Ernestine "Tiny" Davis, trumpet/vocals
b. USA, d. Jan. 30, 1994
~Eugene Chadbourne
A trumpeter who was often called the "female" Louis Armstrong, Ernestine "Tiny" Davis was a member of the all-female International Sweethearts of Rhythm, a popular and innovatively interracial big band that was formed in the late '30s. She was the group's best soloist, and was reportedly offered ten times her salary in the band to jump ship and go to work for Captain Satchmo, who apparently loved her playing. In the decades following the career of the band, Davis and her associates, such as her long-term partner, pianist Ruby Lucas, became adopted as cultural heroes for the gay rights movement. 

Davis and Lucas, who also performed under the name of Renee Phelan, ran a bar called Tiny and Ruby's Gay Spot in Chicago during the '50s. The two were the subject of a documentary film entitled Tiny and Ruby: Hell Divin' Women.
A great player, Davis was never really taken seriously simply because she was female. Even the opportunity to work steadily was denied until the Second World War took quite a few male musicians out of reach of ringing phones. This resulted in a few different female bands having the opportunity to perform, some of them such as the International Sweethearts of Rhythm amassing large followings and breaking attendance records. But because of the mixed racial grouping within the band, which not only included blacks and whites but Latinas and Asians as well, exposure was mostly limited to black audiences. Tours through the South were particularly heinous, with white players either having to put on blackface or hide beneath the skirts of one of the black players to avoid being arrested for violating Jim Crow laws.

Don Albert, Trumpet
b. New Orleans, LA, USA, d.
~by Eugene Chadbourne
Albert Dominique, the nephew of illustrious New Orleans jazz legend Natty Dominique, changed his name to Don Albert and actually had as much to do with the Texas jazz scene scene as he did with the land of swamps and gumbo. Nonetheless, a few notes from one of his solos or lead parts will almost always bear the trace of the early years he spent in his hometown parade bands, prior to hitting the road for the first time with Trent's Number Two Band. In 1926, he was playing as a teenager in Troy Floyd's Band at the Shadowland Ballroom in San Antonio, a scene that dripped with atmosphere.

For the next three years this was the trumpeter's milieu, playing big band music with a beat equal parts New Orleans and Kansas City and backing up a variety of blues singers at recording sessions--all of it done in his new professional identity of Don Albert. Floyd, who featured the trumpeter on instrumentals such as "Shadowland Blues" and "Dreamland Blues", was apparently the one who advised the name change. At the close of the decade Albert headed home, the idea being to find players to enlist in a band under his own leadership. The Dallas State Fair of 1929 turned out to be the debut venue for the new Don Albert band which has been considered an important territorial band even though the group's touring schedule must have resulted in postcards far afield from any one particular American region.

Don Albert and His Ten Pals. Photo courtesy Institute of Texan Cultures
Albert's band toured the east coast and even shuffled off to Buffalo for engagements. By about 1932 the suspicion was that the leader had lost his chops, as Albert began to focus solely on directing and rarely blew his trumpet anymore. Still, the group toured extensively including dates in Mexico and Canada. Several newspapers claimed this was "the greatest swing band in the nation" but are only eight recorded songs with which pundits can argue this case. The most popular with record buyers were a pair of 78s featuring the rich "Sheik of Araby" backed with the miserable "You Don't Love Me" and a cute "Liza" backed with a promising "Tomorrow". Between 1937 and 1939, Albert canned the group as a reaction to the recession, staying between Houston and San Antonio for various engagements.

In this era he became a civil service employee at Duncan Field in San Antonio. This was followed by positions managing a nightclub and blowing trumpet in Fat Martin's house band. In 1942 Albert worked as a local promoter for traveling bands and briefly reformed his own. Several years later he opened his own club named Don's Keyhole in San Antonio and began bringing in national jazz acts. He would greet customers as they arrived and also worked as an emcee, sometimes sitting in with bands on trumpet. His club was integrated, not at all normal for San Antonio and inevitably a reason for the city fathers to shut it down on April Fool's Day, 1948. That was it for Albert: he headed back to New Orleans where he bought and opened another club. Albert put groups together if the engagement was right during the subsequent decade, and had a longish stint at the Palace Theatre in New York City in the spring of 1949. He settled in the Alamo city during the '50s and '60s, playing part-time but with the time-and-a-half attention that he had earned. In 1962 he cut some well-received sides in New Orleans, and also worked on recording projects with the Alamo City Jazz Band. Albert performed at the 1969 New Orleans Jazz Festival. He died of kidney failure in San Antonio.

Elmer Grosso, leader/violin/trumpet
b. New York, NY, USA
d. Oct. 1970, Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA.
~ Eugene Chadlbourne Elmer Grosso was a clever and versatile orchestra leader from the Roaring Twenties whose musical connections included some serious New Orleans jazz heavyweights. Grosso -- a multi-instrumentalist on trumpet and violin -- cut many sides for Columbia as a member of a group known as the Happy Six, also featuring Big Easy biggies Tom Brown on trombone and Alcide "Yellow" Nuñez on clarinet. Some scholars question whether the sextet was actually happy or not, considering a set list that included "Broken Toy," "Dumbell," and "I Lost You."

As a leader, Grosso seemed fond of switching combo monikers, in most cases allowing his own name as the only constant. There was Elmer Grosso & His Versatile Orchestra, Elmer Grosso's Mount Royal Orchestra, Elmer Grosso & His Greenwich Village Orchestra, and Elmer Grosso & His Crusaders -- a progression that suggests an evolving philosophy as well, touching on eclecticism, neighborhood advocacy, and world domination. Grosso's hands seemed to be on the popular Tin Pan Alley material of the day and, like most working dance bands, a balanced combination of instrumental and vocal pieces was presented. Singers working in Grosso's shifting ensembles included Carl Mathieu, featured on a foxtrot arrangement of "Constantinople." Yet another dance band that Grosso spearheaded was the Champion Dance Kings, which released material on Gennett such as "My Sweeter Than Sweet."

Notable Events Occurring
On This Date Include:

Carmen Miranda
died in Beverly Hills, CA, USA.
Age: 45.
Marilyn Monroe, actress/singer
died in Los Angeles, CA, USA.
Age: 39. Rarely credited as such,
but Marilyn had a very lovely singing voice.
Otto "Toby" Hardwick, alto sax
died in Washington, DC, USA.
Age: 66.
Worked with: Duke Ellington

Mezz Mezzrow, clarinet
died in Paris, France
"Tuts" Washington (aka: "Papa Yellow"), piano
died in New Orleans, LA, USA.
Age: 77.
Interestingly, "Tuts" identified Joseph Louis "Red" Cayou (né: Caillou), an itinerant New Orleans pianist, as a prime influence on his early playing. Tuts was self taught, but at age 18, took formal lessons. When his teacher told him he already knew the basics, Tuts, turned to "Red" Caillou, whose hands he described as "like lightning." He is frequently credited as a major influence on such New Orleans pianists as "Fats" Domino, "Professor Longhair", James Booker, "Dr. John", and Allen Toussaint.

"Duke" Burrell, piano
died in Los Angeles, CA, USA.
Age: 73.
Worked with: Johnny Otis, and with Louis Jordan

Songs Recorded/Released
On This Date Include:


Mamie Smith and her Jazz Band


Mamie Smith accompanied by Harlem Trio - Lady Luck Blues


Ray Miller's Orchestra - Red Hot Henry Brown


Lee Morse - I'm Tired of Everything But You


Lonnie Johnson - I Love You, Mary Lou

Lonnie Johnson Sweet Woman You Can't Go Wrong


Roger Wolfe Kahn and his Orchestra - Sheltered By The Stars, Cradled By The Moon

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