Gil Fuller Speaks, part I
Edited by Paul Combs

On August 19, 1991, I had the privilege of interviewing Gil Fuller, perhaps best known as the chief arranger for Dizzy Gillespie's big bands of the 1940s. I was interested in getting background on the life of an arranger in the hey-day of Be Bop for the book I am still working on about the composer and arranger Tadd Dameron. Vincent Pelote, of the Institute for Jazz Studies, who introduced us, warned me that Gil saw Dameron as something of a rival and that I probably should not ask him about the other arranger, so I just focused on letting Fuller tell his own story. As we talked it became clear to me that he was hoping that I would write a book on him. Since he seemed to be in very good health, I figured I would try to get back to him after I had finished the Dameron project. Little did I realize then that the Dameron book would still be occupying my attention over ten years later and, worst still, little did I realize that Gil was probably already sick with the cancer that would take his life in less than three years. We talked of his life up into the mid 1960s, with the intention of continuing at a later date. Gil died on May 26, 1994, at a time when I was finishing my Masters Degree, working full time as a public school music teacher and raising a teen-aged son, so we never completed the interview.
Since it was Gil's hope that I would tell his story I am giving you the essence of that interview. This is an edited version of his own words, turned into a narrative. That is I have removed my questions and the comments of others who were present that day, and streamlined the language, but only as necessary to help the narrative read smoothly. Since Gil was trying to remember things from fifty years or so earlier, he was often engaged in a process of free association and he told me "Now, you have to assemble that suff in order." For those of you who may be doing research on Mr. Fuller, you will be able to find the entire transcript of the interview at the Institute for Jazz Studies, Dana Library, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ, along with a copy of the audio of the interview. Since I am a person who believes in the endurance of the spirit, I would like to say to Gil, if you can hear me, that I am sorry I did not understand how precious an opportunity you had provided me and that I hope you will be comforted by my efforts here.
Walter Gilbert Fuller was born in Los Angeles, CA on April 4, 1920, but his family had relocated to Newark, NJ, by the time he begins his story, in the very late 1920s. Some of the highlights of his career, beside writing for Dizzy, include writing for a who's who of jazz greats including: Charlie Barnet, Count Basie, Benny Carter, Billy Eckstine, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Jimmie Lunceford, Machito (Frank Grillo), James Moody, Tito Puente, and Artie Shaw. He arranged Ray Charles' first Country & Western album, and was a music publisher and record producer as well. Gil had the mind of a businessman and expressed a distrust for the idea of jazz as an art form. Nevertheless, he had the ear and the heart of an artist, and this can be heard clearly in his greatest works such as his charts for Gillespie, including the hair-raising "Things To Come" and the irresistible "Manteca". But enough of my introduction. Here is Gil's story in his own voice.
Nobody in my family played. My uncle was the lighting man at the Apollo and Orpheum theaters in Newark. He used to take me around, and that's how I got all wrapped up in the business. That was my mother's brother, Andrew Bailey; he was the lighting man. Now, Newark, this town, had sixty-three theaters; that's first-run motion pictures, vaudeville, and burlesque. That's what they had in this town. And Washington Street was the burlesque belt. Yeah, they had theater after theater. Somewhere down here, just before you get up Washington Street, was the burlesque thing, the Orpheum Theatre. The Star Ledger's sitting on the site where the Orpheum was. That was the Black vaudeville theater. And all the entertainers used to come there, all the big bands, y'know, Erskine Hawkins, all those people, used to come and play in that theater.
I started out with solfeggio. Burnett Street School is where I went to school as a kid, and the music teacher's name was Mildred Magistro. She taught us solfeggio, and by the time, let's see, I was in fourth or fifth old would I have been? ...Yeah, about nine or ten years old. I can't remember the years, like you know, what year it was, but anyway, I was in the fourth grade. It was like around 1930, or somethin' like that.
By the time I got out of grammar school, I had a band. We had only one junior high school in the town at that time; it was Robert Treat School. So you went one through eight, not one through six; one through eight. I think I finished in the year 1934. I finished Burnett Street School, at fourteen years old. Thirteen or fourteen, 'cause I skipped about. I didn't go to school 'til I was seven. I fell out of a swing I made on the back of some signboards, y'know how those legs used to go down the signboard? It's like they had legs in the back, and I made a swing and I was goin' like that, and the rope broke, and I kept goin'! I couldn't walk for about a year. I got over that, and I skipped, like, fourth grade or sixth grade, somethin' like that, 'cause I was just too far ahead of the people that was there. They absolutely skipped me. You'd go to summer school if you wanted to; and they skipped me when I was in elementary school. So that's why the years are fuzzy.
But anyway, like I say, we had a band, it was called The Barons Of Rhythm. There was this guy named Conrad Butler, he was trying to put a band together, that was just a kid band. Somebody took me over there to them, and I got a job for the band. My first job must have been in what was called the Mosque Ballroom here in Newark, with that band, and I called it Baron Fuller And His Barons Of Rhythm. The Barons Of Rhythm was, like, twelve, fourteen pieces. We had a drummer, three trumpets, three trombones, four saxes, I think (I don't think we had a baritone player) and I played piano for a while. I tried playing the trumpet but that didn't work, I used to get headaches, so I knew I had to do somethin' else. My cousin had a piano, and I used to stay on that, that's how I started out, with that and the music that I knew. And then I started playin' with the band.
We used to play in a club called Shady Rest, in Westfield, New Jersey, a country club. We used to play there on Monday; Monday night dances. This was in around '34, '35, '36, somewhere in there. And then played other dances whenever we got the jobs. There was another place in Newark we played, Dream Land, we played in there. Everybody was basically in high school and different guys had cars. Some of them were a little older than I was.
I liked music; and you know, we had all the records in those days--there was Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway....who the hell else was there? those days--Fletcher Henderson.... So I took all the things off the records that they had. Yeah, I used to copy all of the records. I copied all of Jimmy Lunceford's things, everything Jimmy Lunceford had. Didn't like Fletcher Henderson too much, that was a little.... It wasn't what we wanted to do.
Well, you knew the different guys in the band because you knew the records. When I say you knew the records, you knew their tones, and then in those days, you could pick them out, what the parts were that they were playing. That's how I learned how to voice the stuff, by picking out the parts, by the individual guy. Then I'd write the whole thing, what he was playin', and figure out everything, and listen and keep listening until I was able to pick it out and I got a semblance of what it was, when I got 'em all put together. So I got what that was from Jimmy Lunceford. You could see everything that they did: the rhythmic patterns, the rhythmic structures, the harmonic structures, and stuff like that.
I didn't like Duke Ellington, because Duke Ellington was kinda weird; unorthodox! He was definitely in a class by himself, nobody could really imitate what he did. Charlie Barnett and Andy Gibson tried, a little later on, but it still didn't come off, y'know, like being Duke. I left Duke alone, because first of all he wasn't precision, and I liked everything precision. It wasn't precision; Lunceford was precision. Everything Jimmy Lunceford played, and Sy Oliver's things, y'know, they were, like, real precision-type arrangements. We copied Basie, and we copied all the bands that had anything that was good: Erskine Hawkins, and all his hits, and stuff like that.
We used to play stock arrangements, too. Will Hudson's, and uh, what the hell is his name? .... somebody else like that.... anyhow, I can't think of his name, but Will Hudson was one that wrote a lot of stock arrangements, you know, dance music. We did have one or two Fletcher-Henderson-type things, and stuff like that. That was, like, in the thirties. Fletcher Henderson's thing was "Big John Special", and that was one of those stocks that they had out there. And then we also had Benny Carter's things, we did all of Benny Carter's things. Benny Carter had "Symphony In Riffs", "The Devil's Holiday", and stuff like that. So anybody that was playin' anything that wasn't sounding like Fletcher Henderson, y'know what I mean, was nice, was good, was modern.
That was the first group of things that we did with the Barons. And then at the same time I started writing things myself. There was a guy around here in Newark called Richard; called himself LaRue Jordan, it was Richard Jordan, and he was a piano player, and he liked all kinds of crazy, modern harmonies. And he was, y'know, a wizard at that kind of stuff. Couldn't read, couldn't write, but he could play. And he had the concept of those sounds in his mind, so hanging out with him, and being friends with him, we wrote a thing called "Surprise Package", off of one of Lester Young's things, "Lady Be Good", one of his solos; and we wrote "Surprise Package" off of that.{1} So I wrote "Surprise Package", and that had to be around 1936, '35, '36. So I wrote this thing off, and what I really wanted to do was to record those things, because when they say where bebop started, that wasn't, ya know, they try to say that it started in 1945, but we were playing that stuff ten years before that! Y'know what I mean?
From there I went to another local band in this town, Pancho Diggs. I only wrote for Pancho--like, I wasn't in the band; I was an arranger, outside of the band, 'cause I had my own thing, that was our thing, The Barons. I took all of Basie's things off the records for Pancho Diggs and His Orchestra. In '37 we did a road show with Pancho Diggs' Orchestra and Nina May McKinney. She played in "Sanders Of The River", and "Emperor Jones", with Paul Robeson. And they put a tour together for her; she was singing, y'know, she was a nice-looking girl, beautiful chick, and I made arrangements on "Hallelujah", that was the other picture she did, it was called "Hallelujah". And I did the arrangement on that, and wrote that for Pancho's band to play for her. Dick Boone was the Road Manager. We went to Miami, Florida, and on the way Nina May sat up at the counter, somewhere down there, either Fort Lauderdale or one of those little towns down there, we were makin' a one-night stand. And, so she used to carry a little .32 with her, you know what I mean. She was hungry this night, and wanted to eat. So we go into this restaurant, and you know they didn't allow us guys, us blacks in there. So, she goes in and lays this unloaded .32 up on the counter, and the guy's back there, serving, you know, the stuff. So, there were so many of us, and Boone came in first, that the guy said, "Well, what the hell am I gonna do! I'll serve 'em." You know what I mean. It was late, and everything. So, she gets up there, half lit, juiced, and says, "I want a milkshake!" So the guy gets her this milkshake and starts shaking this milkshake, and she said something else to the guy, and I don't know what it was. But, anyhow, he got mad. He took that milkshake, and with both of his hands hit her right up on the top of the head and knocked her off of the stool, y'know. And I said, "Oh, shit! All of us are gonna get lynched now!" We're all panicked!
So, he told Boone, "If you don't get these niggers outta here, we'll all kill all of you!" Y'know what I mean. Oh, my God! So, we got up and got the hell outta there and left, and went down the road and everybody was lookin' back for the car lights comin' by, or the Ku Klux Klan, or whatever! So we got out of there, and got away with it. Y'know that was some harrowing experience!
Pancho used to say, "You got that job because you wrote 'Hallelujah'." And it was smoking, like they thought that was some arrangement. They hadn't heard anything like it. But we used to strive for modernism. And where the harmonics were -- like, Lunceford was, like, basically old hat to us, you know what I mean? Because what he was using was major sevenths, ninth chords, and thirteenths. And that's as far as he got, harmonically. And that was where it was in the '30's. We started adding all the things, and then people used to complain about the endings I used to write on the songs--I was writing all of those augmented elevenths, and all kinds of weird chords. Not like Duke's, but it was somethin' else. It took off saxophone players, like Lester Young, Chu Berry, and people like that, that played all the notes.
Back in those days we liked Lester Young, there was nobody like Lester Young and Hershel Evans, y'know what I mean. So I used to sell solos to the tenor players, for like five bucks a shot--copy it off the record and give 'em the solos! I'd get, like, seven dollars, for copyin' arrangements, that's all; but it was like five dollars, seven dollars. I'd take a record off for anybody, you know. It'd take me maybe three hours or four hours; I was a kid, and I'd write the arrangement out, get the money and run. I did that for Pancho Diggs, and I did that for our band, and anybody that wanted solos, y'know, off of a record, I'd take the solos off. And of course I was lookin' at harmony books and stuff like that, gettin' the chords. I had a guitar, a four-string guitar, that I learned how to play. And I was able to play all the chords. Even when I'd want to pick out the notes to be sure that they were right, I'd use the guitar. Now somebody's got those arrangements here in this town! Well, I don't know whether she's here or in New York now, where she moved to New York. But Conrad's wife, they tell me, has those arrangements, and I wanted to get all those arrangements and originals that I wrote then, and see what they were, so that you could see what the music was in 1936, or '35 and '36.
I don't know if I was out of high school by then, '37. I was just about out, if I wasn't out. You know I can't tell, because every summer we took a band and went out on the road. Dave Burns and I, he was only about fourteen years old going on fifteen then,{2} we used to go up to the Catskills and play there, with the Jewish people. Yeah, that's before they had Grossinger's and all of that. They had Tamarack Lodge up there...What the hell else did they have? Jewish people were all through my life, you know what I mean? And if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have survived! They always had a job for me. I didn't have to worry. Took care of me. I worked for Ben Bart, Jack Goldberg, Lud Gluskin...
Cass Rendezvous is where we played. We played with Eddie Cass, his father was the Mayor of Ellenville, and that's where the place was, Cass Rendezvous. He owned a bar there, had this nightclub, and we played there. They had an addition on the end of it, and you slept in the back of it. That group was an eight-piece thing with Herb Karman , the one at Cass Rendezvous. Herb Karman, Eddie Ransom, Willard Van Loo....who the hell else in there?....Dave Burns, of course. That was one of Dave's first professional jobs. And if you didn't know who Dave was: Dave was a trumpet player in Dizzy's band.
About 1938, I was with Tiny Bradshaw, and Tiny used to fire the band every week, because somebody was late getting to the bus, and he was a stickler for time! He'd say seven o'clock, he wanted you there at seven o'clock. And some of the guys would come up, 7:15, y'know, 7:20, and he's goin' up the wall. So he'd get on the bus and tell 'em, "The whole, entire goddam band is on notice!"
"But wait a minute, Tiny, I was here," I said. "I'm not, y'know, I'm not playin' in the band!" And he didn't say anything; and then later he'd tell me, "Well, I didn't mean you." And then, by the time they played the dance all the guys were worried to death they were gonna lose their jobs, so they went out and played like hell! By the time the people were clappin' for the band and everything, he'd say, "OK, fellas. You played so well tonight I'll take back the notice."
So he kept doin' that, y'know what I mean? It was like, I got nervous. He kept doin' that. So, finally, we got to Nashville, Tennessee, and I told him that "I'm leaving."

"What're you leaving for?" he said.

"Well, you put the band on notice!"

"Yeah, but I took that back!"

"Yeah, but I don't wanna do that." and I'd made an arrangement to go with Floyd Ray's band.
Floyd Ray {3} had a California band, and they had a hit record, "Three O'Clock In The Morning". Everywhere we went, they'd play "Three O'Clock In The Morning".{4} So he had a hit, and we chased all over the country with Floyd, and went back to California with the band, where I met Les Hite, another California bandleader. We started back East with Floyd, and got as far as Lansing, Michigan, where the band broke up, 'cause the road managers took the money and ran off. So there we were, in Lansing, and I had some friends there from when I came through with the other bands, and stayed there for a while.
Then I went from Lansing to St. Louis because they wanted to give me a job in St. Louis, writing the shows for the Plantation Club; Tony and Jim Scarpelli's Plantation Club, on Delmar and Grand Boulevards in St. Louis. Jeter-Pillars {5} was playing there and they wanted to hire me to write things when I went through St. Louis with Floyd Ray. They offered me the job, but I didn't want to quit Floyd's band, so I said, "Nah, I can't do that!" I liked Floyd's band, 'cause they were playin' on the order of Jimmy Lunceford, and it was a nice band. But we went to Lansing, Michigan, and they ran off with the money, and I went to St. Louis, that's where I could pick up that job. Well, y'know, if they'd offered me a job out there in the woods, either I'da had to go back to Jersey, or take the job. So, I decided for two dollars to six dollars, the fare was somethin' like that, that I'd go to St Louis. Then there were some other guys that we sent home, outa Floyd's band, that didn't have the money, so we put the money together and sent like three or four of those that got stranded there. And Sol Moore, he was a baritone player in Floyd's band, and myself went to St. Louis. I got Sol into Jeeter Pillars' band, and I wrote the shows. Later on I got him into Les Hite's band, and later I put him in Dizzy's band. He was a good baritone player, good musician.
So they gave me the job writing the shows. It didn't pay but $75.00 a week! But they'd only put the show in once, and that show would run for a month, or two months, somethin' like that. But you'd get seventy-five bucks a week, and that was a lot of money then. So, I wrote the shows for the Plantation. I think I lasted there for about six months. Then I got into a hassle with Spizzy Canfield.{6} Leonard Reed, who was producing the shows, got sick. He didn't really get sick; he took the hatcheck girl out of the club, the Plantation, and took her off to Chicago, and told them that he was sick. But he was always sickly. And when he went off with this hatcheck girl (she was a beautiful chick!) to Chicago, you know, on a binge, and he told me, "Well, I laid out the show. I blocked it all out. You go ahead and put it together; rehearse it and get it goin' for me." So, All right; no problem.
In the meantime, Spizzy Canfield went to the Scarpellis, who were supposed to be gangsters, and they wore their guns and everything around in the club. Man! They'd walk around with guns on! And they were Italians. So, you know, in the Mid-West they had all kinds of gangsters, you didn't know who was a gangster, who wasn't a gangster. You kinda kept your goddam self in line! So, I'd written this whole show that Leonard had put together. Then Spizzy, wanting to get somethin' new for himself, told the Scarpellis he had something better, that he had done in Atlantic City, with Larry Steele, and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. So he came to me and told me, "You have to write this main number over!"
I said, "Don't go tellin' me I gotta write that over! We already gotta number! The thing's all done! The whole show! We've already rehearsed it, the chorus girls know what they're doing, and everybody knows what they're doing! What're we changin' for now?! This is Christmas Eve!"
And he went to the Scarpellis and told 'em I didn't want to write the stuff. Anyway, they called me up Christmas Eve night and told me, "You'll get your black ass down here or they'll find you floatin' in the river!" It was snowin' out there, too! So, I called a cab, and I get in this damn cab and go down there. And I told them, "You guys are making a mistake. You're gonna screw up this whole thing! Those girls are ready; they already know the numbers. Why are we doing somethin' else?!"
They said, "Hey, don't tell us what to do! Blah-blah-blah-blah!" OK. So I wrote the damn thing out for them. Come back the next day for the rehearsal, y'know, at that night there; rehearse the thing and run this friggin' number down. It was all right, y'know; nothin' to write home about but, you want me floatin' in the river? And then, in the club I saw them beat up a guy. He was like the maitre d', the head waiter; and he either had ripped them off for something or some money, or whatever he was doin', I don't know what the hell he was doin'...Whiteside! That's his name! So, they beat the shit outta Whiteside! They had swollen up his lips and everything like that--oh, my God! So, I could see these gangsters doin' this, and everybody said they were gangsters, and I'm lookin' at that, y'know what I'm sayin'? I didn't need that! I did the music. They rehearsed the thing, and Harry Edison's wife was workin' in there--Birdie was workin' in there, as one of the chorus girls. And we had some others in there: Hortense Allen--oh, man! Anna Rose--I can't even remember all those girls. But, anyhow: Hortense was another one that was choreographing stuff; she got to be quite well-known.
But, anyway, we did the show and then I'm thinkin', man: I'm not gonna do this, y'know what I mean? I'm not gonna stay here to go with this. They hadn't paid me. I was supposed get paid, like Christmas and they got the show all ready. I had done all, most of the music, except for that thing Spizzy wanted to put in there, the main number. He's jivin' he could produce it, and Leonard was always sick, y'know what I mean? Like he had troubles. Supposedly he was travelin' with Joe Louis somewhere, and he got in a damn automobile accident; screwed him up. So, he used to use that as his excuse to run off with anybody, if he wanted to get off--he was sick!
So, then came New Year's Eve night; they were all set to go with their show and I went by for my pay, and they said, "We're not paying you now!" OK; all right. So I went back home. I think the bus ticket was two dollars and fifty cents, from St. Louis to Chicago, so I ran and got the ticket for that thing; and I had the ticket all day long. We were supposed to leave at eleven o'clock at night. I hung around the place for a while in the evening, but never got nothin'! I took off; never got paid. And I went to Chicago. I wasn't gonna let anybody in St. Louis know where I was goin'! I left my clothes with a friend, Benny Booker, the bass player who was in the band. He was also in Floyd Ray's band, he was a good bass player. And I told him, "Send me my clothes when I get to Chicago." I looked back, and I was lookin' out the window for those headlights comin' after this bus, all the way to Chicago, man! When they said "Chicago!" and I got outta that bus, Whew! Then I was worried about how I didn't have no clothes, just what I had on. That was some hairy, y'know what I mean! Jesus Christ! I wasn't right for a long time!
I checked into the Ritz Hotel. They already knew me from being there before with Floyd Ray's band, so I didn't have to go through no dance or nothin'. They figured I was, y'know, a bigtime arranger! The Ritz Hotel in Chicago, on Forty-Seventh and South Park, that's where I stayed, and that's where I met Elton Hill. Elton Hill was writing for Gene Krupa, who was at the Sherman Hotel. So, he says, "I wanna make an arrangement on Roy's Riff," which they used to call "Roy's Crypt". That was Roy's Riff. Roy used to play that all the time, at the end of his solos, like they called it, his "crypt". When he got down to that, that meant that he was finished playin', and then somebody else would take over. So, Elton said he wanted to make a tune outta that riff. I told him well, all right; so we'll write some words for Anita.{7} So we got that, and I wrote the words to "Drum Boogie".
[Gil sings:] "You hear the rhythm rompin', You see the drummer stompin', Drum Boogie, Drum Boogie! It really is a killer, Drum Boogie, Drum Boogie!"
So, anyhow, he told me, "Don't worry about anything! They'll take care of you. I'll see that you get your credit and all of that, and blah-blah-blah-blah." So he finished the arrangement up, and they went down to the Sherman played it, and Krupa recorded it. Somehow, I got lost in the shuffle, because I had joined Les Hite; and we took off. I wasn't around there to take care of business, so business took care of me! I never did get anything out of that.
Yeah, Les Hite was there in Chicago and I told him, "Hey, man, I'm in town," and he said, "Oh, yeah? Well, why doncha write somethin' for us?" So, he told me he'd take me to his lady friend who was sponsoring his band; he told her, "He's goin' to write some stuff for us!" I told him what happened in St. Louis an he said "Well, you can go on the road with us!" So I joined Les Hite in Chicago, and we worked all around the West: Omaha, Oklahoma, and all that. I used to rehearse the band, write the charts, and more or less ran the band for Les. That's what my job was: to write the arrangements, rehearse the band, and if anybody dropped out, or things like that, or he wanted to change or put somebody else in there, I got the musicians. I got Sol Moore into Les Hite's band, as I said before; he played with Dizzy's band in the forties.
Finally we were comin' back to New York to work the Apollo, and that's when I decided to get off the road. They were goin' into the Meadowbrook, and the trumpet player used to get drunk all the time; Les wanted to get rid of him. So, that's when I got Dizzy in the band. I'd known Dizzy before, because I used to hang around New York, and Dizzy had just come up from Philadelphia in those days. He was playin' in Frankie Fairfax's band, Frankie Fairfax from Philadelphia, and he'd also been playing with Teddy Hill. Teddy Hill had a band then, a helluva band, too! Dizzy stayed in there about six months. Les didn't want him at first, 'cause his reputation had preceded him. Dizzy played all the time, y'know, he was one of those guys that was always playin' and practical-joking, and stuff like that. Les was worried, y'know what I mean? 'Cause he also got the reputation for sticking Cab Calloway in the rear with his knife. He didn't stab him, he just stuck him like.
When we recorded, Dizzy Gillespie played a solo, on, I guess it was "Jersey Bounce". And I think they said that was the first be-bop played on a record, the first evidence of be-bop played on records.{8} But now he's in Les Hite's band playing all that whole book with all that stuff in there, like "Surprise Package", that I told you, was built off of those more modern harmonies. Well, now, Dizzy was one of those guys that was the same like me; he did the same things I did. I'd learned the piano. I wanted those chords; I couldn't stand that standard stuff. That used to drive me nuts! You know what I mean--those corny chords.
Well, by 1942, we were back in the East, in Newark, and I didn't want to go out on the road again. So, then, in '42, I got those damn draft papers and went in the Service. I didn't see them again until '45, when I got out. The Service knocked out about two and a-half, three years of my life. I didn't bother trying to write much; I wrote arrangements for guys, different bands. I'd write one here and there, y'know, when I felt like I wanted to write. I went to OCS, like everybody else that had an IQ. My IQ was, like, 147. They made an "officer and a gentleman out of me."
In part two of Gil Fuller Speaks, Gil returns from WWII in time to take part in the post-war Be-Bop explosion, including his involvement with Dizzy's popular big band.
┬ęPaul Combs, 1991, 2004, 2012
Special thanks to Debby Rosenblatt, who transcribed the three hours of interview tapes that are the source for this article.

1. It was most likely the 1936 Smith-Jones, Inc. recording (Vocalion 3459), and to Fuller and Jordan's credit, their line is more of a paraphrase of Lester than an out and out quote.
2. Dave Burns was born March 5, 1924 in Perth Amboy, NJ. This would mean that he and Fuller worked the Catskills in the summer of 1938.
3. Although you won't find mention of him in most jazz reference books, Ray led a significant "California" band. Floyd Ray first organized his band in Scranton, PA in 1934 as the "Harlem Dictators" after an injury cut short his career as a dancer. By 1938, as the Floyd Ray Orch., the band achieved its greatest success in Calif., accompanying the black actor Clarence Muse. Beside Fuller and Sol Moore the band included, at one time or another, James "Chips" Outcault, who later played with the Hines and Eckstine bands, Chico Hamilton, Russell Jacquet, brother of Illinois, Sir CharlesThompson and Lamar Wright, Jr., who was in Dizzy's big band. For more information see McCarthy, Albert: Big Band Jazz. London, Carter Nash Cameron, Ltd., 1974 (dist. in US by Putnam), pp. 179-180.
4. Originally a waltz, the Floyd Ray version was in a swinging cut-time a la Jimmie Lunceford.
5. The Jeter-Pillars Orchestra was one of the outstanding bands of the Southwest/Midwest territory. Known primarily as a show and dance band it none the less had as members, at one time or another Jimmy Blanton, Sid Catlett, Kenny Clarke, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Jimmy Forrest, Jo Jones, Walter Page and Carl Pruitt.
6. Spizzy Canfield was the star, or one of the stars, of the show.
7. Anita O'Day was the female vocalist with Krupa at the time.
8. It certainly was one of the first. Dizzy had recorded before this with Teddy Hill but he still was very much under the influence of Roy Eldridge. There are some air-checks with Calloway that show a more progressive style, but these were not released on record at the time.