Roy Smeck
Ukulele, Banjo, guitar
d. April 5, 1994 
~by Steve Kurutz 

You may recognize the name Roy Smeck as much for his own prolific recordings as for the dozens of guitar instruction books he issued throughout the years. Blessed with some of the most nimble fingers imaginable, Smeck's approach to music often bordered on the showy, novelty side, but he also influenced many Western swing guitarists in the process.
Smeck began issuing records and appearing on Warner Bros. movie shorts during the 1920s. It was then that he introduced his unique blend of jazz, country, and Hawaiian styles, wowing anyone who heard or saw him in action.
In addition to working solo, Smeck also played on sessions by country greats Vernon Dalhart and Carson Robinson and formed his own band in the '30s, the Vita Trio. 
It was around this time that the guitarist began issuing a stream of instructional books on everything from how to play guitar, ukulele, and Hawaiian slide guitar to banjo. 
After several years of minor success recording for ABC, Kapp, and other small labels, in the '70s the reissue label Yazoo released several of Smeck's virtuoso recordings from his early days, causing a whole new round of interest in the guitarist.

Roy Smeck was a virtuoso multi- instrumentalist who first played on the vaudeville circuit in the 1920's. Called the "Wizard of Strings" he played uke, Hawaiian guitar, tenor banjo , regular guitar and harmonica. He recorded about 300 sides for various labels and appeared as a studio musician on jazz, pop and even country recordings.

George Brunis, trombone
b. New Orleans, LA, USA
d. Nov. 19, 1974.
né: George Brunies, but he dropped the "e" when a numerologist told him it was an "unlucky" letter.

~by Ron Wynn 
Another member of the famous New Orleans Brunies family, though he shortened the spelling of his name on the advice of a numerologist. George Brunis played alto horn in a family trio as an eight-year-old, and also with Papa Jack Laine's Reliance Brass Band. He switched to trombone at age ten; then moved to Chicago in 1920, where he played in Paul Mares' band. He later joined Mares' Friars Society Orchestra, which eventually became The New Orleans Rhythm Kings.

He started a long recording and performing relationship with Ted Lewis in 1924, then became active in New York in 1935. Brunis played in several New York clubs, joined Muggsy Spanier's Ragtime Band in 1939 and played often with Eddie Condon, Lewis and Art Hodes. He went back to Chicago in 1949, forming his own band, and held a residency at Club 1111 from '51 - '59. Brunis later led groups in Wisconsin and Ohio. 

George Brunies
George Brunies - Wikipedia

Donald A. Fagerquist, Trumpet
b. Worcester, Massachusetts
d. Jan. 24, 1974, Los Angeles, CA, USA. 
~by Scott Yanow

An excellent trumpeter of the bop and cool eras who largely faded out in the 1960s, Don Fagerquist only had two sessions as a leader, a half-date for Capitol in 1955, and an excellent outing for Mode (reissued on V.S.O.P.) in 1957. 
Fagerquist was a key soloist with Gene Krupa (off and on during 1944-1950), Artie Shaw's Orchestra, Gramercy Five (1949-1950), and Woody Herman's Third Herd (1951-1952). He was with Les Brown in 1953 and a major soloist with Dave Pell's Octet (1953-1959). 

From 1956 on, Fagerquist worked as a staff musician for Paramount films although he still recorded jazz now and then with Pete Rugolo, Mel Tormé, and Art Pepper, among others. 

Scrapbook - Don Fagerquist
Don Fagerquist - Wikipedia

Haven Gillespie, Lyricist
b. Covington, KY, USA
d. 1975, Las Vegas, NV, USA.
Probable best known for his "Santa Claus is Coming To Town", a huge hit for Cowboy actor Gene Autry. 
~by Jason Ankeny

Best-remembered for his seasonal standard "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," lyricist Haven Gillespie was born February 6, 1888, in Covington, KY. While working as a typesetter for the Cincinnati Times-Star, he began his songwriting career in 1911 by selling lyrics to a local vaudeville act, but held onto his day job for a number of years, ultimately maintaining his membership in the International Typographic Union until his death.
Gillespie scored his first major hit with 1925's "Drifting and Dreaming"; the next year yielded "Breezin' Along With the Breeze," co-written with frequent collaborator Dick Whiting. "By the Sycamore Tree" followed in 1931 and three years later, Gillespie scored his most enduring hit with "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," written with composer J. Fred Coots in the space of a 15-minute New York subway ride; the song debuted on Eddie Cantor's Thanksgiving radio special at the insistence of Cantor's wife, Ida, and within weeks its sheet music was selling in excess of 25,000 copies daily. 1936's "You Go to My Head" was authored in the wake of a long night at a local speakeasy and was subsequently recorded by singers including Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, and Peggy Lee. 1949's "That Lucky Old Sun," meanwhile, was cut by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Louis Armstrong to Jerry Lee Lewis. A member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Gillespie died in Las Vegas on March 14, 1975; a decade later, George Strait covered his "Right or Wrong" (written in 1921), scoring the ASCAP Country Music Award in the process. 
Songwriters Hall of Fame Haven Gillespie Exhibit Home
Haven Gillespie - Wikipedia

Bernie Glow, Trumpet
b. Manhasset, NY, USA.
d. May 8, 1982.
Bernie Glow was a trumpet player who specialized in jazz and commercial lead trumpet from the 1940s to 1970s. His early career was on the road with Artie Shaw, Woody Herman and others during the last years of the big-band era. The majority of his years were spent as a first-rate NYC studio musician, where he worked with Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra, and did thousands of radio and television recording sessions.
Irving Goodman, Trumpet
b. Chicago, IL, USA.
d. July 7 1990. (Bandleader Benny Goodman's brother.)
Little recalled today, but it was Irving who introduced his friend, pianist Joe Bushkin, into the social world of Jazz musicians. Both youngsters were then attending DeWitt Clinton High School in New York city.

Conrad Joseph Gozzo, Trumpet
b. New Britain, CT, USA. d. 1964.
Studied with his father; a Trumpet teacher. In 1938, he replaced one his dad's students in the Isham Jones band. During the 1939-'41 period, he worked with such bands as: Johnny "Scat" Davis; Bob Chester; Tommy Reynolds, and Red Norvo. In 1941-'42, he worked with Claude Thornhill (3 mos.) and then with Benny Goodman.From 1942 to '45, he served in the US Navy (in Artie Shaw's Service Band), and then re-joined Goodman after he was mustered out of the Armed Forces. 
He spent a year with the Woody Herman's 'First Herd' until Woody disbanded in 1946. He then freelanced working with such men as Tex Beneke and Boyd Raeburn until he finally settled in Los Angeles, CA, (1947) and spent the next 4-5 years with the Bob Crosby Orch. 
Conrad Gozzo - Wikipedia

Esther "Violet" Koehler
b. Wilton, WI, USA.
Member: "Coon Creek Girls", a group formed in 1937 consisting of Lily May Ledford (Vocals, Banjo, Fiddle b. March 17, 1917, Pilot, Kentucky, USA. d. July 14, 1985), Rosie Ledford (Singer, Guitar, Banjo b August 16, 1915, Pilot, Kentucky, USA. d. July 24, 1976), Daisy Lange (Singer, String Bass, Fiddle b.July 7, 1919, Ohio, USA), Violet Koehler (Singer, Guitar, Mandolin b. Feb. 6, 1916, Wilton, Wisconsin, USA. d. October 4, 1973), and "Black Eyed" Susan (Vocals, String Bass, b. Oct. 10, 1923, Pilot, Kentucky, USA. d. July 22, 1987) 
~by Johnny Loftus 

One of the most famous all-female string bands in country, the Coon Creek Girls were also among the first female groups to play their own instruments and focus on authentic mountain music, instead of sentimental and cowboy songs.The founding member of the long-lived group was Lily May Ledford. Born in Pilot, KY, she was the daughter of poor tenant farmers who frequently played string band music; consequently, Lily May learned how to play guitar and fiddle as a child. By the time she was an adolescent, she had formed the Red River Ramblers with her sister, Rose, and her brother, Cayen, and the group began playing local square dances.
The Ramblers auditioned for talent scouts in 1935, and Lily May was chosen to appear on WLS Chicago's Barn Dance. During her performance, she caught the attention of announcer John Lair, who became her manager; in the process, he landed her a regular spot on the Barn Dance, where she became so popular that the station's magazine based a comic strip on her. Following its success in Chicago, Lair moved the show to Cincinnati and then to Renfro Valley, were he decided to base an all-female string band around Lily May. The original Coon Creek Girls were comprised of Lily May, her sister Rosie, Evelyn "Daisy" Lange, and Ester "Violet" Koehler.
On October 9, 1937, they made their live radio debut from Cincinnati Music Hall. Shortly after their debut, the group began appearing on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance; they would sing on the program for the next 15 years. In 1938, the Coon Creek Girls cut their first session, although their records, which featured traditional mountain songs, never proved as popular as their radio performances. In 1939, the original group disbanded when Koehler and Lange left to go work with the Callahan Brothers' Blue Ridge Mountain Folk in Dallas. Lily May and Rosie were then joined by their younger sister, Minnie. The Coon Creek Girls kept performing together in various incarnations until 1957.
After the group broke up, Lily May launched her own solo career. In 1980 she published her autobiography, Coon Creek Girl. In 1985, Ledford died. Ester Koehler spent time in the Boone County Jamboree and eventually married one of Lily May's brothers. Evelyn Lange married and moved to Indiana, where she sometimes competed in fiddle contests. During the 1980s, John Lair created the New Coon Creek Girls to appear on a revival of his old radio show.

The group included the banjo of Vicki Simmons, guitarist/vocalist Dale Ann Bradley, banjoist Ramona Church Taylor, and fiddler Katy Kinn. Simmons actually learned her instrument from original Coon Creek Girl Lily May, linking the two groups' fine tradition of breaking down gender barriers while bringing up listeners' spirits.
Coon Creek Girls - Wikipedia

Sammy Nestico
b. Pittsburgh, PA, USA. 
~by Scott Yanow

Famous for his arrangements for the Count Basie orchestra, Sammy Nestico -- a cousin of tenor saxophonist Sal Nistico -- has always had a productive, if lesser-known, solo career. Self-taught on the trombone, at age 17 Nestico was skilled enough to be a studio musician in Pittsburgh. He served in the military, gained a music degree at Duquesne University in 1950 and was staff arranger for the U.S. Air Force Band for many years. Nestico was also a busy freelance arranger: he worked with the U.S. Marine Band starting in 1963 and led the orchestra that performed at functions at the White House. Nestico started contributing arrangements to Basie in 1967 and during the next 15 years would occasionally write for an entire Basie album (including Have a Nice Day, ) Prime Time, Warm Breeze and the big band tracks on 88 Basie Street). Nestico has also written extensively for films and television, has been a significant jazz educator and recorded one album as a leader: Dark Orchid (a 1982 Palo Alto release).

Sammy Nestico Music

Ben Oakley is seated 2nd from the extreme left of the picture, on trombone.
Ben Oakley, trombone
b. Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K.
d. Jan. 1980, Clapham-London, U.K.
né: Henry Percival Benjamin Oakley.
Ben played trombone with Jack Payne's Orchestra, and with Jack Hylton's Band - the 'Barnstormers', and others! He also played trumpet (not forgetting that as a Bandboy, he played the 'Last Post' in the 'Whispering Gallery of St. Paul's Cathedral' at the funeral of Lord Roberts!) He served as a Bandboy in the Royal Artillery during the 1st World War. 

During the 2nd World War, he was Bandmaster (as a Lieutenant) of the Royal Pioneer Corps Band. Later, he was the Conducter of Ben Oakley's Orchestra that played all over London with 12 consecutive Seasons on the end of Southend Pier.

Rev. Dr. Percell Perkins
Gospel Singer/composer/arranger
b: Duncan, MS., US, d: Jan. 31, 2003, Helena, MT, US.
Over his long career, this Gospel Music Hall Of Fame Inductee recorded more than 200 songs, and worked with such groups as The Fairfield Four Of Alabama, The Soprocco Singers Of New Orleans, The Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi (They did, "Our Father"), The Five Blind Boys Of Alabama, The Fairfield Four, The Soprocco Singers, The Swan Silvertones, The Pilgrim Jubilee, Judge L.T. Simes And The Jury and The Glorybound Singers.

Leon Rene
songwriter/producer/label owner
d. May 30, 1982.

Although often overlooked, songwriter Leon René was an important figure in R n' B/early rock n' roll, as he helped shape the West Coast R n' B sound during the '50s. Born on February 6, 1902 in Covington, Los Angeles, René (along with his brother, Leon) was the head of one of the earliest black independent labels on America's West Coast, Exclusive and Excelsior Records. The label later changed its name to Class Records during the late '50s (and welcomed aboard another owner, Preston Love), during which times René produced and penned some of the era's most popular hits, including "Rockin' Robin." On May 30, 1982, René passed away at the age of 80, in Los Angeles, California.
~ Greg Prato

Ernest Andrew "Ernie" Royal, Trumpet
b. Los Angeles, CA, USA. d. March 16, 1983.
New York, NY, USA.
Ernie was the brother of Count Basie's great saxophonist, Marshall Royal. From 1937 to 1942, Ernie played with Les Hite's band, and then briefly with Lionel Hampton before serving in the U. S. Navy for three years during WW2. At war's end, Ernie again played with Count Basie, following which be worked with Woody Herman's "second herd" until 1949. Early 1950 found him touring Europe with Duke Ellington, and later in 1950, he returned to France and worked with bandleader Jacques Helian. 
In 1952, Royal returned to the USA where he and Wardell Gray co-led a band in Hollywood. In 1953, Ernie toured with Stan Kenton. In the early 1970s, Ernie worked was as a staff musician for the ABC radio and television network. He subsequently performed and recorded intermittently with Gil Evans. He also recorded with Quincy Jones, Oliver Nelson, and Friedrich Gulda. Still other bands with which Ernie had the pleasure of working include Charlie Barnet, Cee Pee Johnson, Vernon Alley, and the Phil Moore Four.
Ernie Royal - Wikipedia
Notable Events Occurring 
On This Date Include:

Detail from cover of The Celebrated Negro Melodies, as Sung by the Virginia Minstrels, arranged by Th. Comer, Boston, 1843. Scanned from Dan Emmett and the Rise of Early Negro Minstrelsy by Hans Nathan.
America's very first minstrel show,
the "Original Virginia Minstrels",
debuted at New York City's 'Bowery Amphitheatre'.

Rudy Vallee and his orchestra
recorded "Deep Night" (Victor).

Frank Sinatra appeared on the radio show "Your Hit Parade".
He had left Tommy Dorsey's Band just four months before.

Edgar Battle, songwriter
died in New York, NY, USA.
Age: 69.
Edgar Battle

Rodney and Will ("The Balfa Brothers")
C&W stars were killed in a car wreck in Louisiana.
The Balfa Brothers

Les Hite, bandleader
died in Santa Monica, CA, USA.
Age: 58.
Les Hite

Hans Jan Lengsfelder, songwriter
died in Hallandale, FL, USA.
Age: 75.
With Juan Tizol, he co-composed "Perdido"

Orchestra leader Hugo Montenegro
died in Palm Springs, CA, USA.
Hugo Montenegro

Songs Recorded/Released
On This Date Include:


Wilbur Sweatman's Jazz Orchestra - A Good Man Is Hard To Find (Introducing: "Sweet Child")
  • JADa (JADa, JADa, Jing, Jing, Jing)
  • Lonesome Road


Leona Williams and her Dixie Band - If Your Man Is Like My Man


Henry Halstead and His Orchestra

Fletcher Henderson Orchestra - Alabamy Bound


Ted Lewis and his Band - Wandering In Dreamland
  • Lily


The Rhythmic Eight - There's A Cradle In Caroline


Boyd Senter and his Senterpedes - Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief

Boyd Senter and his Senterpedes - I'm In The Jailhouse Now

Irving Aaronson and his Commanders - If I Had You - Vocal Refrain by Burt Lorin


Miff Mole and his (Little) Molers - Lucky Little Devil

Lena Wilson - Find Out What They Like (And How They Like It)
Lena Wilson - I'm a Stationary Mama (Lookin' For a Permanent Man)

Jimmie Noone's Apex Club Orchestra - Crying For The Carolines


Tom Gerun and his Orchestra
  • I'm Happy When You're Happy


Dorsey Brothers Orchestra


Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra
  • Awake in a Dream
  • Look for the Silver Lining
  • Saddle Your Blues to a Wild Mustang - Vocal refrain by Bob Lawrence and The Kings Men
  • The Wheel of the Wagon is Broken
  • Wah-Hoo!
  • What's the Name of That Song?


I'm Alabamy bound
They'll be no heebie-jeebies hanging 'round
Just gave the meanest ticket man on earth
All I'm worth to put my tootsies in an upper berth
Just hear the choo-choo sound
I know that soon we're gonna cover ground
And then I'll holler so the world will know
Here I go
I'm Alabamy bound
I'm Alabamy bound
They'll be no heebie-jeebies hanging 'round
Just gave the meanest ticket man on earth
All I'm worth to put my tootsies in an upper berth
Just hear the choo-choo sound
I know that soon we're gonna cover the ground
And then I'll holler so the world will know
Here I go... I'm Alabamy
I'm Alabamy bound... I'm gone

brought to you by... 

Special Thanks To:
The Red Hot Jazz Archives,
The Big Band Database, Scott Yanow, 

and all those who have provided content,
images and sound files for this site.

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