Gil Fuller Speaks, part II
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. The following 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 the beginning of Gil's story read part I in the previous issue of Jazz Improv. We pick up his narrative with his discharge from the Army at the close of World War II, just in time for him to take part in the post-war Be-Bop explosion.
It was about 1945, and I wanted out, and I got discharged. So, they sent me to Petersburg, Virginia, I think it was. It's the Quartermaster Corps there, anyhow. And from there, they shipped me to Fort Dix, and then separated me in Fort Dix, and I came back, and that was February, around February 5th, 1945. I went around to Minton's and all those places, lookin' for the guys, y'know, usual thing, and I hung out in there all the time; all the guys were playing in there, and I started writing. Billy Shaw wanted to give Dizzy a band, so I wrote some things for him in early maybe March, or April, somewhere in there. And that was when we did "Oop-Bop-She-Bam", that was the first thing that we did for him. I did, like, four arrangements or something for the Hepsations band. I went out on the road with that band in '45: "Hepsations of 1945" that was the tour with the big band. Shaw didn't tell us that we were gonna play dances; he said, "You're gonna play concerts." We had the Nicholas Brothers; Lovey Lane , she was a shake dancer; June Eckstine, Billy Eckstine's first wife; and Patterson and Jackson; and those were the acts. So we had a shake dancer, a singer, which was June; Patterson and Jackson, which were two comedians; and the Nicholas Brothers, and they were dancers and singers. I did those things, I arranged those numbers.
Anyway, from that, when it came June, 1946, the Shaws wanted to give him a big band; they told me to give him a big band, blah-blah-blah. Clark Monroe was gonna get a club, and it was called The Spotlight, and Billy Shaw got us booked in there. I wrote, I think it was, twenty-one arrangements in a week, puttin' this band together, and among those was "Things To Come". So, I'd ask him, y'know, what kinda changes do you wanna play on there. And he'd sit down and say he'd like to play this, or play that. I'd listen to him, and OK, I'll take care of it. I didn't let 'im in rehearsals for five days, we rehearsed the band for five days I wouldn't even let 'im in there. He didn't know what the hell the band was goin' to sound like. He had no idea what that band was goin' to sound like. So, we started on Monday, and I'd go in there and rehearse the band from, one o'clock up until about five or six, gettin' it together. And, every day I'd go home, write some more, come back the next day, have the copyist copy the stuff overnight--he had to work all night gettin' it ready. Next day, we'd go in and rehearse all this stuff that I wrote. On that Friday, I told him, "OK, you come down one o'clock." His parts were there, and his stand was set up for him, I told him, "There's the stuff." Now, he didn't even know what the band was goin' to sound like; he had no idea what that band was goin' to be like.
That's how Dizzy's band got started. The making of Dizzy's band was one of the things where we tried to style a band. The objective was to write something that nobody else was playing, in a big band. We merely took what we had been doin' all the years, up to the time, 'til '45. I did all the arrangements and tried to pick, something that I though he would sound like, and what he would be able to play with. We went down, and we played the Spotlight and, the people wouldn't leave the club. Monroe was mad, he got hot because he wanted them outa there so he could get a turnover! You know, you got admission at the door; you're selling the drinks; and they're sitting' there listenin' to the music, glued to the chair. You knew that night that band was a success!
Like I say, I'd let 'im in after five days, he didn't know what it was; he had nothin' to say. And of course, while we were putting the band together, if anybody had any idea, something that they thought we could improve the things with, y'know, I'd say tell me about it, and let's see what we can do; 'cause we were trying to create something that was totally different. And Dave Burns contributed significantly to those things. He used to come up with those trumpet licks--things in the back that nobody knew. They used to attribute them to Dizzy, but Dave did quite a few of those.
Oh, well, 1945, let's see; I got back to New York, that was, like, February fifth. By June, I was living in New York; opened up an office, writin' arrangements then. I had Art Mooney playin' at the Lincoln, Vincent Lopez, workin' in the Taft Hotel. I had Jerry Wald, who had a big band. Who the hell else was it? Tony Pastor. The guy that went with Sy Oliver was around the hall from me--Dick Jacobs. That's 1585 Broadway; it was the Strand Theater Building. My office was right over the marquee. And right across the street from there was the Royal Roost. And I wrote the things for Royal Roost; I did the theme song: "Jumpin' With Symphony Sid". Oh, yeah; let's see; it started off with, "Jah-jump, jah-jump, Let's jump with Symphony Sid!" And then they went into the thing. And he used to use it for a theme song; that was his theme song. But I had so many bands that I was writing for then. Then I did some motion pictures for one of the theater things--"Sepia Cinderella" with Billy Daniels and Sheila Guise [sp??].
In '45, like, I went to a place down there in the Beaux Arts, and we were gettin' ready to do some things with Artie Shaw. I liked Artie, he was one of my inspirations. I don't know what the hell happened, but I was so damned busy that I couldn't to it. I guess I did something. He wanted Hershey Kay and me to write the arrangements for his band, one of the times he was gonna put his band back together.
And then, somewhere around in that time, I guess that's when Chico O'Farrell came to the United States, and he came to my office. Somebody brought him in there, I don't remember who, maybe Mario Bauza brought him in there, I think it was Mario; but one of the guys brought him in. And he said he was an arranger and he wanted to write. And Benny Goodman was hassling me in '45. Anyhow, I didn't wanna write the things for Benny, 'cause that wasn't my kind of music, you know; he was Fletcher Henderson. So I told Mark Hanna that I would send him my pupil. Well, in fact, Chico wasn't my pupil; but I had to tell him somethin' to make them take him. You know, they wanted me to write arrangements for Benny Goodman; they were gonna start all over again. It was just that quirk of fate that I didn't wanna do it, you know, Harry [Goodman] and them was givin' me all kinds of stock arrangements to write, it was all kinds of stocks: "X, Y, Z", "Riff Medley". There was things that Budd Johnson had done for Earl Hines; but they didn't think these guys could write, and they knew me, and you know what I mean, and figured, "This guy; this is the educated guy," and blah-blah-blah. Budd Johnson was a good arranger, and the tunes were good; they were big things for Earl Hines, but they didn't trust him with stock arrangements--he didn't know anything about writing stocks. I did the arrangements on "Clarinet Marmalade", which was Eddie Sauter or somebody.
Yeah, Harry and Gene, coming to me for the publishing. Me and Harry were good buddies. They liked me, and I could do the work, you know, so what the hell. They paid me for the things, so I wasn't worried about no money, wasn't worried about no jobs, nothing! I had, like, all the goddam bands. I left somebody out; but I don't know who I left out--oh, Eddie Cleanhead Vincent, I did one of his things; who the hell else was there?.... there was Woody Herman, Charlie Barnett, y'know what I mean? I was writin' for Stan Kenton, too. This was all from '45 say to the beginning of '50; by December '47, I had taken off.
I put a band together for Mercer Ellington. That might have been around '46, '47, I guess. Mercer had talent; Mercer wrote a lotta songs. He wrote "Things Ain't What They Used To Be", "Moon Mist"--that was Mercer. Mercer was very talented, y'know, he was a chip off the old block. Yeah, we had a nice band, we had a good band. We made a record, and Mercer took the record up to his old man, and went into the dressing room up at the Apollo. The old man said, "Hm! Gee, that sounds pretty good!" But he told him that "there's only gonna be one Ellington on the road, and that's me!" You could understand that. Because the old man was astute; he was smart. He knew exactly what was goin' on, and he'd been through the mill.
Anyway, I was working, I was so busy, I didn't have time, so when Benny Goodman came to me, I was gonna take on too much, you know what I mean. So I said, I'm gonna send you my pupil and Mark said, "OK, is he good?" And I told him, "Oh, yeah, yeah!" So Chico went back and he wrote this thing called "Undercurrent". I read his melody off, sung it, and told him, "Naw, naw; you have to change that line; fix this line this way; that ain't gonna get it." Whatever he wrote, was music, and the kid was well trained and all that kinda stuff, but it wasn't American Jazz. He was a Cuban, y'know what I mean. I doctored his melody (y'know they call them "tune doctors"), I fixed his melody so it would be like it wasn't--so it was more like something Goodman would play. I told him, "Do it this way; and change those sax parts", and stuff like this, "and the thing will be all right. And take it over there and see what you do." So he went over there to Benny, they played his "Undercurrent", and they liked it; Benny liked him, and he got the job.
And then, Mel Lewis came down; he and a guy named Angelo Collea, who was a helluva trombone player. I wanted Angie to stay, 'cause he really could play; but he didn't wanna leave Buffalo. So he went back to Buffalo, and Mel stayed down, and next thing you know, Mel made some dates with us, for Ella Fitzgerald. I was writing for her, for Billy Eckstine and all these others. I had record dates comin' out of my ears! I was Putting sessions together, recording charts for the different people. Then I had some other things on Atlantic with Ahmet Ertegun. They were on 54th Street, and they started in the forties, somewhere in there; between '45 and '49. Herb Abramson, who was a dentist, started Atlantic. Herb Abramson and Ahmet Ertegun; I don't even think Neshui may have been in town in those days. And what's his wife? Miriam. Miriam Abramson. Those were the three that started Atlantic. And I did work for them; I wrote arrangements for their artists. I can't even remember who the hell they were.
Billy Eckstine was on National. He was recording for National and I did things for them. I wrote be-bop things for Billy Eckstine's band at the time. I had written some arrangements for Billy, one of them that I can remember was "Gloomy Sunday". The instrumentals I can't even remember what I did, But they had a helluva band. That was between '45 and '48. Then they wanted to make Billy a single. "What the hell are you carrying all the band around for? Get rid of the band, and we'll book you as a single!"
Also during that time I managed Fats Navarro, and got Fats on Savoy; I did all those be-bop boys, did all the guys for Savoy. I did things on Blue Note with James Moody and Dave Burns: "James Moody and His Modernists" . Well, it was my date but I didn't want to be a bandleader. That's the tunes like "Fuller Bop Man" and "Moodamorphosis", that was just an eight-piece thing, you know what I mean. Ernie Henry was playin' alto. 'Course he died early; I don't know what the hell happened to him; I think he got in with the wrong guys. But he was a nice little saxophone player, he did those things Blue Note things we called "James Moody and His Modernists". Like I say, they were my dates, but you know, I didn't wanna be no leader.
Then there was Babs Gonzalez, Lee Brown, he was a Newarker, too. Well, Babs grew up here in this town, and Babs used to be, well he used to try to sing, and I don't what he did. I got him over with Al Lyons on Blue Note; we did the first records over there with him.
Now, I taught James Moody to play basketball when he was eight years old. He's a Newarker. That's where he came from, Newark; and his uncle and I were in the Court Street Y. His uncle, Louis Hand, was, like, the Big Guy, he thought I was a kid, you know. James was eight years old, and I was about fifteen--fourteen or fifteen, somewhere around there; and James was small; we used to call him Gums, because his teeth were very short! All you could see was gums; so we used to call him Gums for short. His uncle still calls him Gums. He was in the Y, and his uncle was, kinda, y'know, getting us through what we were doing as kids.
We all left Dizzy's band; around that time 'cause we were fussin' about the money. I promised the guys they'd all get raises when the band made it; and the band made it, and they didn't get the raises. So everybody was all outta joint. The only monies I made outta that band at that time was $1,020.00 for all of that work, for like three years work, one thousand twenty bucks. I took him to the Union and all that kinda stuff; and then Hy Jaffe asked him, "Well, how much can you pay him?" He was tryin' to give Dizzy a hint what to pay me, 'cause they knew that had to pay me. So Hy says, "Why doncha give him $10.00 a week?"
And I looked at him: "How much you got in your pocket?"
"I got maybe four, five hundred dollars."
I said, "Gimme that!" Walked away, and so, that kinda soured me, and I said that was it. The guys in the band, they all--the band started breakin' up; different guys wanted to go one way and go the other, and Dizzy went out again with the band, and stuff like that.
But I had so many bands I was writin' for, I just couldn't do all the work; it was impossible for me to do all that goddam work, man. I can't even tell you all of 'em, 'cause I can't even think of 'em. Writin' records, and things like that--Oh, I had all kinds of things. I had guys that I hired to work; so that when they came and I didn't want to do the work, I'd tell them to give it to him; let him do the work. And most of guys, y'know, they did all right. Chico did all right. Like I said, I sent him with Benny, and he took off with Benny Goodman.
By 1949, I put a band together again, and we did "Blues For A Debutante" and some of the other things that I had done on Discovery, for Al Marx. They put that record out, I don't know where the hell they are; they're around somewhere. We did "Mean To Me", "Tropicana", I think; "Blues For A Debutante" and something else....that's where that was. On the thing I made for Al Marx, Shahab was the first man on that stuff. Shahab was in the band; Jimmy Heath was in the band; Billy Mitchell was in the band. Percy Heath was in the band, he played bass on those things. Al Cobbs was the trombone player. He played with us with Les Hite; I had him in Les Hite's band, Al Cobbs, trombone player. He was a good trombone player and arranger. He wrote arrangements. He's a nice guy; he was a very quiet kind of person. I think Billy Mitchell played the solo on "Blues For A Debutante".
Well, by 1950, what was happening--by the time you get to 1950, Rock & Roll had started, and the people in the business, the people in the record companies, and everybody, wanted to make money, they wanted to make millions, y'know. So they thought this was gonna be the craze, so from, I'd say from 1950 nothin' happened. Dizzy broke the band up and went to the small thing-- broke his up for a while. Then Dizzy said, "The hell with this! I want my band back!" And Willard Alexander, who was with him, told him to reduce it down to nine pieces. They tried that for a while. And, they busted up the bands, y'know what I mean. Rock & Roll was the thing. And everybody was Rock-&-Roll crazy!
In '50 I moved to Long Island, and I went into the real estate business, and I built housing. I'm also an engineer. After high school I went to Newark College of Engineering, in between goin' on the road. I told you, a Summertime Charlie was my thing. I'd go out with the band in summertime, and those weeks you have off for the holidays, and stuff like that. In the meantime, I was tryin' to get an education.
I built houses in 1950. In '48, I bought a house out in Queens. In '49, I stayed in the music business. By 1950, I decided it just wasn't gonna do anything, and I started building houses. I built houses for about two years, three years. I built a lotta houses in St. Albans, and out there was Ella Fitzgerald, she lived on Murdock Avenue in one house; Roy Campanella lived on 179th Street, and right across from Roy I built a house--a ranch house. I bought the land; designed the houses; did the architecture and everything, built the houses, and sold 'em.. And then there was some--I built some on a hundred and--Jacquet lived on 179th, Illinois Jacquet lived on 179th Street. On one end, on the corner of Murdock Avenue and 179th I built a house, a ranch--I built all California-lookin' houses on that end. And then on 179th down the street from Jacquet, I built another ranch house. Then on 180th, I built a string of bungalow type houses. I call them "chicken boxes", but they were sellin', y'know what I mean. Mercer was there, Mercer was on 175th. Basie was out there, lived out there in St. Albans. So I built houses all over St. Albans, all around in there; it was a nice neighborhood. Lena Horne was over on Murdock Avenue and 175th St. I lived up Dormans Road; I bought a house up there on Dormans Road and got married in 1952 and had two kids. I'm still married to the same lady. So, what is that? Damn near forty years. She came to work for me in the office when I was in the building business, in the real estate business.
Sahib Shihab sold houses for me. I had Shihab out there sellin' houses. Good little salesman! I used to send him to the bank with the monies and everything; you could trust him. And Shahab was my buddy. He was a helluva nice man!
In '55 I did Stan Kenton's television show. He came to me, and told me he wanted me to represent him at CBS to do his show; they wanted to do a show with him. "OK, Stan, be glad to do it!" So, I went to California, flew out to California, met his manager, Bob Allison. And we talked about what Stan wanted, and all that sort of stuff. "No problem!" And I stayed out there for about maybe two weeks--that's where I first met Abbey Lincoln, with Ann Richards. Ann was singing with the band and I met Abbey Lincoln; she brought Abbey around. Nice girl. Y'know, she was tryin' to sing; tryin' to get started. I blocked out the whole show. That was, like, in January that I started. And by April, I had blocked out the whole show, the whole thirteen weeks. I could approve anything that I'd want, the artists, everything! I was Kenton's surrogate; Dick Lewein (sp???) was the Executive Producer; Bob Bock was, I think, Associate Producer, and Mel Ferber was the Director. Jac Venza, who was with Channel Thirteen, was workin' with somebody, the Associate--I don't know how the thing was, it's so long ago. But anyhow, Jac was a nice, y'know, sharp little young guy. And Mel Ferber was a helluva director; he knew his stuff as far as doing things right. We blocked out the show for the thirteen weeks; picked all the talent; I approved 'em. We had Tina Louise, who was just gettin' started. Her folks were doctors; her father was a doctor, you've probably seen her on "Gilligan's Island". But she was just gettin' started then, and she wanted to sing. Well, how the hell was I gonna have her singin' in June Christie's place! So, I told her, "No, we had to go get June to do the things." And we did the pilot. And Tina was on there doin' somethin', I don't remember exactly what. But I did all the music and stuff like that; and when Kenton came in all he did was get in front of the band, and wave his arms, and go through the thing, and they called it "Music '55". It ran for thirteen weeks.
Well, while the show was running, and I'm sitting there when they're doing these shows, and we're doin' one after the other, then all the guys got antsy: Johnny Richards said "Gee, Stan, we helped you start the band," and this, that and the other, and "why did you get all of these guys?!" But I hired everybody, practically, that was around there, other than him, but he was an arranger, so I didn't need him. So, I got all of the fellas that were left out of the band, after Kenton's band broke up. You know, he broke the band up, then hired new guys, young guys; and so all of the guys that he did have in the band that were around here--that's Sal Salvador, Bart Barcelona, Al Porcino, Sonny Russo, Eddie Burt, the whole slew of 'em, anybody that was in the band that I could get, I used. And that's the way we got the band.
What happened to him with the band was that CBS was trying to build Orson Bean, or Orson Bean's manager was trying to build him. But anyhow, they had the inside track on doing it. And Camels Cigarettes wanted Kenton. So I called him up and told him, "You better get Allison back here. You didn't give me no authority to go in and tell 'em that we're not gonna do the show unless we get the Camels thing; and that what they're trying to do is, they're trying to sell to Camels, you're gonna get a sponsored show; and hey, you might be on there for a year or two years, and they're giving you the shuffle. Now, I tellin' you what's goin' on."
He says, "Oh, Gil, you're too excitable!"
"I'm not excited. I'm tellin' you what the facts are. You better get 'im outta here! 'Cause if you don't get 'im outta here, and the way it looks to me, they're going to try to give Orson Bean the show."
Well, he didn't get the show. He wound up being a sustaining show that CBS itself paid for; and gave Orson Bean the show that had Camels sponsorship. And as it worked out, Orson Bean didn't turn out to be anything; he didn't make it. And so then Kenton says to me, "Jesus Christ!"
I said, "I told you. You didn't wanna listen to me; you told me I was too excitable. I'm not 'excited'; I'm tellin' you what's goin' on here! Now, you put me here to do your job, and I'm tryin' to do it! But if you wanna do that, that's up to you; there's nothin' I can do. I told you!"
So, when the thirteen weeks was up, they threw him out, and he didn't have no show; that's what happened to "Music '55", otherwise, it would've been gone on. In the meantime, he's mad with me because he thought I'm makin' waves. So Johnny Richards wants the job, so Kenton tells me, "Well, OK, Gil, I want you to go out on the road with the band."
I told him, "I really don't want to go on the road. But I'll go, y'know, a week at a time, or somethin' like that."
He says, "Well, OK. You'll go a week at a time, and I'm gonna put Johnny Richards in there, because they were all complaining that they were the guys that helped me get started," and this, that and the other thing.
So I went out; I went up around Boston, New England, with Stan, travelin' with the band. I Got tired, and told him, "Hey, man; I wanna go home. I got my kids to raise." And I just left; and I didn't write anything for him. He was mad because I was quittin'. But I couldn't do that; and I was annoyed because the show was all done. Thirteen weeks was all blocked out. I could've made him pay me for the whole thing, and he'd have had to pay me maybe about ten thousand, or somethin' like that; but it didn't make any difference; I was makin' money hand over fist in real estate, and I didn't care; I let it go. And outta that, Eddie Burton said that Kenton prevents--this is what they said; y'know, they used to have a thing, they'd say, "Kenton presents..." ; and Eddie Burton, used to say, "Kenton prevents!" So, what're you gonna do! But we were all buddies.
I had a recording studio in Los Angeles, from 1957 up until 1965. I built a studio there, and we were recording, duplicating tapes. I duplicated all of Ampex's tape. I can tell you all the dirty things that were done to you in the business. I bought, I think it was about $80,000 worth of Ampex duplicators. I had ten two-track duplicators, and ten four-track duplicators. I got pictures of it somewhere. And I was dealing with Capitol, getting ready to do their things, and Ampex got wind of what I was doing--y'know how everything in the business is. So they went to St. Louis and set up a duplicating facility. I was dumb enough to tell them what I was doing in Los Angeles, there wasn't one there. And I set up this place; had a big duplicating facility, and stuff like that. I was duplicating Bel Canto tapes and all that stuff--four-track tapes, four-track cassettes. So I was duplicating all this stuff and had the guys that used to work for Bel Canto working for me. I was also recording at the same time.
In '65, I went to World Pacific, World Pacific/Liberty. That was Dick Bock, who had sold his company to Liberty. First I did a thing for Ray Charles. I did some arrangements for him for the album Modern Sounds In Country And Western. So I did some things for him for that, and that record sold two million copies. So, I had that. My name was on the back of it, you'll see it on there somewhere. Then I did "The Shadow of Your Smile", the first record on "Love Themes from The Sandpiper." I call Dizzy up and tell him, "You wanna make a record with me?"
He says, "Yeah, I'll do it."
So I call Dick Bock back and tell him, "Well, OK. I got Dizzy to do the album with me. He's gonna be the featured artist on my Monterey Jazz Festival album. And they asked me, "What do you want to do?" Well, I had one of these movie themes I'd like to do, Johnny Mandel was the writer. I was goin' to do some others out of the movie, because we had a lot of little sketches of stuff in there. But then I said, no, I'll just do the theme from the picture. It was a good trumpet thing, so I figured I'd do it with Dizzy. So we did the love theme from The Sandpiper.
There weren't any words at the time. Tony Bennett calls me up and says, "Hey, Gil! What is that tune that you guys just recorded over there on World Pacific/Liberty?"
And I told him, "Oh! Johnny Mercer's writing some lyrics for it right now. Why don't you call up and tell them that I told you about it, and see if you can get 'em to give you the lyrics?" And he wanted to record it. So Tony Bennett got the lyrics from Johnny Mercer and did the thing; we put the instrumental out--the first record out on the damn thing; and snap! it went. So, I did that; I don't remember what the whole album is.
I did two albums. I did mine first, and then I gave Moody the second one, with the Monterey Jazz Festival Orchestra."Gil Fuller and the Monterey Jazz Festival Orchestra, featuring James Moody." That's what it was, what it said; 'cause I wasn't goin' for that no more. Every time they'd play the first one, they'd say "Dizzy Gillespie and the Monterey Jazz Festival Orchestra". They still do it! You see what I'm sayin'? But you look at the album, you'll see on there, in the block, "Gil Fuller and the Monterey Jazz Festival Orchestra, featuring Dizzy Gillespie." And I did a whole thing with him with that, and I picked some of the things we had done, but they insisted that we do "Hotcha", which was a Junior Walker thing, y'know what I mean? And I told them, "Hey, man, that don't fit with what we're doing!" Dick Bock just insisted. I said, "Well, OK," and it was horrible. That was the last thing on the record. I told them, "It doesn't fit!"
When I went to California I started writing things, doin' movie work and underscoring. They didn't want to hire anybody; I'm ghostin' for Jerry Goldsmith and everyone else out there, and writing at the same time. So I go get an agent out there, can't think of his name right now, and told him, "Get me a studio contract."
So, he says, "Well, we can't--OK." Then he went around and he says, "Well, I passed your name around, but I didn't get any kind of action."
I said, "Oh? Why was that?" He didn't say anything; so I said, "OK."
So, then I did this article with Chuck Champlin. It ran for three weeks in the Sunday Times; it was '64 or '65. So I started the article with how discriminatory they were and what they were doin'. They didn't have any Black writers other than Benny Carter, who'd been there for twenty years, writing underscoring and ghosting--you could ghost; I was ghosting; but you couldn't get your name on that screen as the music writer; as a Black guy, you couldn't get that. And I put all that in that article, and told them exactly what the game was; how they did it, and what they did. The second week, all the guys started hollerin'.
Three weeks it is, now. I told them what they hadn't done; what they'd done to Benny Carter, and he'd been there for twenty years! Benny Carter invited me over to his house to meet Stanley Wilson and his wife. I went there and I met Stanley, and everything like that. And Stanley says, "Yeah, I think I can do somethin' for you and with you!" And I said, "OK." And I went back home. Shortly after that, before we could even get into it, Stanley dies. So that was the end of that, and I just gave up. By '67, in Los Angeles, they started some crap with the schools, and I told my wife, "Let's pack up and go back East." I had a house out there and everything; so I closed up the house and packed the kids up, and they were comin' out of school, so it was, like, in the summer. So I came back in '67, and opened an office at 1780 Broadway in New York. In the meantime, in the wake of all of this, Oliver Nelson went out and he got himself a job; he started workin' out there. He worked himself to death, trying to make up for what they had done to me.
And I came back here, and I've been back ever since. That was, like, 1967, when I came back. I was managing Freddie Hubbard; but see, there isn't enough time for me to finish. Anyway--well, why don't you just come down again, and maybe by the time you get that together, we'll have it all in order, so that it makes sense, y'know what I mean?
So I said, "OK. Well, we can pick up. I think that's a good idea. I'll take this, and I'll get this part of it all shaped up--"
And Gil said, "Yeah!"
And I said "--and we'll come back and do a second interview." But, as I said at the beginning, it did not work out that way.
I hope you have enjoyed hearing from Gil about his life in the music business and that you will remember his contributions to this wonderful art we call Jazz. 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.
© Paul 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. See Gillespie, Dizzy and Al Frazer, To Be Or Not To Bop. New York: Doubleday, 1979 (reprinted by Da Capo Press), pp. 223-4, for more of Fuller's recollections about the 1945 band.
2. It was probably April, since the band's first recording date was on May 15, 1946.
3. Gillespie, To Be Or Not To Bop, pp. 253-261, for more of Fuller's recollections about the 1946 band including mention of the ten or so charts Billy Eckstine let Gil copy from his book.
4. The following is a mix of recollections about the years 1945-49, as Fuller acknowledges later.
5. O'Farrell did not come to NYC until '48 and Fuller had fallen out with Gillespie in 1947, so his association of the O'Farrell incident and being busy with Dizzy is incorrect. It is hard not to get things mixed up after forty-five years.
6. Budd Johnson did indeed write stocks, but perhaps not many or more likely for other publishers.
7. "Undercurrent Blues", recorded by Goodman in 1949, established O'Farrell as an important new arranger. He went on to have a long and successful career.
8. Eckstine's big ban broke up early in 1947.
9. Fuller had a relationship with Savoy that started in the late '30s. In his own words, "Savoy Records, yes. I chased all over the country, recording different people for Levinsky, and that's how Levinsky got into the record company. The strike came on, but see, now we were about up to around the forties. Thirty-eight, thirty-nine--thirty-eight, I think, about 1938, I think I was with Floyd Ray." So it seems he was producing sessions for Savoy out side of NYC while on the road with Ray.
10. Moody's last recording with Gillespie was made on Aug. 22, 1947; Cecil Payne's on Dec. 30, 1947; and Dave Burns' on Dec. 29, 1948. Recording dates would indicate that Ernie Henry joined the band sometime in 1948 and stayed with Gillespie until at least the summer of 1949.
11. This would suggest that Gil did indeed graduate high school rather young, due to skipping a grade or two, perhaps in 1937 or even 1936. Also one should remember that many High schools had a January graduation up until the mid 1960s.
12. Star catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers and one of the first blacks to play for Major League Baseball.
13. Bock sold the company but stayed on to continue running it.
14. The Sandpiper was a very successful dramatic feature staring Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Ann-Marie Saint. It's them became well-known as "The Shadow Of Your Smile".
15. Gil Fuller And The Monterey Jazz Fesitval Orchestra - Gil Fuller & Dizzy Gillespie, Pacific Jazz ST-93/PJ-93.
16. Night Flight: Gil Fuller, James Moody & The Monterey Jazz Festival Orchestra, Pacific Jazz St-20101/PJ-10101.
17. "Hotcha" apppears to have been deleted from later pressings of this album.