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THE STRONG CARD

PITTSBURGH JAZZ

Roger Humphries

 

From Blakey to Brown, Como to Costa, Eckstine to Eldridge, Galbraith to Garner, Harris to Hines, Horne to Hyman, Jamal to Jefferson, Kelly to Klook; Mancini to Marmarosa, May to Mitchell, Negri to Nestico, Parlan to Ponder, Reed to Ruther, Strayhorn to Sullivan, Turk to Turrentine, Wade to Williams… the forthcoming publication Treasury of Pittsburgh Jazz Connections by Dr. Nelson Harrison and Dr. Ralph Proctor, Jr. will document the legacy of one of the world’s greatest jazz capitals.

 

Do you want to know who Dizzy Gillespie  idolized? Did you ever wonder who inspired Kenny Clarke and Art Blakey? Who was the pianist that mentored Monk, Bud Powell, Tad Dameron, Elmo Hope, Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme? Who was Art Tatum’s idol and Nat Cole’s mentor? What musical quartet pioneered the concept adopted later by the Modern Jazz Quartet? Were you ever curious to know who taught saxophone to Stanley Turrentine or who taught piano to Ahmad Jamal? What community music school trained Robert McFerrin, Sr. for his history-making debut with the Metropolitan Opera? What virtually unknown pianist was a significant influence on young John Coltrane, Shirley Scott, McCoy Tyner, Bobby Timmons and Ray Bryant when he moved to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh in the 1940s?  Would you be surprised to know that Erroll Garner attended classes at the Julliard School of Music in New York and was at the top of his class in writing and arranging proficiency?

 

Some answers  can be gleaned from the postings on the Pittsburgh Jazz Network.

 

For almost 100 years the Pittsburgh region has been a metacenter of jazz originality that is second to no other in the history of jazz.  One of the best kept secrets in jazz folklore, the Pittsburgh Jazz Legacy has heretofore remained mythical.  We have dubbed it “the greatest story never told” since it has not been represented in writing before now in such a way as to be accessible to anyone seeking to know more about it.  When it was happening, little did we know how priceless the memories would become when the times were gone.

 

Today jazz is still king in Pittsburgh, with events, performances and activities happening all the time. The Pittsburgh Jazz Network is dedicated to celebrating and showcasing the places, artists and fans that carry on the legacy of Pittsburgh's jazz heritage.

 

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Duke Ellington is first African-American and the first musician to solo on U.S. circulating coin

    MARY LOU WILLIAMS     

            INTERVIEW

       In Her Own Words

Hello all,
I am currently in search of information about a particular musician who performed with the California-Ramblers and Max Adkins. The musician was Elmer "Bunny" Drown, he was my great grandfather and I know very little about him. The only remnants of him left in my family are a picture of him and his sax. What I know is he played tenor sax and clarinet, he lived in Pittsburgh, was married to Anne ( they had two children Ronald and Douglas). I am trying to find any possible pictures or stories about him, I do not want to let this piece of my families history to be forgotten. Any and all help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Bruce Faulkner

 

P.S. He played tenor sax and clarinet

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Tags: bunny, california, clarinet, drown, elmer, jazz, music, orchestra, pittsburgh, ramblers, More…sax, stanley, tenor, theater

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Comment by Bruce E Faulkner on January 21, 2012 at 11:32pm
I was able to get the picture of my great grandfather, I put it as my profile picture. Maybe some one out there has band pictures and may recognize him.

Bruce
Comment by Bruce E Faulkner on January 21, 2012 at 4:48am
Tim,
By the way, i remember my great grandma, anna, telling me that elmer worked in a steel mill, did his music, and there was something else he did with accounting, something about he worked for the city and found money was being misused ( pocketed ) and brought it to light, a lot of people got in big trouble over it.

Bruce
Comment by Bruce E Faulkner on January 21, 2012 at 4:44am
Hey Tim,
This information is great. I am trying to track down the photo of elmer, but have run into a snag.....i should have it by tomorrow and i will post it on her, maybe some one may have other pictures with him in them.

Bruce
Comment by Timothy R. Williams on January 20, 2012 at 3:54pm

Well, I've nailed down a more specific death date: Tuesday, October 2, 1973.  Unfortunately, in both the Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Press, instead of obituaries about Elmer there are only death notices on 10/3/73.  The notice says, "On Tuesday, Oct. 2, 1973, Elmer L. Drown, beloved husband of Anna Naimowicz Drown, father of Maj . Ronald V., (U.S.A.) and Douglas F. Drown; also survived by two grandchildren."  The funeral services and visitation were on Friday, Oct. 5 at McCabe Bros. Funeral Home in Shadyside.

I wish there was more in there.

-- Tim

Comment by Timothy R. Williams on January 20, 2012 at 2:47pm

Hi Bruce,

We had that 2002 Post-Gazette obituary for Douglas Drown in our clippings file http://www.carnegielibrary.org/research/music/pittsburgh/pghmusicin... but I'm glad it's now online and you found it.

We're pretty sure that Elmer was born October 27, 1907 and died in October 1973 so I'll see if I can find an obituary in our Microfilm department.  If you're still fiddling around with Ancestry.com, you can see a 1930 census record in there that has the 22 year old Elmer listed as a "Occupation: Musician, Industry: Theater."  Neat.

I'll keep you posted if we get more. 

Thanks,

Tim

Comment by Bruce E Faulkner on January 20, 2012 at 5:10am
http://www.post-gazette.com/obituaries/20021204drownobit3p3.asp

I found this link, it is an obituary about my Uncle Doug, maybe some of you may have known him and may be able to tie in information about my great grandfather.

Bruce
Comment by Bruce E Faulkner on January 19, 2012 at 9:59pm
Hey everyone,
I appreciate all the help, I found out the my great grandfather, Elmer Drown, died October 1973 in Pittsburgh. I am not sure of the exact day, I am trying to find the death certificate on ancertry.com. Thank you all again for the help.

Bruce
Comment by Paul Carosi on January 19, 2012 at 6:02pm

The California Ramblers, formed in Ohio, were one of the very first big bands along with Paul Whiting to record dance music with jazz overtones.  Sax player Babe Russin play with them from 1926 through 1928 before he went on to play with Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, and Red Nichols.

 

Max Adkins was hired in 1939 to be the leader of the pit band at the Stanley Theater.  He was a great saxophonist and clarinetist who had many offers to go on the road with the big bands but he wanted to stay in Pittsburgh.  He taught arranging to Billy Strayhorn and Henry Mancini.

 

Your grandfather is listed as a member of the California Ramblers at this site.

http://www.redhotjazz.com/caramblers.html

 

There are several recording of the California Ramblers on Youtube such as

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2yo13_1vMM   Your grand father is listed on the credits for this song.

 

Regards,

Paul Carosi

Pittsbugh Music History

https://sites.google.com/site/pittsburghmusichistory/

 

Comment by Timothy R. Williams on January 19, 2012 at 5:58pm

Hi Bruce,

I might be able to dig something up here at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.  Do you have a death date for him and did he die in Pgh?  That'd be a helpful start for us.

Thanks,

Tim Williams

Music Librarian

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