Speaker When did you first hear Ella Fitzgerald?

Speaker When I first heard it on. On record first and then I was. Really? I was a kid, but I was impressed by her voice.

Speaker That being on record. So when she came to town and I could hear in person and I was more impressed by how she sang because I could see my.

Speaker All this performer and how she interacted with the musicians and the audience, so she's made it a different picture for me. See how she works. Always sounded great.

Speaker Do you know the first record you oh.

Speaker I don't I don't know, but I guess the famous one was Triscuit, a task at whatever it was was the backside of it with a. Sure was impressive. Then later on, I heard some things she did with the Chick Webb Band. And those were in Savoy and those things were really outstanding. Really? Ahead, it was time for vocalist's to not only just sing the melody, but to interpret, you know, like what she was feeling about. I was like, you know, like a musician would play a solo on Countermelody or.

Speaker Explain that.

Speaker No, no, this is just a. Instead of just singing the straight lyric, I mean, she's saying that the lyric, but she changed the tone somehow. You know, like, can she her phrasing helped her change the sound of the piece. You know, the structure. While staying in the structure is this.

Speaker It's kind of hard, but to do it all the time. Usually the first course was pretty much as written. And then she took liberties after that, which puts her. That's the beauty of what she could do to a song.

Speaker It's funny, I've never heard anybody say that before. I mean, they said. And she was. Great interpreters songs. But they never really described it the way you did.

Speaker All right. I had a long time, you you from a distance and then a close. It then changed my opinion of her quite a bit. I started working with her when I stopped working with her for a while and noticed that there was no anybody there to take, you know, fill in that void. There were some good things, but there were. There were no Alexander. When you saw her the first time she performed, the first time I went through to really I think it was a.

Speaker With the ink spots not over, it stands out whether she was singing with Aswath. But the second time really impressed me when she was with me, a more modern group with things that Ellen on our jacket. OK, Ted, something in line with the pianist was Hank Jones.

Speaker I was really drawn to hearing. A modern P.A. with this modern singer, it was a that was my first. Really listening to Ella. Seriously. She's playing with serious musicians that the ink spots were serious for her. They were together because they had a similar hit recording. You know. And treats like some little force or some rainless swappers.

Speaker When you say modern, what do you mean? Modern musician?

Speaker Well. I mean that from going from Chick Web to working with a small group of Taliban and the big man to.

Speaker A smaller group where she gets she was more or less the featured instrument, which is before I used to be, you know, the orchestra with the. Accomplishment. Now it's the small group. That's a compliment. It made a lot of difference, I think. Freed her up. It freed up musicians how they played with her just for one solo instrument.

Speaker Was that just, uh.

Speaker Uh, no, this is before before. She's doing things with, uh. Small trios, but you're maybe about that time the GTP may have started.

Speaker I know. I'm not completely sure which came first.

Speaker Do you think that. Police think she learned from chick lit and that whole.

Speaker She learned a lot about. About singing with the band. Then how to swing with a band? I mean, this is of the first big band vocalist thing.

Speaker Really?

Speaker Sounds like another instrument with the orchestra. He was really a.

Speaker She's one of those one of a kind. Seems like immediately she knew what to do with this band and she crab was a great rhythm player.

Speaker So I'm sure she learned a lot about swing, you know, from him. But for the musicians in that group, parents. You know, a lot of encouraging musicians, especially so young, which joined that band.

Speaker Sure, she learned a great deal because she became the leader of that band after a while after she grabbed pass, so she learned a lot about how to. I guess being the front runner banner, which must have been hard for her because that's really not her thing, is to be a group of guys. Know whether it be music or any other way of achievements. She learned quickly and.

Speaker Well, you know, just now that footage that we've looked at, the chief who is. She's saying in a very simple way. To start out and then later on, she became us like real. Complete command of the stage in the audience. So funny. Did you see that happening time?

Speaker Well, I can see it happening, too. She would gain more confidence with it, with the audience. I think it was mostly because of the people that were behind her, too. She had a. A feeling that she was kind of felt more comfortable with the group that she was with a lot. But that always happening with the small groups I was with. We always had a nice feeling together and the same thing. We went to play with some of the bigger groups that she was.

Speaker She really loved. And that was she would be the Ellington band and the basic band within.

Speaker The difference in the end, the Basey Ban and Ellington band to me was that I think she was more and all of the Ellington band of those guys were there for so long. And she she respected them a lot. Not that she didn't respect the basic ban, but they were a lot younger and. And they were more and all of her than it was the other way with the Ellington band. I never saw it either either. Band play any less for her. He seemed to bring out more for her. I played a lot of engagements without those bands, you know, like hotel bands. And the music never sounded as great as it did with Duke or with baozi. Something special.

Speaker Well, she traveled and that was a star. Yes. And. I used to do all those. Some people call my cutting sessions at the end. Oh, yeah? What did you think?

Speaker I thought was kind of funny because it was because they were having fun. But they felt a little challenged after a while and they started exchanging these phrases. And she would come back with the same phrase, no matter how intricate it would be, except when there was a few times when she was a, you know. Guys gave out a little more than she can handle. But that was the funny part, too, you know. I mean, she would acknowledge that like. Might give them a like a passing mark. Yeah. You got me back to where she was always up for it. The challenge.

Speaker And she didn't think she was taking it.

Speaker No, she wasn't. Not really. I mean, they call it a cutting session. She wasn't trying to really overdo anybody.

Speaker She was just, you know, being a low level and letting you know that she was like she loved what you were playing. She began 20 minutes by repeating that phrase for. Of course, you could have just as well gone another way on Iran. As usual, horn players don't do that. But it's a big difference. We vocalist on. Oh, oh, three. Two saxophones, one or nearly just tell what the other one played. I know that happens, but it goes off another direction. It's just an idea. The way she would do it would be almost exactly and always get the same sound as that instrument, which was. I you a strange. Mysterious. You get the sound of a trombone. It's very troubling.

Speaker Somebody told me a story about. He was, you know, Cogan's owns. Came out and one of those sessions, and for some reason, nothing was coming out of his home.

Speaker I don't know. But a business card did her part and they told me that.

Speaker Did you know of. When you first heard or did you ever imagine that you would become her accompanist?

Speaker No, I didn't. And frankly, I was a.

Speaker Come out in the back of my mind.

Speaker I knew that some of her most favorite companies that I liked were.

Speaker I could see myself trying to be in that role, too, because some of my favorite companies that played with her were like models to me. Like Alice Larkin and Hank. Jimmy Jones and. So when I did get that call, like to play with where I was, I was really into, you know, I was surprised and elated at the same time. I didn't think it would last long. I was actually she was looking for a replacement for short time.

Speaker Do you remember when you went to see your.

Speaker You know, I always didn't know how to meet her, and she's about the same way with me. Well, anyway, we did meet and we discussed like.

Speaker A few things that were coming up. It wasn't a. A long year. It was just the end of a. Her summer engagement before she went on vacation, which was usually the month of August. So I played with it for a few weeks. I got a chance to know Ella Fitzgerald and play Summer. But I was nervous of few that first. Well, that month I played with.

Speaker What were those first performances like free playing for you? Well.

Speaker Let's first in front such a large audience that it's one of the things.

Speaker And the play with the. A program, a set routine.

Speaker Things that had to be precise behind our plate. I thought that was.

Speaker Not not exactly routines, but. Whether her repertoire was pretty much. You know, like it stayed the same.

Speaker And it was she depended on it being that way. And that's how. Came to know how to play with. With her through.

Speaker Getting a better. Fighting how the routine would go until you got more comfortable with it so you could do something on your own without staring at the page.

Speaker She says she buys it first. I mean, not at first, but she knew I was doing the job the best I could. But that was that was the very beginning. And then I was called.

Speaker Called back after I was away from a plane for a few years. And I was really happy to hear that. I was called again. I thought maybe they really. That she really, when I read. You know. I'll play for you. She like my musicianship. So I was very confident when I went back to too. And I guess you can see this. I think we are playing a gig in London. I guess I got too overconfident myself. And she just turned. Turn around. If it's going to be like this, you're not getting out of the business.

Speaker So this is a that's a serious thing to me.

Speaker The peerlessly was the cause of all of this. Get out of the business.

Speaker So I. I got myself together.

Speaker I've got the other guys in the group, you know, together, and we're tone down demeanor on stage.

Speaker If it became a better scene between the two of us and the group. You might think that she would say that for the end of the show. It was a really. A revelation to get it in the middle of that performance.

Speaker Yeah. So we have to check on some. Daytime, sure.

Speaker So you actually first played in the late 50s and then came back in the 60s, right? Right. Could you make a comparison in your voice between us?

Speaker Well, I mean, her voice was was great when I first. Played within fifties. But it seemed to have gained something more. I don't know. She had more depth in her singing was more. I don't know. She was already matured, but it just seemed to keep growing. And it was she was more full voiced like. And her range. It started. Going higher and lower. She wants her out. Her range was seen to increase.

Speaker You receive stayed with you, that's. Ten years, right?

Speaker There was a period in Cyprus.

Speaker So you must have become pretty good friends.

Speaker I mean, we got to know each other, you know, pretty, pretty well. I don't know as friends, you know, like how. We were mostly. Prints on the on the gig likely ever. Shortly after. But there was no we didn't have any. Relationships, you know, outside of working that much, being on the road between gigs, you know, both. You know, I had a family in the. I had to go home. I went home to them. And she had a home and she went to. She had a family, too. So. After that, you know, after the working business, like we were always happy to meet again after you started working, you know.

Speaker But being on the road, you know, a fair amount of time together when you're not working, right? Yeah. Traveling. Some free time, I assume. How did she spend that?

Speaker I I don't know. We were so busy, like having some free time with ourselves. You didn't worry about what kind of time she was having. I just assumed that being who she was, even though you told me.

Speaker Oh, well, was. That's when she was at home. She was great a.

Speaker Viewer of the soap operas. So anytime we would have a rehearsal, you know, if it was, they were usually in the afternoon. So, I mean, we got up late. But if the rehearsal was fake between two and four, we knew that about three o'clock was gonna be soap operas. The soap. So you'd have a break there. She had summer. Some steady episodes she watched, uh. And I thought maybe she was the only one that didn't. When I started traveling on the road, I found out that a lot of musicians were wearing the same bag. They were watching soaps, too. Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Ray. Oh, really? Then I found myself. I had been watching. I got caught up in. But it was it was a funny thing. I mean, you have to be kind of friendly on that basis.

Speaker Her manager at that time was Norman Bransford. Only one, I know what. What did you think of their relationship and what was.

Speaker I think she had great respect for him and and I usually respect Hillary, his decisions.

Speaker You usually do. It's programming that he would put down. I mean, she would put it down, but he didn't. She was always, you know, she'd approve it when she saw it, but she could change it in a minute. You know, think you do your job. Sometimes you would be undecided about what she should sing and he has to lay it out for sushi. But I have no doubt about what to say. Have an opener. You know, the second two and. Whatever.

Speaker Whatever. And then the second half would start with such and such, you know. But it was a whole like maybe a 14 songs like or whatever it took, you know, like to do a two hour show or whatever.

Speaker You think of his abilities.

Speaker Well, he knew the music, he heard it. I don't know about how much he knew the music, but he knew he had heard it a lot more than anybody else outside of the musicians. So he knew the. What he liked about Elvis singing and the songs she sang.

Speaker He had a pretty good idea of. But he said he thought the audience wanted to hear, you know, the people. Which is he was. Concerned about that. She related to her audience.

Speaker Norman was the. He he decided that Ella should be seen in. Like those really exclusive rulings, you near the big hotels and.

Speaker You must've played some of those places.

Speaker Oh, yeah, I did. The fact that I may have. I started playing some of the first ones, and it was really the Fairmont chain. I remember the most. The main one in San Francisco is. It was the first he was a regular there maybe twice a year. There was another Fairmont in Denver, one in New Orleans is a big one.

Speaker You you played with me the first time she played you.

Speaker I don't know if I was the first one, but my first recollection of her playing the treatment was the. I was there. I was in there pretty early for her. She's here. This is after. I mean, Las Vegas was. Another venue that was maybe twice a year. And the families. I mean, the year is pretty much filled with steady work, at least 40. You know. Forty or more weeks out of the year with a little time off for. Travel. To the next gig.

Speaker You play with. Oh, well, let's see. Prior to the time of the civil rights movement. All right. Reaction that went with was achieved. How do you feel about that?

Speaker What was going on?

Speaker Well, when. We didn't speak about it that much. But just among ourselves, you know, like me.

Speaker She's very well aware of what was what was going on in the movement and the.

Speaker She was concerned, gave her support through it. I don't know if she said outward about it. It's some other performers were. But she was. She was really concerned about the effort that, uh. King and the other the younger movement. I think the younger movement, kind of the word her a little bit, because the. They were little. They are very progressive, you know, like the Panthers get out on the West Coast. Everywhere he went, there was a little faction. If you've got your attention everywhere and I'm sure. You got ours. And we were very much aware of what was going on. But that one thing we didn't we didn't play. Hardly any place where there was. We will be discriminated against. So that was. Especially her, you know, I mean, I used, you know. I'm a go off into some directions where I'm sure she wouldn't, you know, so I thought I could have it, but I got my don't go here. I got those. Threats and, you know. Off limits.

Speaker But I mean, ran across the street from one of the few months I went to New Orleans. I was there. I was burnt out earlier one night for calling the bar waitress. Honey, would you give me another? I was never supposed to call crabby again, so I had to leave. And that was it. Burnout. But I'm sure she never had problems like that. But it was still like guys.

Speaker Now, Norman Grant said that Ellen never lifted a finger for several civil rights. Movement. Scuse me. We should change.

Speaker I think so. Norman. Why do you think he was saying a thing like that? She never lifted a finger for.

Speaker I don't know, I would say that the. She was a demonstrator and she wouldn't come right out and. Join some parade or something fun. She had her feelings about it, but she kept a lot of things to herself. And I'm sure that's just another one of them. But she was I'm sure you were really concerned about what was going on and.

Speaker You know, at the time.

Speaker Was she afraid? I've heard that, too.

Speaker I've always been afraid to choose. It's usually a pretty good protection.

Speaker Yeah, I mean, good said, if that's what you're talking about, she a. Someone was always with her.

Speaker Well, I mean, this way. She broke down some barriers, you know, segregated hotels and. But she was a person who had to walk out on a stage every night. Perfect target, you know. So.

Speaker She, I don't I don't think she worried about that. I mean, not that I know. She only had a couple incidents that I remember. Somebody came on the stage. But he was hustled, ran off and. The only other time I remember that this fellow came out on the stage very slowly and it turned out to be everybody know it was Montgomery Clift. Just a little juiced. Gave her a big hug. No harm done. Uh, it's part of being a being afraid of something, too.

Speaker I never noticed it was an. Known to me, she was. The movie stars, right? Oh, yeah. They're crazy about her, too. Mm hmm. But she was really.

Speaker She'd get excited when she somebody would be in the audience here to either be excited or nervous like someone said the Liz and Richard were. You know, like in the audience.

Speaker So don't tell me, you know, I've got to go on now.

Speaker Oh. But to do a great. They would be backstage to be here. Uh, Sophia Loren. I remember on Grant and, uh, once on a on a train.

Speaker She was just having a good time with, uh, this English actor. Uh. Stewart Granger. Ft. Dashing. Who else was there? All the Twitter. And the guy was just so happy to see. But that happens a lot. That we just seen movie stars with people in the entertainment business, ballplayer's and.

Speaker Did she understand that she was just as big a star as they were?

Speaker Well, they sure did. I know she did, because she, uh. Which is to. You have so much. Give her a give them a lot of respect. Oh, you get the feeling that she didn't think she was as big as they were. They knew themselves that she was bigger than they were. But it never got to her, which is a great thing about any of that. Go to her head.

Speaker Why do you think that's true? She was so modest.

Speaker The best way you can continue. I imagine if she was had another kind of personality, she wouldn't wouldn't be as good a person as she really turned out to be.

Speaker I mean, if she was really egoists.

Speaker Person or seen both.

Speaker Yeah. I think you a good person.

Speaker So you think that in several.

Speaker I think they go together. The. I think she's a. Actually, here, I think she's a greater singer than any of the other parts of about. Well, that's because I'm a. Mostly connected with her in a musical way. You know, you say about being as far as being a friend, you know, like I can be friendly, but I wasn't really on a. On the basis of calling her, you know, at all times or her anytime that I was off. But I did call. I stayed in contact with her even when I stopped working with her. He was he was always happy to hear from me.

Speaker You must have known it pretty well because you're doing a little imitation.

Speaker How that. I mean, being modest.

Speaker You're gonna do it for us. But you've seen it. And she.

Speaker I started to have a.

Speaker Health problems. We return some of the.

Speaker Reweight.

Speaker What did you see about that? I mean. Did she try to control the weight?

Speaker Well, she did enough. I thought I lose a lot of weight. That was, uh. I think you lost too much at one time. But it was her that made her feel good to like who she looked smaller than.

Speaker And it really a.

Speaker Any signs that she won't seem to go with her shoes? It didn't bother her singing at all, except I guess near the end when maybe when their health started to break down.

Speaker And then she. Her voice started, maybe. Go forever. That's from my eye condition. I think the operation or whatever happened. Did also something through her vocal cords. Not to the spirit of the thing she's always had that in.

Speaker Well, you tell me one story sort of suggestion that she tried to hide her, her eating.

Speaker Well, yeah, she, uh, she had a good appetite.

Speaker I know that you could really. Having great appetite and.

Speaker How does how do you see it? For the.

Speaker Do you think. I don't know how to. Others say. But either she was, she was. But she was the two kinds of beta, she was the public beta and the. When she was out of public view, she was another kind of leader. So it's like to eight more. When she was out of view. So. Which is a I guess it's natural, I'm the same way.

Speaker You have this tiny.

Speaker But there was a. Q I I to us, as he said, if you knew Al, you wanted to protect her.

Speaker Why? I mean, did you feel that way?

Speaker I thought she was pretty much protected anyway, but you could see that if anybody was.

Speaker Up to no good. Coming around, you know, like you would let them know, then, you know, they weren't. They weren't. Why did you keep her to you? A. Somebody here you have to watch out for, you know. That kind of protection with nobody was really physical with anybody. No.

Speaker Were these people who tried to take advantage of her? Those people you knew were bad news?

Speaker Yeah, they were. They were all.

Speaker All right, musicians, they were just friends and musicians that were, you know, thought that was their way in, you know, to her. Mm hmm.

Speaker But she was she was pretty hip to that. She wasn't even that way. She she knew what was going on.

Speaker Vaccinia.

Speaker Was she naive in any way?

Speaker I can't think about in any way.

Speaker What are your opinions? Do you?

Speaker I can't say that. I think she's should maybe put on more of being naive than she really was disliking her eating.

Speaker She had a public part that was naive. Away from that, she was. To be a. Outgoing. Not that outgoing, which is enough to let you know that she was Ferman. The ground she was standing on at the time.

Speaker Now, many people say that.

Speaker It seems like a lot of people just accept the public whether that was that was behind the private lives.

Speaker They didn't get past that because she strikes me as the.

Speaker Chris Smart prewired. A lot of things that.

Speaker Well, the one thing that always struck me is that she was on the road in the music business for a long time. She found it to be pretty.

Speaker I'm sure he connected with some of the smartest people in the music business and probably, you know, in on the scene at that time, you know.

Speaker True. Whatever, you know, intellect, they come from, you know, musical ways. I mean, she was up there with them and.

Speaker I don't know. She's a.

Speaker Is that what you would call a thinker, but he was you know, he had a.

Speaker She had a very kind side to her and a very caring side to show it to her, to her. Two musicians. Those that were close, you know, especially on certain days, I mean, we really know what it was for.

Speaker You'd be on the road and she'd know in Father's Day this and make a token of our affection for for you. And A, there is no birthdays. Of course, the holidays is always. She's already had the appropriate thing. Maybe too much kind of elaborate sometimes, but she was always thinking about.

Speaker And were people thinking I her the same way?

Speaker Yeah, well, yeah. Yeah. He said to do a lot of things or you don't like. On her birthday, Rita, make a big thing of it. If it wasn't.

Speaker If she had it, if we had a day off, it would be better. You know, like we had maybe a guy who was in in the States a few times.

Speaker It works out, you know, like in Europe, somebody do not really have access to a lot of things you had to deal with when you're at home. Well, that wasn't the only time that we were.

Speaker Affectionate with Ella. We were. I mean, we could present her with a. Some gifter, another. I'm not at the point where I can remember where they were, where they were. She was always excited. See, like we that we remember her.

Speaker Well, some people saw that she was a.

Speaker She had a little girl quality.

Speaker Inner voice. And really at her. In her personality. Did you think that?

Speaker You see, you have it in her and her voice. Sure. And she kept it for her for a long time. And it's just amazing that she could sound young for so long, you know?

Speaker But. I don't know about being a.

Speaker I think.

Speaker Well, good morning.

Speaker I'm sorry to say we can't do much about it and get you out of the light. We'll see.

Speaker Oh, yeah. Could you tell a story about. Louis Armstrong and Ellington.

Speaker He's won one game here on.

Speaker Yelwa. There's a gig we had at the Americana Hotel, he used to call that the royal box from working there and one night.

Speaker Uh. Armstrong came in, Lewis and Duke. And.

Speaker Ella was always pretty free with with her guests, and she invited Louis and Duke up. Uh. On her program, she was doing Hello, Dolly. Louis was there. And he had a big hit on Hello, Guy. So you came up and told Ella he was gonna show her how to say yes.

Speaker And he went through his, uh, his routine. But all the same time, it was Duke was sitting there playing. Never heard Duke play. Hello, Dolly. Before before it sent uh. It was funny that the three of them there, you know, like Holy Fourth week before this, uh, go this audience must've been ecstatic to know that the three of them were there.

Speaker It's not the first time, Louise. Come on a gig before some other some other gigs. Of course, we did things together. But on some of these club dates, it was really unusual to have him make a surprise appearance.

Speaker You know, those invitations that used to do.

Speaker And it's you know, I don't think so. Not that I know of. Well, then I guess he would really come. I'm sure how to do it.

Speaker Uh, no. She was a tailor. Very uncanny way of sounding like different people. And Louis was one of them. And. Oh, he did a great Rose Murphy.

Speaker Do a little bit of Diana. Oh. This is one of those kind of voices. She did a. Tainted. Mimic people.

Speaker Some people say you're running her voice. Well.

Speaker I don't think that they're going to do it because I sang sing songs that I used to think it would. Hurt her voice.

Speaker It never did. Just singing those high notes and the strong. She did. Night after night. That didn't seem to bother her vocal vocal chords at all.

Speaker She should present a range of the matter to.

Speaker As far as I know, he did. What did I do? One show with him. And here at the nearest theater? I ended up being a company one selection. The lady is a tramp because, uh. The pianist Frank Span's said he had forgotten the intro. I don't think that was true. He just wanted a break. But anyway, I. I did that one with him in a. That's probably the only time I ever played with Frank. Allah has had many shows with him backstage.

Speaker They really do want to know.

Speaker No, I don't. I don't recall.

Speaker You limited.

Speaker Well, there are various criticisms of Ella, but two seemed to be around a lot. One of them was that she sang without emotion.

Speaker This that's one of the really misconceptions of valid thing. I mean. I don't know anybody would say with more emotion than Ella.

Speaker I mean, it's it's all there on recordings. You can match up against the other thing is that singing the same song and Cesar. Her diction is much better. Her feeling comes across sincere and certainly her pitches better than anybody in the business.

Speaker Male or female?

Speaker Well, but those are musical things, and I guess what some people make a lot of comparisons between Ellen and Billy is they sort of came on at the same time. And then they say, well, Billy was a much more emotional.

Speaker Well, I think the material she's saying with more movie. That's a that's another thing. I mean, you think a lot of blues and the song is about.

Speaker You know.

Speaker You know, Harvey and. All that business, you know, like that, that's your main. Claim in the emotion department, sir. That's gone over shadow, anybody else that tries that same material? But Ella has made. Pretty authentic emotional blues things and similar ballads. Really heartfelt and emotional.

Speaker I think Angelides will win this one of those. And there's more a lot more.

Speaker That criticism was that, Ellen. I didn't understand lyrics meaning of lyrics often.

Speaker No, I.

Speaker I thought you understood them perfectly sane. Yeah.

Speaker For instance, we have a performance during the. Let's do it. And she sings it straight now and she sings it like we're going to make cookies.

Speaker Well, that's the kind of song it is. I mean, what else can you do? Let's do it. It's just a bunch of, uh, uh, you know, run of the mill cliches that, uh, you know, like birds and bees and, you know, what kind of emotion can you come out of the feeling for the band?

Speaker Three years because of the sexual innuendos.

Speaker Mm hmm. And she got away with it cause she didn't put that in the Senate.

Speaker Did you understand it? You.

Speaker I think she understood it. But I think she's a. Her.

Speaker Personality would give people the feeling that it's OK. It's not that risky. But I'm sure she. Sure she knew what she was thinking about.

Speaker Oh.

Speaker And she there two things put it at.

Speaker Joe Pass was added to the drill report that. Well, how did that come about? I mean, what?

Speaker I don't know that it's happened before. We had somebody leave a group and another. Person came in to keep out of court.

Speaker Which happened once before when there was a guitarist that was replaced by a horn by Roy Eldridge. I think the same thing happened again. For whatever reason. Uh, probably.

Speaker I don't know who was Alan's idea, Norman's idea, but it was there was a change there.

Speaker Tenorman do that.

Speaker I'm sure is.

Speaker But if she to serve serious a D.A. with a.

Speaker I never heard him say that he even or anybody that was, you know, disapproving is such a good musician that she usually said when along with.

Speaker I have the impression that collaboration's with Roy Eldridge were not all that.

Speaker Well, sometimes they work, you know, like. Great. You know, like a. Meeting on personalities, I think they were both just. Well, Roys is too strong for.

Speaker For her and. She could sense that I guess it was worth a really even kind of a. Play going on there.

Speaker But I mean, as far as his musical talent, there's no doubt about it. But it's just, you know, this. Personally, I think there was something went back before what I know.

Speaker When we speak with Joe Parsons, I'm sure she just got acquainted with him on the Skinny on the Star. Maybe she heard him play a couple of times on recordings or something. But.

Speaker I'm sure Norman brought them together. Let's do. I do all things with.

Speaker How successful do you think they ever worked with a symphony orchestra, as with you?

Speaker Latika?

Speaker Well, it was mostly, you know, beat, it's been recorded work already. But audiences used to love them.

Speaker And only one time that I got a chance to direct a symphony orchestra. Cause the conductor was late for rehearsal one day and I got a chance at my fifteen minutes of fame.

Speaker Now what it was, it's a lot of fun playing with a symphony orchestra. She liked it too much. It seems so contradictory that within like the same. Arrangements played in the studio just doubled. You know, like it it sounds good on record, it sounds that much better in a symphony hall.

Speaker But I mean. You're not exactly swingers.

Speaker No. That music doesn't swing. It wasn't written this to be Swan. I thought it was a. Try the string sections in this horse. But all horn players don't swing either. But when you're playing with a symphony, you don't expect that. You just want them to play the notes and sound good.

Speaker And that's that's what happened.

Speaker I think we should change, too. OK. Try it, please. You look great. OK.

Speaker But her. When her eyes got bad.

Speaker Yeah. She was very unhappy about that. Why?

Speaker Well, it was a very gradual thing coming on, uh. She sought some help, you know, in Boston. Uh, they did something for her. Wasn't. It didn't completely clear up what she had going on. I guess had glaucoma or something, but she had a laser. First, I heard of it. She had laser surgery and.

Speaker But it left her with. She said she could see things. I guess it must've been floating clots or something. You see things look like bats flying. You should see those visions. You know, in the back of her eye. This is a kind of unusual. And she was. We were at a rehearsal. And she's telling Nelsonville about this. About these bats, he said he's always thinking, I guess you kind of ease her really well. She wasn't alone. I thought that was a kind of odd thing. But in recent years, I know what she's talking about. I've seen some bats.

Speaker Then she'd have to buy glasses. How did she feel?

Speaker Well, it was a hard adjustment for her. They were very thick. She felt a little uncomfortable wearing them, but everybody put her at ease. Not until you look great.

Speaker I. You know, it was Zella. She wasn't the didn't bother her boys. Not yet. Her. I think she was still in between losing weight and keeping it stable. She had little trouble there with.

Speaker With with your eyes, and when it came to I really noticed it on a concert. I guess it was one partner or a niece. Yeah, I guess you really got an attack. This is before the surgery. See, this was got all feverish. You know, I can kind of. Back up to the panel, I guess. Just for support. She must've felt like she might have played it when she backed off the piano. I just feel the heat coming off her body. This feeling, you know, it was warm enough to make me warm. And after that, she was I was kind of beginning of her problems.

Speaker Well, eventually.

Speaker Oh, well, you can't waste problems, but her voice changed. Right.

Speaker You did the change. She had some little change when she started to develop what they call a wobble, and they're brought on her by brother before. They have always been pretty clear and just done privately with their little brother. Everybody wants to have, you know, she was losing that was getting wider. They never got any. It didn't get better. Kind of.

Speaker Why do you say it was for health problems that just steadily get worse? And her voice was not the same. Why did she go on? Why did she. She performed.

Speaker She loved to perform. It's not the only thing she could do. That made her happy. And with some rest, you know, between the gates come out, her first part of her concerts, you are strong and sounded like, you know, like like she always did. But after a while, because she never looked back. You know, she never held back that energy that she used to give. It was a little too much conditioned to them. So it started. Tell a little more. I was sad to see like that after all those years of, you know, it was pure focal excellence. I of see it deteriorate.

Speaker But she never. Lost her popularity, she's still a sell out everywhere. What people didn't notice didn't have.

Speaker Well, I think she got a little a lot more sentiment, you know, for for being in a more fragile state of health. And people really responded because she gave so much energy even in that state and.

Speaker That's why she kept on doing it. She's. As long as she could, she would. Because he had no more serious problems.

Speaker She had a pretty punishing.

Speaker Scott, who was really. Yeah. I thought it was, uh, it's kind of hard for me when I was in good health. You used to wear me down into, like, cause she was during, like. Forty five, 50 weeks out of the year. It would seem, you know, sometimes special engagements in between.

Speaker But it was a. She complained a little bit, but she was so happy to be, you know. Having people like approve of her performance. She was great. I mean, she was great until. As far as I know, all my time with her.

Speaker But you finally decided to leave. Why? Maya.

Speaker Not because of the gig, but my my health was tied during the break, too. And I just had a heart problem and I had to leave. More than that.

Speaker I had a. Way to.

Speaker So now we have seen.

Speaker Speed. We were talking about that when you when you left and you said it was partly the schedule, partly your help. And then you want to say something else.

Speaker Oh, well, it was this a series of events that happened after I like this schedule, uh, being in the south of France and then traveling to. England and then back for the weekend, thanks to the south of France. Then the next engagement was to be in. And Wolf Trap Virginia. And it was it was too much for me and the.

Speaker Not only that, but the.

Speaker I decided to. It was come to time to.

Speaker Park.

Speaker We hadn't really talked about that much before, which he always said that, you know, I shouldn't be. Playing behind her all the time, I should do something on my own and go out on my own. You know, it'll be for I was thinking of that.

Speaker She told me that this was not that I knew I wouldn't be a lobster because I really missed playing for her. But it was it was time for me to. Make that move. And that was a good time for me to do it.

Speaker And we all thank you. You did. You did. You did keep in touch with her, though. Oh, yes, I did. Here, owner.

Speaker I the phone mostly. And then sometimes I would fire and engage with her when she used to come to.

Speaker Sometimes to New York, we. Just wanted to contact me here. Do something special with her. And I did bet on three, four occasions, and then we did a benefit for her after. No. It was a heart thumping called hearts for Ella. They gave this big. Program for her, a tribute to her.

Speaker And I played a a song for her. It was happened to be.

Speaker Mr. Paganini, just the way I remember that she sang it and she was her road manager until she was crushed as I was playing.

Speaker That's. I really felt the way that she was singing.

Speaker I'm glad to hear she knows that I remember her that well.

Speaker He told us that. When she was really Melio. She would play your album. To dedicate her song. Yeah, love it. Maybe not.

Speaker Maybe I'll come to.

Speaker Do you remember how you heard about a death?

Speaker Yes, I do. I was for places I was playing in my hometown in Detroit where I first saw her and. I got the news telephone call my hotel.

Speaker I had heard it on the radio just before they call, but they wanted me to come back to New York quickly and set up some. And it was just a. Was right on the weekend.

Speaker I was had just finished the gig. So I came back.

Speaker But a tower I heard officially over the telephone, and then I started getting all kind of calls. You know, England displacement with.

Speaker What were your thoughts?

Speaker I was. I was really saddened by it. I'm going to have it sooner or later, but, you know, you never, never ready for it.

Speaker It too soon for me.

Speaker If you had to pick a song, one song that says, that's Ella.

Speaker You know, Shia. She and sister. Vast repertoire.

Speaker And.

Speaker It's hard to single out songs that. I know in England they like to. Every time we say goodbye.

Speaker And then in the states, we did a country, right, that was. Tony. And she did Stairway to the Stars. And she sang the first chorus in the second chorus. The audience knew her arrangement. And they sang it with her. And it was kind of an eerie feeling. Our whole audience thing. It was great, great feeling and made her feel good. Was a lot of people from our home hometown. There was a. Well, those are two things.

Speaker What do you think? What is the legacy of Ella, Joe? What did she say?

Speaker Oh, good reference for the world of music, world of vocal. And all kind of settings, right? First beginnings of her career. Get on with Chickory. I mean, everybody was legendary in her life and that we know of later. And Ellington bases all her flying groups and she worked with. Well, I think she left behind that she was a. Always true to her. Tour craft. She never faltered from it and loved people that loved her. She gave that out very freely. And we all love her for that. She's a very fine, rich, encouraging person with a spirit.

Speaker You could say something. Now. Anything left unsaid that you would? I'd like to say to her.

Speaker All I could think was. Thank you. Thank you.

Speaker Thank you. All right.

Speaker And Roberto.

Speaker Yes. I mean, it is left that the Rolex, Rolex 68.

Speaker A fortune you were there on the street. Quiet, please.

Speaker OK. Just look at Charlotte, if you would.

Speaker Ella was. Generous person, this she gave you, she gave you some gifts.

Speaker Give me some lovely gifts. I used to start feeling kind of funny about them because she used to give me cold money clips like Save Your Money. She gave me some real touching gifts that I wear all the time. This one is the bracelet. It says, Thanks, Tommy, love Ella. And. Before that, she presented in the rain one morning in Zurich, Switzerland. She came in the rain and knocked on our door. The trio at the time and came with this little box, this. It's a Rolex. This is 1968. I treasure it. I think it is a treasure. But that's the kind of person she was. True to her. Tutor guys and true to yourself. She was frugal herself.

Speaker You tell me I want to do something now. If you could just slowly. So just talk about it. You know, she gave with this. We're just recording your hands now. And just lift up and point to the bracelet and then pointed the watch to just talk about it again.

Speaker This is a wonderful, beautiful bracelet that. She happened to give us to the whole basey band. I especially cherish it. Because of his. Pursley. Breathing for me, it says. Thanks, Tommy. Love our.

Speaker Even before this site I'm sorry, can you go back to the embracement?

Speaker Yeah, yeah. Here we are with the bracelet. And this is a.

Speaker This was given to the whole basey band. And it was very special to me. Her lips imprint on its. Thanks, Tommy. Love, Ella. Even before we got this, she gave the trio this beautiful Rolex watch, which she presented to us coming in out of the rain one morning and in Zurich, Switzerland, and presented us with this little box with this gem.

Speaker And we are thrilled to death to have it. Fabrizi.

Tommy Flanagan
Interview Date:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-vm42r3ps7j, cpb-aacip-504-bv79s1m62t, cpb-aacip-504-qz22b8w533
"Tommy Flanagan, Ella Fitzgerald: Something to Live For." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 04 Mar. 1999,
(1999, March 04). Tommy Flanagan, Ella Fitzgerald: Something to Live For. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET).
"Tommy Flanagan, Ella Fitzgerald: Something to Live For." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). March 04, 1999. Accessed January 22, 2022


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