social history with you. You’ve traveled around with bands, and I think you really have a good overview of the business. Did you see discrimination against black musicians? Was there any blatant discrimination in the hiring, the payment, or any way they were dealt with?
EG: No. I honestly didn’t. I saw that bands included no black musicians for years. We were all delighted but surprised when Tommy Dorsey hired Charlie Shaver. When Bennie Goodman hired Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton we were delighted. I went in the 1930’s to Dallas to the Texas Centennial. My birthday present from my grandmother was to get to go hear Benny Goodman. 1933. I was thirteen years old. My cousin drove me there. We went to the General Motors Pavilion and there was everybody: Teddy Wilson; Gene Krupa; Lionel Hampton; Martha Tilton; Ziggy Elman; Harry James, on trumpet, with Benny. Well, it was very unusual to see that. But I don’t remember, even in the audience, in circulating, any derogatory comment or problems. There certainly were, I’m sure. I know there were a lot of problems in New York with that, but I do not remember any . . . . When we were on the road, the bands that I were in were all white, and I don’t know if it was ever considered bringing anybody. Benny Goodman brought those people in because they were great, and he didn’t care whether they were black or white or whatever. Tommy Dorsey was the same way. Gene Krupa hired a wonderful trumpet player. I cannot recall his name. And they played the very best places. Yet, on the other hand . . . Yes, I do remember when I was young reading in Downbeat Magazine about how Ella Fitzgerald and Cab Calloway had to stay ‘way out of town when they came to Houston to play. They could not stay in the downtown hotel. The local papers wouldn’t carry it. But Downbeat and Metronome [magazines] would carry those stories about discrimination in Texas. And I remember in Charleston, South Caroline, I went to hear Billy Eckstein’s band in 1944. I was still in the service. We went to this dump, an absolute shed, where Billy Eckstein’s band was playing, and had a hard time getting in. No white people at all. But they let us in, I think, because we were in uniform. There were three of us out of my band, and there we were in Charleston where, for the first time in my life, I was told, “Don’t you dare go down at the Catfish Row area after dark because there may be a problem.” Whereas, in Houston, we’d go anywhere we wanted to. I would go to the Downtown Grill over here on Dallas [Street]. And I would go to the Peacock and all of those places. But I wanted to hear Billy Eckstein that night, and there was a young black lady singer that they introduced as making her first appearance with the band, and her name was Sarah Vaughan. And Sarah was, I think, every bit of eighteen years old. Miles Davis was playing trumpet as was, probably, Fats Navarro. It was a Who’s Who in the whole band.
CS: How did you conceive opening a booking agency?
EG: People started calling for my band. This is a Friday and Saturday night town, and as people would call in and the band would be already booked, I started to think, “If I had another band, I’d go ahead and book them.” Of course there were a couple of small agencies started. Tony Martin had as very successful agency. And I started dabbling in booking other bands. Then they would call in and say, “Do you know of a piano player I could get?” So I would do that. Then, every now and then, they’d say, “We’re going to have show [coming]. We’ve got so-and-so booked to do a show. Can your band back her?” So we started backing people on shows, and then I got to thinking, “Maybe I’ll start booking acts from out of town: name and semi-name acts.” So it just snowballed. As of then and right now, we book about twenty or thirty bands and can produce shows with anybody from name-category on down to local good acts.
CS: Do you fill the chairs for a name act that comes into town? For example, let’s say Frank Sinatra?
EG: Well, name people like Frank . . . Not Frank because he brings the whole band. But people in that category will bring a piano player, a bass player, a drummer and a lot of times, a guitar player. I will fill in the rest, the other fifteen to thirty people. If they use strings, there are sixteen people right there. When we bring Andy Williams in, Andy brings a piano player, a drummer, a bass player and, most of the time, a guitar player. So we’ll add another twenty-three to twenty-eight people like we did for American Heart Association.
CS: How many rehearsals would they go through?
EG: One, usually. From two to five hours, usually. They’ve got all their music. Their conductors are usually very competent and know how to get everything done right. The caliber of musicianship in Houston has greatly improved in the last fifteen years. We have some of the top people in the country here so you know who can do shows well. And you have those people that are good sitting back there, and they just . . . . They can all bug sight-read a show. And many times the conductor will pull up an arrangement and never stop one time and just finish and say, “That was great!” I’ve had that happen. And I say that, not boasting about myself, but in that how proud I am of the musicianship of our people in town. I’ve got a trumpet section right now that I would sit down for anybody. Just anybody! And be happy to do it. Phenomenal players. And trombones.
CS: They can blow at sight!
EG: Yes. We’re very fortunate.
CS: How do you account for this being here? Is it because of the city being here and the acts coming through?
EG: No, not the acts coming through. Houston is a desirable place to live as far as overall weather. Sure, it’s humid. But three months out of the year we don’t have to put chains on our car for snow. That’s a big consideration. My lead trumpet player is from Boston, and I’ve had a lot of guys tell me they’ve moved here because they like to live in Houston. It’s friendly. They like a lot of things. We all know a lot of good things about Houston. There is a good big of work. It’s improved in the last few years. Los Angeles and New York use to be the big thing. The big thing used to be “I’m going to Los Angeles and get my card.” That meant you’re going to go out there and deposit your card with the union and do your sweating-out period and get into recording and movies. Well, recording and movies, if you’ll pardon the expression, ain’t what they used to be. NBC, CBS and Mutual all used to have a house band on salary, weekly. There are no more. Right now, the big show rooms are using tapes. It’s a big strike out there now. There are only one or two rooms left with a live band in Las Vegas. It’s just awful! So we still have a good bit of work here as far as a jobbing musician. There are shows. A lot of shows come in. The circus comes in. The ice show comes in. The fat stock show comes in every year. A lot of things like that.
CS: What about the stage shows, the musicals?
EG: Yes, absolutely! Everything at Jones Hall and at the Wortham, they have musicians. They’ve got to have them. I go to some of those shows and look down in the pit and see half my band.
CS: And you still play at social functions?
EG: Oh, yes. Lots of them. We play all over Texas. We’re going to San Antonio to play the Country Club Saturday night. We were in Tyler for the Rose Festival last Friday. We go back to San Antonio to present the debutantes of 1989. It’s called the Opening German. The club that presents the debutantes is called the German Club of San Antonio. I’ve got to drop a name here because we’re so proud of it. We played President [George H. W.] Bush’s inaugural ball in Washington in January at the Kennedy Center [in] which we had a great time.
CS: How far ahead are you booked?
EG: Usually . . . Well, I’ve got a lot of dates next summer already. There are annual things that I know very well that I’ll be playing if I’m still around years from now. They are usually booked a year in advance.
LJM: In all the interviews we’ve done, somewhere along the line, the question has come up as to whether there is a so-called “Texas” sound to jazz. Is there any difference at all that you’ve noted about the way Texas musicians play jazz?
EG: No. And I don’t mean that so authoritatively. But, no. There is a sound from Texas like Arnett Cobb who was a stylist that people all over the world tried to copy. Yet Arnett was influenced by Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster. He and Illinois Jacquet had much of the same, in a way, feeling about playing. Arnett was, in the [jazz] business, what we call a little more “down home” than Illinois. But no, I’ve never, ever thought that in listening to somebody in Timbuktu, “He must be from Texas because of the way he’s playing.”
LJM: You're saying, “No.” But then you also pinpointed Arnett Cobb as having a special sound, or am I reading too much into what you said?
EG: It was a sound. A special sound, but not really unlike a lot of other people. There was a tenor player with the Jimmy Lunceford band named Joe Thomas that I think influenced Arnett a lot. But Arnett could play better [and had] a better sound. But it was a lot of the same conception. Lester Young had great influence on a lot of people. Yet, to say that that’s strictly the Lester Young sound is just . . . . [Ignace] Paderewski was influenced by other pianist. [Vladimir] Horowitz was probably influenced by a lot of people.
I read a wonderful review by Nelson Riddle, a fine arranger, on how he was influenced by Bill Finnegan who taught him arranging. Yet, he branched out and created really a lot more variety in sounds and was much more innovative in the long run than Bill Finnegan was, I think.
If I may say this: this has sort of interested me, thinking about “Texas sound.” In country music, there is, very definitely, a Texas swing style that is really “Texas.” Like Asleep at the Wheel, and even Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. That is kind of a Texas sound in that you don’t really have all that jazz, but it’s music of our era. It sure is. It’s “Texas swing,” and it’s from here. Just like Dixieland music is American. It started here. Jazz is American.
LJM: In comparison, say, with the country swing music, you don’t see a jazz sound that would be equal to that distinction?
EG: That was Texas?
EG: No. I sure don’t. I don’t mean that as, “No, there is not. I don’t see it.
LJM: Are you making any recordings now?
EG? No. I wish I were. I’ve got the best band I’ve ever had in my life. We’re working a really enjoyable things at Birra Poretti’s Restaurant in River oaks in the shopping center there. We work there almost every other Monday night. We were there the night before last. That one night a week, along with our regular dates, tightens the band up and gets it really sounding right. Somebody said, “How do you learn how to write?” Well, you learn how to write by writing. “How do you learn how to play good?” You learn how to play good by playing. So we get to play [and] we get the feel gain of our horns.
I did an album in 1964, just before stereo, unfortunately. And to really do it right, you’ve almost got to stop everything you’re doing and also come up with about $50,000-$60,000 to put out a decent album. Well, there are two pretty heavy reasons. I don’t want to stop everything I’m doing. I can’t. I run an office. I would love to stop and write an album, rehearse it, and produce it. Oh, that would be great fun! But I don’t want to put out something that we think is going that’s going to sit around and not be sold or distributed. And you’ve got to get out on the road and hustle those DJ’s [disc jockeys], get to the record shops. And it’s also got to be a product that people are buying. And although they’re buying more big band things, they are million-[record] sellers.
LJM: Not enough to justify the trouble.
EG: No. Now, if I needed the publicity bad enough, maybe $30,000-$40,000 to do a nice cassette would be worthwhile. It’s not that I don’t need it, but I don’t want to spend the money. Because I don’t think I have to.
CS: And you time is more valuable.
EG: Right. I would love to spend most of my time orchestrating [and] writing. I love writing for singers, vocal arrangements. That my real . . . . I think I do my better work.
LJM: Are there any areas that we should have covered that you’d like to talk about that we failed to mention?
EG: I can’t think of a thing. I feel that I’ve probably talked far too much.
LJM: No, you haven’t.
EG: One of the things that I think is so wonderful about the music business and jazz is the wonderful feeling that jazz players have with each other. The appreciation they have of each other. The friendship that they have and the support that they give each other. If a guy really plays well, mot other jazz players, rather than resent him or feeling jealous of him, they usually just love to hear him play. I’ve had more fun being a “little part of jazz.” Most of my jazz activity was in the early years before I got into the big band thing. But it left an appreciation with me whereas I still like to feel like I can play a little jazz and can appreciate a lot of jazz.
I have some players in my band right now . . . . I’ve got a boy by the name of Dennis Datsun who was with Buddy Rich and Woody Herman and others that is as good a jazz trumpet player as I’ve ever heard in my life. I’ve got two trombone players that are absolutely phenomenal players. I’ve got a tenor player by the name of Bob Hill who is a mailman. He carries the mail. He came to town with Paul Neighbor’s hotel band and has been with my band since he . . . over twenty years. He’s a phenomenal tenor saxophone player. Just a marvelous player! So, the love of jazz is wonderful.
I have been grateful for the friends I’ve made, mainly for the joys I’ve had in being a little part of it and certainly for the great folks that I’ve gotten to year. And I’ve heard most of the greats.
LJM: That’s a nice conclusion to the interview. I want to think you very much.
EG: I want to thank you. And congratulations to you all for doing something with this archives thing. It’s a worthy thing, and I don’t who [I am] in it, but I’m grateful and proud to be. Thank you.
LJM: You’re welcome. Now that you’ve said that, I can hit you with a pitch. What we’re doing in addition to the oral histories is trying to collect records for a permanent collection. We’re trying to collect photographs. You’ve mentioned the sheet music. I know you don’t want to give your first music sheet up, at least not for now [but] maybe down the road you’d consider it and add it to your own collection here. But perhaps you would allow us to take a photograph of it so we’ll have it in our collection.
EG: I’ve got all kinds of things and let me mention this. I took a while . . . and Lizette [Cobb] knows this. I took a whole packet, when I first found that I was to be a part of this, over to her house and left it. And her husband told me, “Ed. I wish everybody was this organized. This is wonderful.” Pictures, clippings, whatever. Have you got anything here?
CS: All I have is this right here.
EG: I thought there was a lot more. I sent in a manila envelope that was thick. I’ve got other things that you can photograph and look over.