Saturday, May 5, 2018

Shelly Manne - The Kenton Years, Parts 1-6 Complete

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


With Shelly Manne joining the Kenton organization, Stan had found the final link that would enable him to expand the band's concept, to truly create a jazz orchestra. …


This tour had been important for Shelly Manne. He was playing the old arrangements like they had never been played before — giving them new life and adding his own unique style. Rugolo was pouring out new material and the band had new charts to play almost every night. The trip had also given the players a chance to settle in with the new drummer and for Shelly to get a feeling for what Kenton wanted, though Kenton always gave new players plenty of time to adjust. Stan was as interested in the musician's personality as he was in his playing skills. In Shelly, he had found exactly what he was looking for. ...


Shelly's playing was expanding. He was now in a most unique musical situation. He was playing in an orchestra comprised of jazz musicians, under the direction of a dynamic leader who wanted to take music in new directions, playing arrangements that were jazz influenced but orchestral by design.  … His whole approach to drumming was musical — creating sounds and rhythms in a way that had never been done before.


For those visitors to the blog “who know me,” this may sound a bit self-serving, but I think that drummers give big bands their distinctiveness.


Don’t get me wrong as I know that their are lots of other “ingredients” that go into making a great big band:


- great charts [arrangements]
- great section leaders
- great soloists
- a great rhythm section
- and most of all, a great leader who melds it all together.


But whether it’s Krupa with Benny Goodman, Rich with Tommy Dorsey or Artie Shaw, Davy Tough or Don Lamond or Jake Hanna with Woody Herman [and later, Jeff Hamilton, who is still at it as one of the co-leaders of the Clayton-Hamilton Big Band], Kenny Clarke and Charli Persip with Dizzy Gillespie [and lest we forget the big band that Clarke co-led with Francy Boland in the 1960s], Sonny Greer, Louie Bellson or Sam Woodyard with Duke Ellington [and later Louie as the leader of his own powerhouse big band], Mel Lewis with the band he co-led with Thad Jones, or Papa Jo Jones and Sonny Payne with Count Basie; the drummer gives a big band its propulsive personality.


At one time or another many, if not most, Jazz musicians want to try their hand at playing in a big band.


When you are in one that clicks, there’s nothing in the world like it.


The surge of energy and rhythmic propulsion generated by a powerful big band leaves you giddy with excitement.


Navigating your way through a big band arrangement with fifteen or so companion musicians creates a sense of deep satisfaction that comes from successfully meeting a difficult challenge.


The art of individualism, which is so much a part of Jazz, gets put aside and is replaced by the teamwork and shared cooperation of playing in an ensemble setting.


When it all comes together you feel like you’re in love; overwhelmed by something bigger than you and that you don’t understand.


You gotta pay attention; you gotta concentrate and you gotta do your best, otherwise it’s a train wreck.


Any nobody kept the Stan Kenton Express on the tracks better than Shelly Manne.


Over its almost 40 years of existence, Stan Kenton’s Orchestra had many fine drummers including stints by Stan Levey and Mel Lewis, but had it not been for Shelly going on the Kenton Band when he did and doing what he did to make that unwieldy orchestra a cohesive and coherent musical aggregation, the band might not have been around for forty years.


Stan Kenton was the first one to admit Shelly importance to both the lonevity of his band and the intrinsic qualities he gave to the drum chair in his music.


And when Stan’s music reached the pinnacle of the sound that he always had in mind for the band with The Neophonic Orchestra in the mid-1960’s, guess who he called on to lead it?


Shelly hadn’t played with Stan’s Orchestra for over 15 years, but he was in the drum chair for the Neophonic’s opening night and for each of the Neophonic’s three, major seasons.


Shelly helped launch Stan’s Orchestra to a pinnacle of national prominence by giving it a distinctive rhythmic personality, not an easy task given the ponderous nature of many of the band’s arrangements.


And, in return, Stan helped launch Shelly’s career as a singular big band and small group drummer, bandleader, and club owner [Shelly along with Ronnie Scott’s in London was one of the few musician owned Jazz clubs to ever achieve any longevity. Ronnie’s place is still going strong today].


Here’s the beginning of a multi-part series that attempts to describe and explain how it all came together between Sheldon Manne and Stanley Kenton.


By 1946, the Big Band Era was terminally ill. Woody Herman, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Les Brown and Jack Teagarden had disbanded or regrouped into smaller units. The ballrooms were beginning to close in the smaller communities and many of the veterans, home from the war, were beginning to raise families. Listening to Amos & Andy or Jack Benny or Edgar Bergen or other popular radio shows had replaced going out for the evening; night clubs were struggling under the weight of the wartime entertainment or dance tax. Yet with all this against the odds, the Kenton "era" was just really getting under way.


Stan Kenton had been leading bands since the early 40s and had enjoyed some success, particularly on the West Coast, his home territory and by 1945, the band had achieved national recognition. Kenton had played one season (1943-44) on the Bob Hope radio show and after moving from Decca to Capitol Records, the band recorded two hits — "Eager Beaver" and Stan's theme song, "Artistry in Rhythm."


During the last years of the war, the Kenton band could be heard often on the radio, and transcriptions clearly show that Kenton was still searching for the band's true identity. One song would feature the screaming brass or the biting sax sections and the next song would sound like a typical hotel band playing songs like "Clair de Lune." And then there was the wartime "cute" patter between the ballroom announcer and the band leader — KENTON: "Hya fellas! Now its time to roll out the rhythm barrel and have a few looks around, so lean in close and we'll long time ya with the five o'clock drag." After the band finished the song — ANNOUNCER: "That one swung out like a loaded crane!" or after Anita O'Day finished a song — ANNOUNCER: "Alreet Aneet. You rocked the neat rockabye." Pretty corny stuff for the band that, in just a few years, would change jazz forever.


Anita O'Day had left the Krupa band and joined Kenton in 1944, but by 1945 she was ready to leave. She was used to a band that could swing, and Kenton's band didn't swing. When she recorded her hit "And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine," she insisted on using Jesse Price on drums. The band swung — many said for the first time — but Jesse Price was a black drummer on a white band, and while Kenton had no problem with that, hotels did, and Jesse left. Anita, tired of the road and the band and wanting to further her career, was replaced by an inexperienced 17-year-old Shirley Luster from central Illinois. Stan renamed her June Christy and she recorded her first hit, "Tampico." The band's book included "Intermission Riff" and "Concerto to End All Concertos" and in the January 1946 issue of Look magazine, it was called the Band of the Year.


With Shelly Manne joining the Kenton organization, Stan had found the final link that would enable him to expand the band's concept, to truly create a jazz orchestra.


Trombonist Kai Winding was changing the Kenton section sound and arranger Pete Rugolo, who had joined the band as soon as he was out of the service, had started to change the band's entire musical direction. Nearly a drummer a month had been hired and fired before Shelly arrived. Tenor saxophonist Bob Cooper remembered how the guys felt about Shelly joining Kenton — "When Shelly came with the band it was real exciting for everybody because we had been hanging out on 52nd Street after work and Shelly was playing with his group and with other people. The younger guys on Stan's band were getting into bebop so we wanted to know what that was all about. We were thrilled to have him on the band so we could learn the newer trends."


On February 21, 1946, Shelly hit his first official note with the Stan Kenton Orchestra and broke the drum head. It was at the Adams Theater in Newark, New Jersey, and after all the hassles Kenton had experienced with other drummers, he didn't know what to think as Shelly struggled through the show without a snare drum head. But Kenton soon discovered that with this new drummer, the band would be unlimited in the new directions it would take. The band was happy, Shelly was happy and so was Flip. Kenton was one of the very few leaders who allowed the wives to travel with the band and this meant that Shelly and Flip could be together, albeit with 30 or more other people on the bus.


The Kenton organization was now changing from a dance band to a "concert" jazz band, though it would take some time. Dance music was the bread and butter, the money maker, for the big bands. It had been since the beginning. All through the 1920s, 30s and the war years, bands made their way by providing music for dancing. In many cases, the music was just wallpaper, a background in a social setting. But Stan Kenton had different ideas, and with the band he was calling the "Artistry in Rhythm" band, he began playing an hour "concert" within the normal four-hour dance engagement. A few years earlier, the band had worked up a comedy episode using the tune "St. James Infirmary Blues" as the vehicle. It was always a big hit with the audiences and the comic relief gave the dancers a break. Now that Shelly Manne was on the band, the comedy became funnier and wilder. He would jump out from behind the drums, grab a tenor sax and leap high in the air, screeching on the horn as he seemed to hang in space — Kenton would try to sing the tune, but the guys in the band would individually or collectively yell things like — "Hey Stan! There's a woman backstage with the laundry." Kenton would look and then the same voice would say, "She says she'd like it done by Tuesday," or somebody would say, "Be seriously," or the band would break into some kind of cornball Lombardo type of offering — or some kind of effeminate hanky-panky would take place. The fans loved it and so did the band.


June Christy was a smash. The petite little blonde from the Midwest was a new singing sensation. Though the critics correctly mentioned that she sang "a little flat", it gave her an almost "hip" identity. She was a "rage" with the fans — though, as Flip Manne recalls — "She had no idea how pretty she really was." But thousands of fans did, and so did trumpeter Ray Wetzel, who one night charged into her hotel room with amorous thoughts until June hit him over the head with a bottle of booze.

Gene Howard was still singing with the band, doing the ballads, so that part of the band was still fairly commercial. But Rugolo was cranking out arrangements almost daily, and Stan introduced him every night as his chief staff arranger, then had him play piano during the last set so the tall band leader could go out in the crowd and talk with the fans, and talk he did!


If you introduced yourself to Stan Kenton, it would be most likely that he would call you by name the next time you saw the band, even months later. He had an almost superhuman ability to remember names, and that won him and the band many fans. So, while the band played an ever shrinking number of dance tunes and more and more of the Rugolo material, the fans and the critics lined up on either side — you either loved the Kenton band or you hated it. The ballroom operators griped because there wasn't enough dance music or the band was too loud. Some jazz players and critics said the band was too heavy and didn't swing. Musicians coming off and on the band referred to it as the "boiler factory." But everywhere the band played, the audiences were getting bigger and louder and more loyal. There was nothing like a Kenton fan; there was nobody like Stan Kenton.


The band played the Adams Theater seven days, closing on the 26th of February, and spent the next few months playing one-nighters and occasional theater dates. Four years earlier, Kenton had bombed on his first trek East, but now the band was hot and the press was saying so. They were on an extensive Eastern-Southeastern swing and the "trades" were giving some great reviews; some included kind words about the new drummer. Though some critics were calling the music "radical," box-office grosses were soaring. Stan Kenton, the visionary, was finally realizing his dream. He was creating a new music. Some said it was jazz, some said it wasn't. Whatever it was, it was causing a nationwide stir.


Sheldon and Florence Manne filed their income tax in April and Shelly declared that, after his discharge from the Coast Guard, he made $1,089.20 playing drums in 1945. He would do a lot better with the Kenton organization. The end of April 1946 found the band in St. Louis at the Tune Town Ballroom where 3,000 fans waded through the drenched streets to witness the opening night. After five days, the band bus made its way up Route 66 to play another five dates at the Rainbo Gardens Ballroom on Clark Street in Chicago. This tour had been important for Shelly Manne. He was playing the old arrangements like they had never been played before — giving them new life and adding his own unique style. Rugolo was pouring out new material and the band had new charts to play almost every night. The trip had also given the players a chance to settle in with the new drummer and for Shelly to get a feeling for what Kenton wanted, though Kenton always gave new players plenty of time to adjust. Stan was as interested in the musician's personality as he was in his playing skills. In Shelly, he had found exactly what he was looking for.


In mid-May the band went to the West Coast and began rehearsing for its Capitol recording session scheduled for early June. By the 4th, they were recording a new Rugolo arrangement of "Rika Jika Jack" that featured June Christy and some singing by the band. June did some scat and Shelly complemented Rugolo's double-time brass riffs with his own double-time drum fills. This was the first time any of Rugolo's arrangements had been recorded, and it was Shelly's first record with the band. On the same day, the band recorded "Artistry in Boogie" and "Come Back to Sorrento." The latter featured one of the band's stars, Vido Musso. Beginning as a two-beat dance tune, it soon develops into an all out swinging "jump" tune with Shelly swinging the band, and then employs the frequently-used dramatic ending with the tom-toms creating a timpani effect. This recording would later be used in Kenton's famous Artistry in Rhythm album, the band's first 78 RPM album set.


Rugolo was using a lot of theatrical introductions and endings in his arrangements, and this suited Kenton very well. The band leader, all six-foot-four of him, presented a powerful image as he stood in front of his "concert" jazz orchestra and waved his long arms while conducting this new exciting music. When the band opened at the Meadowbrook Gardens in Culver City, it gave the band a four-week stint that enabled them to get the new charts down and record them. The band was in and out of the studios all summer and into the fall, working gigs in L.A. and doing a lot of Capitol transcriptions.


In the early 1930s "electrical transcriptions" were used by local radio stations in lieu of live musicians. By the 1940s, transcriptions were used by all radio stations in addition to playing regular discs. Bands would often re-record their hits for transcription companies who provided music services for the radio industry. The Kenton band recorded several transcriptions on June 7, 1946, including a novelty tune, "Who's Got a Tent for Rent?" featuring trumpeter Ray Wetzel and vocal tunes featuring June Christy and one song sung by Gene Howard. "Lover," featuring Kenton's "'Fatha' Hines" stylization, was a Stan Kenton arrangement that reached back into the band's older sound. The band would often use older arrangements to fill the 16" transcription disc for radio use.


On July 12th the band recorded four Rugolo arrangements that would be included in the Artistry album. One, "Safranski," featured the bass playing of Eddie Safranski, one of the featured members of the band. In fact Safranski was featured almost all the time since many of the arrangements had the bass line double-timing over Kenton's piano. While this bass player was a "star" on the band on records and in person, he was not a favorite of Shelly's. His time and his sound when playing live on the bandstand had a kind of loose, flapping effect and, while he had some fairly good technique, he didn't swing. In fact, one reason the band had trouble swinging was because of the members of the rhythm section. Kenton was by no means a swinging pianist and guitarist Bob Ahern, while liked by everyone, was not an out-and-out jazzer. This left Shelly pretty much alone in trying to swing this behemoth jazz orchestra. The very complexity of the arrangements made it difficult to "get it off the ground."


As Kenton was preparing for the Artistry album, he suggested to Pete Rugolo that he would like something that would feature his new drummer. Pete and Shelly got together and Shelly expressed that he did not want the usual flag waver, that he was interested in something orchestral — what better writer than Rugolo! Pete had been very impressed with Shelly right away. "He could read and play anything. Nothing bothered him. He didn't even gripe about some of the 'funny stuff’ Stan wanted for the comedy routines. He had wonderful tone color ideas and cymbal sounds." When Kenton said "I'd like something for Shelly," Pete wrote "Artistry in Percussion." It was recorded on the July 12th date and it became an immediate hit with the fans. It had to be around three minutes in length because it was to be a 10" 78, part of an eight-song set for the album and Shelly chose mallets and tom-toms to express his percussive musicality. He would soon be featured every night performing this piece and he would be listed on the theater marquees and the ballroom posters.


Shelly's playing was expanding. He was now in a most unique musical situation. He was playing in an orchestra comprised of jazz musicians, under the direction of a dynamic leader who wanted to take music in new directions, playing arrangements that were jazz influenced but orchestral by design. On the same July 12th date, "Artistry in Bolero" was recorded and Shelly is heard playing a very light bolero rhythm, beginning with a snare drum pattern that ranges from pianissimo to a raging triple forte — then a pounding tom-tom accompaniment to the trumpet section. This was truly the young man who had watched his father Max beat out the hammering of Richard Strauss's Burlesque on the pillows of the front room couch for a young timpanist by the name of Saul Goodman. Shelly was using the drum set as timpani as well as a jazz instrument and he would do that throughout his life. His whole approach to drumming was musical — creating sounds and rhythms in a way that had never been done before.


Rugolo was writing about seventy-five percent of the music now, with only occasional offerings by Hanna or Roland. Stan was too busy to write. When the band traveled, after staying up half the night on the bus, he was at the local radio station for interviews early in the morning. He was not only pushing for his records to be played on the air, he was promoting the entire Capitol Records roster since he was in on the inception of this new recording label. Now that the band was in L.A. for awhile, he busied himself meeting with personal manager Carlos Gastel or Capitol Record executives or preparing for the fall tour that would take them back east. The big band business was supposed to be dead, but here was the man who refused to believe it and was proving his critics wrong at every turn.


Back in May, Flip had flown out to L.A. with Marie Winding and Teri Kabak (ahead of the band) and stayed in Del Mar while the band worked its way to the West Coast to play at Mission Beach. For the band this was to be a kind of a vacation time before the Meadowbrook, when the rehearsals and recording dates would fill the days and nights of late summer. Bing Crosby was one of the investors in the very posh area called Del Mar that included the Turf and Surf Hotel. Flip remembers, "It was an exciting time! The Kenton band was really catching on and Shelly was very happy to be in such a musical situation. I can recall Marie and Teri and I going into the hotel for dinner for the first time and we didn't realize it was formal dress. We were super casual and the head waiter was less than friendly" Tenor saxophonist Bob Cooper and June Christy had fallen in love and were close with the Mannes and when they went horseback riding Shelly called the tall tenor player "Long Deluxe." It was a great summer for the band, but it went by quickly.


After a week at the Million Dollar Theatre in L.A., the band hit the road and worked its way eastward, a full month-and-a-half of one-nighters, in and out of the bus — the iron lung they called it. The music magazines were raving about Shelly Manne. At the Music Trades Show in Chicago, the Gretsch Drum Company gave Shelly equal billing with his idol, Jo Jones. The music critics were talking about the drummer with the Kenton band — and they were misspelling his name, something they would do forever. It could be Shelley Manne or Shelly Mann or an almost unbelievable combination of adding or dropping "e"s. But however they spelled it, Shelly Manne and the whole Kenton band were on a ride and the world was finding out about a different kind of drummer. The Artistry album, featuring "The fastest growing band in the land" had been released ($3.15 plus tax) and now they were about to open at the Paramount Theatre, and the son of Max Manne was a featured performer. Sheldon Manne was back home.


To be continued in Part 2.


[Research for this feature includes Burt Korall’s Drummin’ Men, Jack Brand and Bill Korst, Shelly Manne: Sounds of A Different Drummer, Georges Paczynski, Une Histoire De La Batterie De Jazz, a host of Down Beat, Metronome, Esquire and Modern Drummer magazines, websites such as Drummerworld and a bunch of liner notes to Shelly’s manny LPs and CDs.]

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


On the bandstand, Shelly was constantly tuning and re tuning his drums. While calf drumheads are susceptible to change with varying humidity, it was for the music that Shelly was tuning. He would tune the tom-toms to the important notes of the song so they would be in pitch with the band. Just as a timpanist will lower his ear to tune the kettle drums, Shelly tuned the toms to the tones he felt would help the sound. He was capable of swinging a band as hard as anybody, yet he was always concerned with the tonal timbre of the entire drum kit.”


Toward the end of 1947, the Kenton band played 10 weeks at the Paramount and "knocked the kids off their chairs." They shared the bill with the very hot Nat "King" Cole Trio who played their hits, "Straighten Up and Fly Right" and "Route 66," and played five — sometimes six — shows a day. Shelly was featured playing "Artistry in Percussion" and offered his comedy on "St. James Infirmary", and in the audience were the screaming teenage girls wearing white sweaters and caps with O.M.S. printed on them. The "Our Man Shelly" fan club became the most vocal audience since the Sinatra fans filled the theater.


By the time the Down Beat poll came out in December, Shelly Manne was listed as the number two drummer in the country, behind his mentor Davey Tough. Gene Krupa wasn't listed because band leaders weren't in the running, but in 14th place, just in front of Max Roach, was Dick Farrell. The Metronome poll listed Shelly in the 4th spot. Whenever interviewed, he gave young drummers the advice he would give the rest of his life — "Keep time and blend with the music. Drums are a musical instrument."


While the band was in New York, they recorded "His Feet's Too Big For De Bed," one of the earliest Latin-influenced arrangements in the Ken ton book. Shelly was always curious, always experimenting, and had developed a keen interest in Latin rhythms. The Cuban jazz rhythms of Machito had caught the ears of many of the bop players and the playing of jazz over Latin was very hip. Dizzy Gillespie was fascinated with the exotic beats of Cuba and Brazil and would eventually work with the great conga drummer, Chano Pozo. Shelly had begun using Latin beats behind the Kenton theme "Artistry in Rhythm" and the band would play it that way for the next 30 years. During the New York recording session on January 2, 1947, the band did one other tune. Dave Lambert, who would later become famous in jazz circles with the singing group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, had put together a singing group for Stan called the Pastels. Rugolo and Lambert arranged a song called "After You" which was an obvious attempt to expand the band's commercial success. The band closed the Paramount on the 17th.


Teddy Reig was a contractor for Savoy Records and while the Kenton band was still in town, he gathered together Winding and Shelly and Safranski, added Marty Napoleon and Allen Eager, and cut four bebop tunes. Allen Eager sounded like Stan Getz before Getz sounded like Getz and the recordings showed exactly what was happening on the jazz scene in New York during this period. Shelly either used a smaller bass drum for this tune or muffled down the 24" Gretsch kick drum that he used with Kenton. The sound and tone suggest a smaller drum, and this would be in keeping with Shelly's attempts to always complement the music. On the bandstand, he was constantly tuning and re tuning his drums. While calf drumheads are susceptible to change with varying humidity, it was for the music that Shelly was tuning. He would tune the tom-toms to the important notes of the song so they would be in pitch with the band. Just as a timpanist will lower his ear to tune the kettle drums, Shelly tuned the toms to the tones he felt would help the sound. He was capable of swinging a band as hard as anybody, yet he was always concerned with the tonal timbre of the entire drum kit.


Kenton was really pushing now for a concert format. They could be playing a ballroom or the local Armory but the program would read — "Stan Kenton In Concert." A typical show would find the band opening with "Artistry Jumps," then "Stardust" and "Intermission Riff." Then Ray Wetzel would come down from the trumpet section and sing a couple of tunes. The band would then return to more concert fare with "Artistry in Bolero," Boots Mussilli playing "Body and Soul," and then the Latin feature "Machito."


By this time, the Pastels were part of the act and Kenton would feature them, usually half way through the first part of the concert presentation. "Don't Worry About Me," "By The River St. Marie," "April in Paris," and their new record feature "After You" would be sung in almost direct segue. The band would then offer "Artistry in Bolero," "Yesterdays," "Safranski," then a ballad. They would often close the first half of the show with "Fantasy."


Vido Musso had left the band before the Paramount opening, but after trying to make yet another go at it as a band leader, he finally came back to the Kenton fold. The fans wanted him back too, and Musso would now play his famous "Come Back to Sorrento" on the last half of the concert schedule. June Christy would be featured in a block of tunes that included her hits "Willow Weep for Me" and "Ain't No Misery In Me." Then, it was time to feature Shelly playing his now famous "Artistry in Percussion." The crowd had now come to expect it and yelled for it, always assisted in their chants by the local O.M.S. fan club who assembled en masse.


After featuring all the "stars" in the band, Kenton would then pull out all stops and do the old reliable, "St. James Infirmary Blues." After just finishing his feature number, Shelly would once again leap from behind the drums to "play" the saxophone in the air or yell "everybody in the pool" and hold his nose, pretending to dive into an imaginary pool somewhere behind the drum riser. The audience loved it and it gave everybody a break from the seriousness of the concert atmosphere. But soon Kenton would return to his orchestral mood, introduce each member of the band, and bring the audience to its feet with the final feature of the evening, "Concerto To End All Concertos." The fans would go home that night talking about this very different band and the music that it played and the different kind of drummer they had seen.


The band made a Midwestern swing in late January of that 1947 winter and then was forced to return to the West because of a misunderstanding with the owners of the Avalon Ballroom in Hollywood. The Kenton management had verbally canceled the four-week engagement and when Gastel called to pick up the "canceled" contract from the ballroom operators, they threatened a lawsuit for the misunderstanding. The Count Basie band had just had a very successful stay at the popular Hollywood spot and the very hot Kenton band was expected in early February. Kenton was forced to play the date, interrupting his eastern tour, and the band used this time in L.A. to go into the Capitol studios to record "Down in Chihuahua" (featuring Christy) and "Machito." On February 24th Shelly recorded with Frank DeVol's Orchestra, playing behind June Christy singing "If I Should Lose You." On the 27th Kenton recorded "Collaboration," a tune Kenton and Rugolo worked on featuring a sound that would be forever identified as truly Kentonesque — hauntingly classical with a very lush trombone sound. The same day they recorded "Capitol Punishment," previously called "Rhythm Incorporated" and actually based on the changes of "How High the Moon." The next day they did another take (this one was issued) of "Collaboration" and June Christy recorded her big hit "Across The Alley From The Alamo." Shelly played a fast Native American Indian tom-tom beat to open and close the tune that would hit the charts. June, with the DeVol Orchestra and Shelly, recorded two more tunes at the end of March. On the same day, in the same studio, the Kenton band began a two-day recording marathon that would produce several classics and it would turn out to be the very last recording session of the "Artistry in Rhythm" band.


On March 31st Shelly recorded "Minor Riff" with the band, and while most of the fans didn't realize why the music felt different, it was because the hi-hat cymbal pattern was being changed throughout the song. Shelly was "flopping" the meter or turning the standard cymbal pattern around and then reversing it again. Jo Jones had been doing this with the Basie band for years, but not to this extent. On this Kenton recording the meter is flopped and stays that way for measures at a time. Amateur drummers do this by mistake and it usually causes havoc with the band, but here is Shelly constantly "messing with the meter" and it is very effective within the phrasing of the arrangement.


The Stan Kenton Orchestra filmed an RKO "short" during this stay on the coast and it featured June Christy, with the band playing a short version of Stan's theme and, towards the end of the film, "Concerto To End All Concertos." Christy had been expanding her career outside the Kenton fold and tenor sax star Musso was always looking for better things. In the meantime, Stan Kenton was trying to keep up the killing pace he had set for himself for the last several years. He was showing symptoms of breaking down. His doctors told him to take a rest or he would surely crack. He didn't listen. With Kenton, it was always "the show must go on."


In early April, the band started a southern swing that would take them into Texas, Louisiana and Alabama, playing concerts in ballrooms, armories, auditoriums and on college campuses. The band was happy, the personnel fairly stable and the fans were clamoring for more and more Kenton. The musicians all became close friends, while their wives shared the hassles of the road, the late nights, long trips and bad food. "Coop" and June Christy were married back in January and Shelly and Flip stood up for them during a ceremony held after a theater gig in Washington, D.C. Now, in April, they were all together in the "lung" with a band leader that was about to collapse.


June came down with the flu and was too ill to sing and Kenton was not very understanding. Cooper, realizing how seriously ill she was, decided to stay with his wife and got a substitute player. Kenton was furious and said that Coop would have to play. The mild-mannered tenor saxophonist took his wife to Miami to recuperate and Kenton opened in Tuscaloosa without either his star singer or tenor soloist. The years of 20-hour work days, sometimes too much booze, booking, personal and personnel problems had caught up with the band leader. After the job Kenton disbanded and eventually made his way back to California, to his troubled marriage, and left Carlos Gastel to explain what was happening to the press.


The bus driver had been paid to take the band home, but soon after they were on the road, he pulled over, stopped and informed each musician that they would have to personally pay for his driving services. Flip remembers it well. "I never saw Shelly so angry. He was ready to punch the guy Somebody grabbed Shelly and the driver hurriedly backed down!" In this rare show of anger, Shelly had told the driver in plain English that he, the driver, would immediately get the musicians to their destination. He did.


All the music magazines told the Kenton story. Stan would recuperate, reassemble the band in the fall and all would be well. Gastel informed the musicians that they should be able to return at "a moment's notice." The booking office stayed busy with future engagements while Stan Kenton rested from his breakdown at a ranch outside Los Angeles. Safranski and Winding, back in New York, played for Norman Granz's "Jazz at the Philharmonic" concerts Monday nights at Carnegie Hall. June Christy was booked in the Hollywood clubs and continued her career, all the while promising to return to the Kenton band when Stan was ready. Shelly and Flip made their way back home to New York City arriving on Saturday, April 19, 1947. Shelly Manne was about to join yet another innovative jazz band; this time it would be the bebop band of Charlie Ventura.


To be continued in Part 3.


[Research for this feature includes Burt Korall’s Drummin’ Men, Jack Brand and Bill Korst, Shelly Manne: Sounds of A Different Drummer, Georges Paczynski, Une Histoire De La Batterie De Jazz, a host of Down Beat, Metronome, Esquire and Modern Drummer magazines, websites such as Drummerworld and a bunch of liner notes to Shelly’s manny LPs and CDs.]


© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.




Bebop was causing the swing drummers fits because of the jabs and stabs required of the left hand and right foot — snare drum and bass drum — against the ride cymbal pattern. The stuff Kenny Clarke had started ten years earlier had developed into a new complex way of playing that meant the "new" drummers had to really develop their ability to play four different patterns all at the same time. The left foot played the hihats, the right hand the ride pattern — the left hand and right foot played the drums. The bass drum sound needed to punch out the patterns with a kind of "thud" sound, while the snare drum was often tuned loose — kind of funky — with the snares barely against the bottom head.

Jim Chapin was working on a jazz drum book called Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer that would include all the necessary exercises a bop drummer would use on the gig; he wouldn't publish it until the following year (1948) but in it he would mention that he considered Shelly Manne one of the great bass drum artists. The book would eventually become the "bible" of jazz drum books.

Drummer Davy Tough's drinking problem wasn't getting any better. He was working with Charlie Ventura around New York and the band was causing some excitement, but the bottle was never far away from Davy. Shelly worked the Deuces with his own group on May 2nd and returned the next night to sub for Tough. On the 4th he played a session that included Chubby Jackson, Kai Winding, and Aaron Sachs and two days later Shelly was interviewed on the radio.

By now it was obvious that Shelly would be working with the Ventura group more often. Between playing at the Deuces with other groups, taking commercial gigs with the likes of Jerry Jerome, and playing more and more with Ventura, the now-famous drummer was staying fairly busy. By the middle of May, Ventura was ready to take the group on the road and wanted Shelly to play with the band all the time.

The Charlie Ventura Sextet opened the Click in Philadelphia on May 21st for a four-day engagement. The band was hot! Nobody had ever heard anything quite like the sound that Winding and Ventura and Buddy Stewart (singing like another horn) produced. The arrangements were pure bebop and with Lou Stein on piano and Bob Carter on bass, Shelly played in a rhythm section that cooked. The band stayed in Philadelphia, playing three more days at the Down Beat Room before moving on to Chicago.

Dave Garroway had a very popular late night jazz show on WMAQ in Chicago and, on occasion, promoted jazz concerts in the Midwest. On June 1st he presented Ventura's group, in concert, at the Terrace Room of the Morrison Hotel in Chicago. June Christy came out from the coast to participate and even appeared at the College Inn where the Ventura group was playing for a brief spell. Garroway was an avid modern jazz fan and really plugged the band (and his concerts) on his midnight to 1:00 a.m. radio show.

While Ventura himself was not a bop player, everybody else in the band was and the concept was bop, albeit "commercial" bop. (Ventura called a subsequent group Bop for the People Band.) The musicians had all paid their dues on 52nd Street, and now this white bop band was taking the new jazz to the Midwest. They played in Indiana, Minnesota and Milwaukee. While they played their Milwaukee dates, the rhythm section — composed of Shelly, Bob Carter and Lou Stein — cut four standard tunes in a bop format for Chord Records and called the trio SHEBOBLOU. (Down Beat Records eventually re-released the sides.) Then back to Chicago, where literary legend Studs Terkel had a record column called "The Hot Plate" and stated about the trio, "In no small way, imaginative, thoughtful and courageous young guys like these, whose talents are tempered with humility, are the hope of American jazz."

By the time the Charlie Ventura Sextet opened the College Inn in the basement of the Hotel Sherman, in the Loop, the band had developed some very slick Bop style arrangements that used some wide voicings to get almost a big band sound. With Stewart singing "horn" parts, the front line could play like three instruments, four if the piano was used as another harmonic voice. For this engagement, the band was expanded to a ten-piece outfit to enhance the broadcasts and dance music. The sextet would be featured at different times during the evening's performance.

Everybody who was anybody in jazz caught the Ventura band sometime during their eight-week stay.  Dave Arnt, a WFL drum salesman (Ludwig's name in those days because of a legal hassle with the Leedy & Ludwig Drum Company), was at the College Inn often, not only because he liked the way Shelly played, but because he was trying to get Shelly to switch from Gretsch to WFL. One night Arnt shower up with a 30” ride cymbal, a gift from the Zildjan Company. He wanted Shelly to try it and see what he thought.

As Bop had progressed, the drum sizes became smaller because of what the music demanded of the drummer. So, like all new ideas, the thing got a little out of control. Shelly, always warm and friendly, kindly played a few tunes using the giant cymbal and told Arnt it was OK. A few nights when Arnt showed up again and asked how he was getting on with the cymbal, Shelly — in good humor — said, "They ought to put some legs on it and make it into a coffee table!"

Singing with the floor show at the College Inn was a delightful young singer — a Garroway discovery — by the name of Jackie Cain who, in a few months, would become a very important part of the Ventura sound. Another important addition would be pianist Roy Kral, who was at this time becoming a very important addition to Jackie's life. They had been working at a joint called Jump Town at 47th and Western with a quartet led by altoist George Davis. It was while working with Davis that they made their first recordings. "During a gig at the BeeHive, Ventura heard me," recalls Jackie, "and hired me for the College Inn engagement." Roy was not playing with Ventura yet, but he was doing some arranging for the band. Jackie remembers Shelly's playing — "I did mostly ballads on the show and was busy thinking about singing the lyrics, when Shelly's brushwork would grab my ear and I would almost forget the words. Later, when I joined Charlie's new group, Buddy Stewart and Shelly were very sweet to me. I was fairly naive and they gave me clues on how to better my singing."

Shelly Manne was recorded with the 1947 version of the Ventura band on an air check made live at the College Inn. Air checks were most often recorded back at the radio station for later broadcast to the West Coast or perhaps for an entirely different date. They were doing tunes that would be Ventura's trademark: "East of Suez," "Pennies From Heaven," "How High the Moon," and "Stompin' at the Savoy." Charlie would invariably insert phrases from other songs during his improvised solos and this would later become an expected thing with many jazz fans,i ncluding the "honk and stomp" sax soloing of the Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts. But, the band was anything but corny. Here were serious musicians (when they were performing) playing a new kind of bebop jazz. While still at the Hotel Sherman, the band did its first official recording and they included a tune called "Eleven Sixty" which was in honor of the time Garroway's radio show started. Dave Garroway later moved into the Chicago television industry — always promoting jazz — and eventually became the original host of The Today Show for NBC in New York.

During this period, Vido Musso made another stab as band leader with a recording session and used Shelly on a mixture of swing, bop, and commercial tunes.

Shelly was using a new set of Gretsch. Davy Tough had pioneered the use of a smaller (20") bass drum, and now Shelly was also downsizing his kit for his Bop band work. Each drum was smaller in size and he would often omit the floor torn while working with the Ventura band. "I'm working on my independence, Shelly would say." Bebop was causing the swing drummers fits because of the jabs and stabs required of the left hand and right foot — snare drum and bass drum — against the ride cymbal pattern. The stuff Kenny Clarke had started ten years earlier had developed into a new complex way of playing that meant the "new" drummers had to really develop their ability to play four different patterns all at the same time. The left foot played the hihats, the right hand the ride pattern — the left hand and right foot played the drums. The bass drum sound needed to punch out the patterns with a kind of "thud" sound, while the snare drum was often tuned loose — kind of funky — with the snares barely against the bottom head.

Jim Chapin was working on a jazz drum book called Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer that would include all the necessary exercises a bop drummer would use on the gig; he wouldn't publish it until the following year (1948) but in it he would mention that he considered Shelly Manne one of the great bass drum artists. The book would eventually become the "bible" of jazz drum books.

The day before Ventura opened the College Inn engagement, Stan Kenton sat down and wrote a letter to Shelly, c/o Max Manne, 85-14 Wareham Place, Jamaica, N.Y.:

— URGENT — PLEASE FORWARD IMMEDIATELY — and notified his drummer that he would be "back in business in September." The Ventura band would have to be history for Shelly just as it was skyrocketing to fame.

On August 5th Kenton sent a Telegram to: SHELLY MANNE—C/O CHARLES VENTURA HOTEL CROYDON CHICAGO — YOU HAVE SAME DEAL AS BEFORE PLEASE CONFIRM BY WIRE REGARDS — STAN. Three days later Kenton sent another Telegram: IT IS ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE THAT YOU BE HERE TO START REHEARSAL SEPT 15 GLAD CHARLIE UNDERSTANDS 1 APPRECIATE IT. REGARDS STAN.

On August 20th, Kenton sent an air mail letter advising Shelly to ship his drums to his (Kenton's) Hollyridge address where he would have them put in the band truck where they would be safe. The old, bigger Gretsch set would once again provide the spark for an even bigger, musically more ambitious Kenton band. It would be called the "Progressive Jazz" band — Kenton would call it an orchestra.

The summer of 1947 saw the publication of Billboard's First Annual Disk Jockey Poll and the top tunes, in order, were — "To Each His Own" sung by Eddy Howard, "Heartaches" with the Ted Weems band, "Linda" sung by Buddy Clark, "For Sentimental Reasons" by the King Cole Trio, "The Anniversary Song" with Al Jolson, "I Never Knew" by Sam Donahue, "Mam'selle" sung by Art Lund, "Prisoner of Love" featuring Perry Como, and next to last, Stan Kenton's "Artistry Jumps." The Kenton band placed just ahead of Dinah Shore's "Anniversary Song."

The singers were taking over the air waves, pushing instrumentals further down the list with each passing month. But Stan Kenton pushed upward and onward, defying the experts who said he was killing what was left of the band business. The band's Artistry in Rhythm album even managed to place first in the Billboard "Popular Albums" category just ahead of Songs by Sinatra on the Columbia label. The music rags carried the news that Kenton was not only back, but had added bongo player Jack Costanzo and Brazilian concert guitarist, Laurindo Almeida. The band now had five saxes, five trombones, five trumpets and five rhythm, and Christy was back. The ambitious leader was even thinking about carrying a dance troupe that would feature creative dancing. Big plans by a big man.

Most all of the musicians had returned, with a few noticeable exceptions — Boots Mussulli, Kai Winding and Vido Musso. Rugolo was now writing for a serious concert orchestra that played jazz and the arrangements grew more complex with every writing. Kenton had just been through psychiatric analysis, months of it, and now took on a new persona. He was now playing the part of the musical intellectual — but it was not all acting. He had rehearsed this role for himself for years and it, and the music, had consumed him. The fans loved it, and the critics were about to be confused by the "avant-garde" music. Some would compare it to Stravinsky, some would say it was noise, others wouldn't even try to understand it. The band assembled in L.A. for rehearsals and on September 24th and 25th, they recorded the new music.

Milt Bernhart played trombone with Teddy Powell's great band when only 17 years old, and when drafted into the Army the next year, was saved from being shipped to Okinawa at the last minute. They needed a trombone player for the band at Fort Ord, California, and somehow Milt's name was called. He stayed about a year-and-a-half and was discharged early in 1946. "I was standing around Chicago wondering what to do, when the phone rang." It was Harry Forbes, another trombone player who had been with the original Kenton band and who ended up with Milt at Fort Ord (along with another Kentonite, Red Dorris). Harry had recommended Milt for the new Kenton band and Milt hopped on a train and tried out for the job in Detroit. "Stan was waiting for me at the hotel, which really impressed me, and on the way to the audition, in the cab, he asked me questions. It wasn't just how do you play. He wanted people who behaved."

Bernhart had joined the "Artistry" band just after Shelly and now, as the band reformed and with Winding gone, he became a very important voice in the sound of the Kenton bone section. Bernhart remembers that when he originally joined Kenton, Shelly and Flip were the only people nice to him. Winding had been playing all the lead and all the solos. The new band would now feature Bernhart and, with Musso gone, Bob Cooper would also be featured — and Shelly Manne.

Milt recalls Shelly's humor. "Shelly had a natural gift for comedy. I see Jerry Lewis and I'm reminded of Shelly. He could do all those things. He had a lot to say on drums, but had a personality that was strong and engaging and people loved it." As the music became more serious, the comedy relief became more important for the fans at the ballroom dates. The old hits were played, as well as the feature numbers including "Artistry in Percussion," and Shelly continued his insane on-stage antics during the comedy numbers. He would put a cymbal on his head, doing his Chinese thing, using the drum sticks for chopsticks.

The "St. James Infirmary" bit was ever popular and now, with some new members on the band, it became even funnier. Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida remembered it well. "I had just come on the band and couldn't speak any English. Pete Rugolo had interpreted my contract with Stan Kenton in Italian, which I could barely make out. When we did the "St. James Infirmary" number I asked Shelly what I should yell out to be funny. He told me, 'say — EAT A COUPLE OF YARDS!' — and, not knowing what I was saying, I did!"

The new band opened at the Rendezvous Ballroom at Balboa Beach, California, where the very first Kenton band started back in 1941. After the two-day engagement, the band moved north towards San Francisco and then on to Oregon and Washington, playing a mixture of concerts and ballroom gigs. Kenton disliked the dance jobs more and more, yet they were still keeping the band going. It was costing more and more to move a band and pay the hotel bills so the office continually reminded Kenton to keep things in perspective. But the concert box office was doing well, breaking records, in fact. The September 24th issue of Down Beat magazine had Stan Kenton on its cover and proclaimed his comeback. The music mags had high expectations for this band and with the addition of Art Pepper on alto sax, the band was becoming more and more respected.

For Shelly, it wasn't an easy band to play for. Safranski was back on bass, so things hadn't changed there, and Kenton was using the piano more and more as a concert instrument. With the addition of Costanzo on bongos, there posed another problem. While the "Artistry" band wasn't exactly a swing band, it did have its rhythmic moments in spite of rhythm section conflicts, but now, Shelly had to contend with not only more complex arrangements, but a bongo player that was playing Latin against swing passages and that is like mixing oil and water.

Some believe that Kenton really didn't understand this conflict between metronomic swing and clave patterns. When Kenton's mother first heard the new band, she had asked what that "woodpecker" sound was. It was the ever constant sound of the bongos. Nobody could play Latin better than Shelly Manne, so he knew how to make things fit with the new bongo star — and Costanzo was an excellent player who had been featured with the King Cole Trio. But for Shelly, it was just one more freight car to pull uphill. For the audience, it was a great visual treat to see this bongo virtuoso.
To be continued in Part 4.
[Research for this feature includes Michael Sparke’s Stan Kenton: This is An Orchestra!, Dr. William Lee, Stan Kenton: Artistry in Rhythm, Burt Korall’s Drummin’ Men, Jack Brand and Bill Korst, Shelly Manne: Sounds of A Different Drummer, Georges Paczynski, Une Histoire De La Batterie De Jazz, a host of Down Beat, Metronome, Esquire and Modern Drummer magazines, websites such as Drummerworld and a bunch of liner notes to Shelly’s manny LPs and CDs.]


© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


In 1947 the average factory worker made about fifty to seventy-five cents an hour — maybe $25 a week. Stan Kenton was paying Shelly Manne $200 a week to play "Progressive Jazz."

Local bands could now buy stock arrangements from the Kenton library. Tunes like "Intermission Riff," "Balboa Bash," and "Artistry in Percussion" were being played by hometown bands across the country. Drummers in those towns were talking about and going to see and hear Shelly Manne play with "Stan the Man." The band traveled to Utah, Kansas and Missouri and stayed in the Midwest until they opened a four- week stint at the Century Room of the Hotel Commodore in New York City They played the old hits and tried out some of the new stuff on the hotel crowd. The music they were now playing was not easy for some to understand, but for some reason, the band was the rage. It had "caught on" with the youth of the post-war years. The kids were ready for a change and Kenton was more than ready to give it to them. The bass and bongos were featured on almost every tune, or at least were always present. Many of the songs were abstract, out of tempo for extended periods of time. Only the classical composers had written this way. Rugolo was using different time signatures, had Safranski playing arco (with the bow) — and double-time pizzicato in other places. Guitarist Almeida was giving the band a colorful, rich classical flavor and Shelly was using every kind of percussion sound he could think of— brushes, timpani, triangles, gongs.

To stand in front of the Kenton band was to experience a wall of sound. Screaming brass opened and closed the performances. The thrill of hearing the band as you entered the ballroom or the theater was so unique, words cannot explain the sensation.

The music the band had recorded in Los Angeles was played only occasionally at ballrooms. The crowd wanted to hear the "Artistry" band — they could dance to that. June Christy was more popular than ever and most of her material was light and entertaining. But the music the band had rehearsed and recorded in September was Kenton's mission. He would now preach his message to the throngs of kids that packed the rooms wherever the band played. He intellectualized the music and brought the audience into the fold. He explained the music was not for dancing — "We have some vicious tempo changes and somebody might break a leg." The concert hall was where he felt jazz should be played and appreciated. Everybody thought Stan was a "college man," even some of the people in the band. He had no higher education to speak of, but his approach to people was elegant and charming and he sold his new complex music in such a way that he got them listening until they understood it.

In December, the Down Beat Poll Winners were announced — Shelly Manne was number one! The Metronome Poll listed Buddy Rich, followed by Shelly. Eddie Safranski's Poll Cats cut four recordings for Atlantic playing bebop. One of the tunes, "Turmoil," featured horn voicings that forecasted the "cool" sound jazz would soon employ on the West coast. The Gretsch Drum Company ran full page ads proclaiming that Shelly Manne played their drums. On December 21st, Shelly and Buddy Rich recorded with the Metronome All Stars doing a tune called "Metronome Riff" that included Manne and Rich trading drum fills on the last chorus. On the same day, and the following day, Shelly recorded with the Kenton band.

"Prologue Suite" — the First Movement and the Finale were recorded on December 21st. The Second and Third Movements were recorded back in L.A. in September so it was a rather disjointed recording affair. The music was fascinating; a big jazz band had never attempted anything of this magnitude. Some of the critics were yelling that this wasn't jazz, that it was "neurotic" nonsense. It sure didn't swing, they said. And, in a sense, they were right. But the musicians were jazz players, and the music had jazz elements throughout. Jazz solos were played, interspersed with boleros or beguines or marches or rhumbas. Bob Graettinger had been added to the writing staff and the music he composed left some fans with their mouths wide open. One of the September products had been his "Thermopolae," an impressionistic piece that indeed sounded like the entrance music to some ancient city. In the Third Movement of "Prologue Suite," Shelly played a march rhythm on the snare drum throughout and the effect was hypnotic — the time absolutely perfect.

On the December 21st session, Christy recorded "How High The Moon," and the next day talked her way through a pretentious "This Is My Theme." This heavy ditty was thought up by a woman fan, and though Rugolo wrote the arrangement, the feeling is pure Kentonesque. June sounds sad doing this number, but the whole concept was depressing. The same day they cut a Kenton arrangement that sounded like the old Lunceford-influenced ideas Stan had in the early days. He called it "Harlem Holiday." They also recorded a beautiful Rugolo number entitled "Interlude," which would become a Kenton standard. Costanzo recorded a feature number.

The band opened the Paramount while they were still playing for dancers at the Meadowbrook over in Cedar Grove, New Jersey On Christmas Day, they played five shows at the Paramount, traveled to the ballroom and played their standard dance job. They shared the theater bill with singer Vic Damone, the Martin Brothers and Stump & Stumpy — and played for them. June Christy had top billing with the band, but all the featured artists were on the bill, including Shelly Manne. They played their last show of the day, Christmas Day, at 9:27 p.m. and rushed to the Meadowbrook as fast as they could. Luckily, the double booking ended with their closing at the ballroom the next day.

Stan Kenton's Progressive Jazz Orchestra closed the Paramount on January 6, 1948, and stayed in the East for the next several weeks. Shelly was busy seeing old friends and sitting in with the bop bands on 52nd Street. On January 16th, the entire Kenton crew played a pierside farewell to Dizzy Gillespie as the trumpeter set sail for a European Tour, something Kenton had wanted to do for quite a while. The band did a brief Canadian tour playing Toronto and Montreal and then some New England dates including a three-day stay in Hartford at the Open State Theater. The winter roads were a nightmare and freezing temperatures and narrow lanes didn't help the time schedule.

While the band played the Click in Philadelphia, Shelly conducted a drum clinic at the Ralph Wurlitzer store on Chestnut Street. The event was advertised by Gretsch Drums and they boasted that the number one drummer in the country used GRETSCH BROADKASTER DRUMS, including the GRETSCH-GLADSTONE SNARE DRUM. Shelly's mentor had designed the ultimate snare drum, had struck a deal with the Gretsch Company and the manufacturer gave Shelly one of the first Gladstone snare drums. In the February issue of CHARM magazine, Shelly appeared in an ad featuring the new "drum skirt" by Hyde Park. "Smart girls 'in the know' musically will recognize Shelly Manne, popular drummer with Stan Kenton's orchestra." — and there he was behind those Gretsch Broadkasters! They gave Flip one of the skirts. In Down Beat magazine he was featured along with Max Roach in the Avedis Zildjian Cymbals ad and, of course, the Gretsch ads.

After the Click Club, the band set out on a concert tour that included Carnegie Hall, Symphony Hall in Boston, Cleveland's Music Hall and the Civic Opera House in Chicago. After the blasting opening number, Stan might ask if the toupees in the front row were still on. The program was now including the "heavier" works, but "St. James Infirmary" and "Concerto To End All Concertos" ended the concerts. This format obviously worked, and with Christy singing her hits, there was something for every Kenton fan in the program. Attendance records were being broken nearly everywhere they played, yet the critics were relentless.

Other band leaders said Kenton was killing the business not playing for dancing. Little did they all know that this band would do more to change American music than all of them. For years to come, in movie scores, big band voicings, and concert and marching corps, the influence of Kenton's music would be felt. In the spring of 1948 you could read about Stan Kenton in nearly every major magazine. Newsweek ran articles about him, The Saturday Evening Post, Time, The New Yorker and — of course — Variety and Billboard and all the music publications had something about the man or the band every month. The band made a southern swing in March and Shelly Manne was making some decisions.

On pay days, the musicians picked up their checks where they were laid out for all to see. The highest paid member of the band was Buddy Childers. Nobody knew why (Shelly had gone flying once with the trumpet player, but that was before Buddy had crashed several planes and cars.) Childers had joined the band when he was only sixteen years old back in 1942, and Stan was very fond of him. He was still a rather wild kid. June Christy, who was the featured singer, was the lowest paid of the entourage and this didn't seem to make sense to Shelly. He would end each night exhausted, playing his heart out as always. He was fighting to drive the band over the clumsy rhythm section, the weight of the brass and the arrangements — and the BONGOS — always the bongos. He made a comment to someone that working with the band was like chopping wood.

Shelly had always loved the way trombonist Bill Harris played and had been in contact with him back in New York. Over the months, Bill and Shelly talked about putting together a co-op band with bassist Chubby Jackson. Both Jackson and Harris knew Shelly and had worked with him on the Street and recording dates and occasionally on Woody Herman's band. Shelly and Flip talked about it. Shelly wasn't having any fun playing with Kenton (and playing jazz was what it was all about).

He gave his notice and left the band on April 1st and returned to New York where he, Harris, Jackson, pianist Lou Levy and trumpeter Howard McGhee put together an all-star group. On April 12th, they opened the Blue Note in Chicago for a four-week stay that saw tenor saxophonist Georgie Auld joining the group. During their Chicago date, the Mannes bought their first car ($400 above-list, under-the-table because of the price control business after the war) and Harris gave Shelly a "quickie" course on how to drive their new Chevy.

While in the Windy City, Shelly did a clinic at the Bobby Christian School of Percussion and Chubby Jackson made the rounds of the media, managing to convince everyone that he was the leader of the group at the Blue Note.

Three days after the group closed in Chicago, they opened on May 12th at the Showboat in Milwaukee where Red Rodney replaced McGhee. Flip recalls the sudden demise of the band — "The group was booked to appear somewhere and Chubby walked out at the last minute. We were broke and ended up living in Bill Harris' basement out on Long Island for a few weeks. I think that's when Bill and Shelly formed the three trombone group with Lou Levy, Bob Carter, Eddie Bert, Milt Gold — I remember JJ. Johnson also. They played the Blue Note and I remember someone in the management complaining because he wanted all of the slides on the bones to go in and out together!"

The band worked the Show Boat in Milwaukee for three weeks, had a few weeks off and then played the Royal Roost in New York City for three weeks. In that summer of 1948 Shelly appeared in an ad for Fox Brothers (Chicago tailors for all the hip musicians of the day) alongside his replacement on the Kenton band, Irv Kluger. They were advertising the "Chubby Jackson Bop Bow Tie" that was being worn by every major bop player in the business. For $1.50 everybody could be hip. Kluger was a very good player, but as Bob Cooper recalled — "It was tough to come on the band after Shelly. So much of the stuff had been created by him and wasn't even written on the parts."

Shelly had been in contact with Kenton over some press concerning Shelly's statement about the "chopping wood" thing when he left the band. Shelly wrote a letter to the editor of Down Beat for publication stating that he simply meant that after the heavy concert schedule — "I was so tired when we finished work at night that I felt as though I had been chopping wood." He further softened the situation by stating, "I didn't mean this as any reflection on the music the band was playing. I enjoyed my two years with the band and have always appreciated the things Stan is working for musically." Kenton wrote Shelly on July 7th and eased his concern about the story and further told him, "In closing let me tell you that if at any time you feel the need of exercise (like chopping wood), I am sure we can find a place for you." Irv Kluger had replaced Shelly, and while Kluger was a good drummer, successfully replacing Manne was nearly an impossible task. Shelly had literally invented the drum sound for the band. Stan Kenton thought that Shelly Manne was the greatest drummer alive, and told that to everybody.

The group Harris and Manne were calling "The International All Stars" did another three weeks back at Chicago's Blue Note, closing on September 19th. This was the last appearance of the "three trombone band." Kenton wanted Shelly back, this time for more money, and the popular drummer stuck around the Midwest waiting to join the band. By the first of October, Shelly Manne was back with the Kenton band, spending the entire month in and out of the bus. The band played towns like Peoria and Springfield in Illinois. Then on to other midwestern towns — Indianapolis, South Bend, Davenport, Iowa City, Detroit, Pittsburgh — one right after the other with only three days off in the whole month. Three hundred mile jumps were to change the entire music business. He would travel to key cities and outline his objectives to hotel operators. While Kenton was designing his grandiose scheme, his musicians were scuffling to find gigs. Shelly was in New York to stay for awhile and Flip went back to dance at the Music Hall.

As 1949 began, Shelly Manne cut out articles to save. The articles told of the sad death of Davy Tough, just forty years old. Early in December, he had fallen, suffered a fractured skull, and had died shortly thereafter. He had been found on the streets of Newark and his body lay in the morgue for three days before he was identified. The man who had coached Shelly — who Shelly idolized — and who was recognized by so many as the greatest of the jazz drummers, was gone. The frail little drummer had taught Shelly the meaning of dynamics, time and musical taste. His last steady gig was with Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic. In a little over a month, Shelly would sign with Granz. In the meantime word was out that Stan Kenton was going to go to college and become a psychiatrist!

On January 3rd, Shelly recorded in New York with the Metronome All Stars. This time he had won first place with Rich sliding to fourth. On the record date was Charlie Parker, Fats Navarro, Diz, Billy Bauer, a very young Miles Davis and pianist Lennie Tristano, among others. Tristano was writing and playing bop in a new and exciting way He was, in fact, inventing "cool" jazz and Shelly Manne was recording it. Tristano usually used Sal Mosca on drums. He was strictly a time player, using brushes almost all the time. Tristano must have been very impressed with Shelly's playing on the Metronome date, for on January llth he used Manne on his own quintet recording date featuring young alto saxophonist Lee Konitz and the guitar of Bauer. This was a very important recording in the history of jazz in that it predated the famous "Birth of the Cool" session just 10 days later. Max Roach played on the latter, which has been designated as the beginning of the "cool school." Yet, in fact, the January llth date had all the earmarks of the sound that was to become the new jazz — and Shelly was heard swinging this new music. Within a few weeks, Shelly was back in the studio for an album called The Jazz Scene backing Charlie Parker. Also on the date was bassist Ray Brown and a very young pianist by the name of Hank Jones. The tune, "The Bird," was to be a part of a limited edition album produced by Norman Granz. Shelly would be traveling with Granz’s JATP.

The twenty-nine-year-old drummer had been working the Symphony Sid Concerts at the Royal Roost with tenor saxist Flip Phillips, pianist Mickey Crane, bassist Curley Russell and the renowned Chano Pozo on bongos. In February, Shelly recorded with Phillips for the Clef label. Norman Granz had been talking to Shelly for months, trying to get him to do the JATP tour. These concerts drew huge, loud crowds, and the musicians catered to this type of audience by playing lots of honking, screaming jazz full of stage antics. Ironically, Granz was supposed to be so intent (he said) on making jazz respectable; the musicians even wore tuxedos and played their jazz in concert halls.

Flip Manne recalls, "Shelly refused to go with them at first and Norman kept upping the salary." Shelly told Granz that he would absolutely not play long Gene Krupa-type solos; that wasn't the way he felt drums should be used. Granz said sure — "Just play the way you play" — but throughout the tour he had the musicians try to maneuver him into doing the Lionel Hampton "play until the audience screams" type of thing. Featured on the bill were Ella Fitzgerald and Coleman Hawkins, Ray Brown and the screeching honk and stomp of Flip Phillips who turned showman for these dates. Shelly stayed with the tour until the end of March, then joined Woody Herman's band a month later.

Shelly would now be on a hard swinging band and he couldn't be happier. Since Don Lamond left, the band had been going through some of the best drummers in the business but they didn't seem to spark the band. But now Shelly was on the band. The great vibraharpist Terry Gibbs remembers — "Every band has its drummer — one just right for the band." (Goodman had Krupa, Shaw had Rich, Basie had Jo Jones, and Woody had Davy Tough for the First Herd, replaced by Don Lamond for the First and Second Herds.) "When Don Lamond left, we went through some really great drummers who just didn't get how to play for Woody's band. They all thought it was a big bebop band and they kept dropping all those bombs. My best friend, Tiny Kahn, came on, but it just didn't make it. Then Shadow Wilson, a drummer from Boston by the name of Gil Brooks, then J.C Heard — all great players, but they just didn't have what the band needed. Then Shelly came on, played the time, didn't get in the way, and the band sounded great! Shorty Rogers and I were rooming together and we took Shelly in with us. We had a lot of laughs. Shelly always brought his humor and he always came to play! He brought energy to the job. Shelly was one of the few drummers who had fun playing every kind of jazz".

Shelly was spending time once again with Bill Harris, who a few years earlier had taught the drummer how to drive. When the band travelled caravan-style, in cars, Shelly was driving on the road with Woody like he had driven for Kenton. Being a non-drinker meant that he could be counted on to get the leaders where they were going. Shelly had replaced Shadow Wilson on the band, and played the first job at the Apollo Theater in New York City for one week beginning on April 29, 1949. The band played one-nighters in the East and on May 26th recorded two tunes written by Shelly's trumpet-playing friend from the Bradley band (and now roommate), Shorty Rogers. Shorty was writing some exciting new charts. Shorty recalls Shelly saying that this kind of thing was what he wanted to do; this was a happening band and they talked a lot about the music they wanted to play. The band recorded "The Crickets," with Shelly doing some mallet work on the toms and then they did "More Moon." This last tune was one of the hardest driving, swinging big band numbers recorded to date and, sad to say, seldom heard by today's drummers. Here in less than three minutes is a wonderful lesson to any would-be band drummer on how to kick a band. Davy would have been proud.

The band played seven days at the Howard Theatre in D.C. and then set out on a Midwestern tour, stopping in Detroit for seven days at the Eastwood Gardens. In July, the band played the Rendezvous at Balboa. On July 30th they did a radio broadcast that was recorded (later issued on a Joyce LP) which also featured the Charlie Barnet band. On this particular date, the MC was Stan Kenton. Kenton and his wife had hopped a cargo ship to South America and by the time he returned to the States, he had all but given up the shrink idea. Perhaps he should return to his concert ideas — for a while he would just relax. Shelly Manne was in seventh heaven playing with Woody's band. He had old buddies Harris and Rogers and Pettiford and a swinging band to play with, and Flip along for the ride. They did a Universal International "short" called "JAZZ COCKTAIL" with the Woody Herman Herd. Oscar Pettiford broke his arm playing soft-ball (many of the bands played each other) and was replaced by Joe Mondragon and the band finished a second day of recording for Capitol Records on July 20th that included a bop "scat" tune featuring the comic voices used by Shorty, Woody and vibraharpist Terry Gibbs. It was called "Lollypop" and was very much like Woody's recording of "Lemon Drop" that had been very successful — even Krupa's band did a cover on that one! On the same date they recorded a fantastic piece written for a cartoon background of the same name — "Rhapsody In Wood."

In the fall of '49, Shelly recorded with Flip Phillips and an Ellington-influenced group for Clef records and also did two tunes for a Bill Harris record for Capitol. September through December found the band on the road playing the Midwest with very few nights off, then Woody took a small all-star band to Cuba to play the Tropicana. The band featured Conte Candoli, Bill Harris, Dave Barbour, Ralph Burns, Milt Jackson, Oscar Pettiford, and Shelly It was a time when Battista was Dictator and the American mobs controlled all the joints. Flip remembers it as being very corrupt and frightening and full of cockroaches. "We were stopped sometimes by uniformed armed men while we were driving home from the club. But the people were great. The first night we were there, we heard a wonderful sound like a rhythm band coming down the street towards us. It was the streetcar! People were hanging all over it and everyone was playing something — doing complicated rhythms with cans or sticks, and singing. Shelly was enchanted."

While playing at the Tropicana, Woody Herman had decided to call it quits, taking a band out maybe just on occasion. The big band days were over, he thought. Stan Kenton had other plans and sent a cable to Shelly and said it was URGENT! The message said to call Kenton collect immediately Shelly did and by the middle of January he was in Los Angeles rehearsing with a forty-piece orchestra.

To be continued in Part 5.

[Research for this feature includes Gene lees, Woody Herman, Leader of the Band, Michael Sparke’s Stan Kenton: This is An Orchestra!, Dr. William Lee, Stan Kenton: Artistry in Rhythm, Burt Korall’s Drummin’ Men, Jack Brand and Bill Korst, Shelly Manne: Sounds of A Different Drummer, Georges Paczynski, Une Histoire De La Batterie De Jazz, a host of Down Beat, Metronome, Esquire and Modern Drummer magazines, websites such as Drummerworld and a bunch of liner notes to Shelly’s manny LPs and CDs.]

All of the referenced recordings that Shelly made with Woody can be found on the CD Woody Herman: Keeper of the Flame - The Complete Capitol Recordings of the Four Brothers Band [Capitol CDP-7 98453 2]


© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


As the United States entered the year 1950 it had no idea that by June it would once again be at war — this time in Korea. The "post-war" years had brought about quite a few changes. Harry Truman, the no-nonsense President, had helped the country make the transition from the years of Roosevelt, World War II, and guided the financial recovery. The Federal tax on colored oleo was repealed and in towns all across America, it was still common to pick out a live chicken to kill for Sunday dinner. Television, for the average family, was three or four years down the line and Vaudeville had all but disappeared in the local theaters — except in Rockford, Illinois, where Dick Farrell (Shelly's replacement on the Byrne band) played drums for four or five shows a day. Ezzard Charles denied Joe Louis a comeback and Connie Mack retired.

The big bands were going, too. Name band recordings were still being made, but often by studio musicians. It was costing too much to move a band around and there were fewer and fewer ballrooms to play. The singers had really taken over the recording industry and the tastes of the common family had switched from the songs of Cole Porter and Harold Arlen, from the sounds of Glenn Miller and Harry James to — "Cry Of The Wild Goose," by Frankie Laine. Other hits were — "The Thing," by Phil Harris, "C'est Si Bon," by Eartha Kitt, "Goodnight Irene," by the Weavers, "Music!, Music!, Music!", sung by Teresa Brewer (who would later become Mrs. Thiele), "3rd Man Theme," by Anton Karas, and Patti Page's sugar laden rendition of "Tennessee Waltz." The movies were providing better fare — All About Eve, with Bette Davis, Born Yesterday, starring Judy Holliday and Jose Ferrer's Cyrano de Bergerac.

Shelly Manne arrived in Los Angeles just in time for rehearsals for what Stan Kenton was calling "Innovations of Modern Music of 1950." It was to be a two-year struggle for the innovative band leader who wanted to bridge the gap between jazz and classical music. His dream was to have the orchestra tour for a three-month "season", much like the symphony orchestras — and he was planning a network of music schools, first Los Angeles, then Chicago, then New York. He would have some of his musicians teach in these schools to provide them with income when the orchestra wasn't touring. The Innovations orchestra would consist of ten violins, three violas, three cellos, Safranski on bass, Almeida on guitar, two French horns, tuba, five trumpets, five trombones and five reeds — many of them required to "double" clarinet, flute and some double-reed instruments. Milt Bernhart would handle much of the trombone solo work, Art Pepper would be featured on alto sax and, fresh from the Charlie Barnet band, "screech artist" trumpeter Maynard Ferguson. Shelly Manne would handle the demanding percussion chair. The writers would include Kenton, Rugolo, Bob Graettinger and, thanks to Shelly and Childers who had just been with Woody's band, Shorty Rogers. Stan wasn't sure Shorty's charts wouldn't make the band sound like Herman's, but Kenton finally agreed to have him join the new orchestra, both as a player and a writer.

Every major player in the country was after a position with this new and exciting orchestra. Bud Shank was hired; he could play jazz flute. As the rehearsals started and the music was heard for the first time, it was wonderful to be a part of such an undertaking. At the last minute Safranski had decided to stay in New York and Don Bagley took over the bass chair. There would be a staff of at least ten writers — people like Neal Hefti and Chico O'Farrell and Manny Album. In describing some of the works, Kenton used words like "atonal", terms like "tone poem," "sonata-like," and he would promise new audiences they would hear "wonderful things."

The Progressive Jazz Orchestra of 1948 had played Graettinger's "City of Glass" at the Opera House in Chicago and left the packed house asking itself what it had heard — now Kenton was pushing for more of the same. Franklin Marx wrote a piece called "Trajectories," and it was described as — "a fantasy describing the composer's impressions as he watches a galaxy of falling stars and imagines the whole heavens breaking loose in astronomical chaos." Such was the mood of Kenton as he set about to revolutionize the world of music. Chicagoan Bill Russo could now finally write the music he had dreamt about, play trombone for the orchestra and actually get paid for it. Kenton was going to take this huge music machine on the road, and the audiences would just have to like it; understand the music or not!

There would be two buses. One for the "orchestra" players and one for the jazzers. The former was the "Quiet Bus," the latter, the "Balling Bus." The musicians chose their seats and which bus they wanted to spend their days and nights. They would do most of their sleeping during the day, between towns, on a bouncing bus. The orchestra was set to tour more than seventy cities across the continent. Kenton arranged for a debut "break-in" concert at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Auditorium and sent out invitations. Kenton called it "a workshop preview." They played some of the past successes like the "Artistry" features and Christy sang some lighter fare, but for the most part Kenton was introducing his new concepts. They had the audience vote on which songs he should include in a new album.

The critics and the nearly 3,000 in the audience were mixed in their opinions. Some said the violins got in the way. Others wondered what happened to the old Kenton sound they had followed and loved for so long. "It was intellectual stuff, wasn't it?" "It was kind of abstract, wasn't it?" One thing for sure, the Shorty Rogers arrangements were, with Shelly's help, causing the band to swing whether Kenton wanted it to or not.

The orchestra performed another date in L.A., this time at the Shrine Auditorium on the first day of February. The next three days they spent in the Capitol Studios recording such grandiose arrangements as Franklin Marx's "Trajectories," Neal Hefti's "In Varadero," Shorty's "Jolly Rogers," and several selections by Rugolo and Graettinger. By February 9th, they were in Seattle playing their official opening concert of the season and they began a swing south and east that would lead them to the Civic Opera House in Chicago where Down Beat magazine was sponsoring the two-day stand. It was during these concerts that Shelly and Pete Rugolo were presented with First Place awards in the 1949 Down Beat poll for favorite drummer and arranger of the year, respectively Down Beat, when reviewing the orchestra, had commented that they were seeing a new Shelly Manne — "Shelly on something like this is unbelievably sympathetic to the work's intent, a percussionist bearing no resemblance to the open-mouthed, bass drum-bomber Manne." Here was a new Shelly for all to see; visually dead serious. As the band traveled easterly, the press was not always kind. The Columbus Dispatch noted that most people preferred the "old band," saying — "When pure Kenton was played, the audience understood." The critique ended with the mention that Kenton had told the audience at the beginning of the concert that they would "feel wonderful things," then went on to add — "But when Shelly Manne tinkled a triangle with his drumstick and a violinist laughed out loud, it was difficult to feel anything."

This orchestra wasn't supposed to play "Eager Beaver" or "Intermission Riff." The ever popular "St. James Infirmary" had been tossed. This was a concert orchestra! Didn't anyone understand? They weren't playing the old book, at least not very much of it, because this was an entirely new musical adventure. Kenton was not one to look back — yesterday was yesterday. Why couldn't people understand that musicians get sick of playing the same tunes night after night, year after year?

Not all the reviews were bad, some were even glowing, and the concerts were sell-outs — why was it so difficult for some to understand? This was an excursion by idealists and every time something new and bold is attempted there is always somebody demanding the old way. This experiment was costing Kenton more than $13,000 a week in payroll alone. The two buses, the occasional hotels and the other costs of booking the orchestra had to be added on top of that! June Christy was getting $1,000 a week and Jimmy Lyon had been hired by Kenton to be her accompanist on the tour. (Lyon would later spend decades accompanying singer Mabel Mercer.)

In Madison, Wisconsin, there was a young man by the name of Johnny Faraher who was, in addition to working for Capitol Records as an area representative, a self-proclaimed promoter of the Kenton band. Back in the spring of 1948, he had booked the band for the University of Wisconsin's Military Ball and now had sandwiched the band for a Madison one-nighter between the Opera House concerts in Chicago and a Milwaukee booking on the 5th of March. The Madison concert was sponsored by the Zor Temple of the Shrine and the West High School Auditorium was picked for the location. The evening's gross was $2,835.60, with Kenton netting $1,591.00, as was typical of the middle-sized town concert proceeds. The band needed $2,200 just to break even. Big town concerts were netting about $5,000. Kenton was being quoted as saying that it wouldn't be until the 1953 Innovations season that any profit would be realized. Even the management in the Kenton camp were talking about how long it would take Kenton to get back the $25,000 original investment he had personally spent on getting the orchestra started. George Morte, the band's dedicated road manager, was already saying that the band would draw just as well with 20 musicians as with 40. Some of those around Stan didn't always share his vision, his dreams. George and most of the musicians did.

The orchestra played auditoriums and theaters and music halls all through the Midwest, creating and gathering the devotees as they prepared to march eastward towards their two-day concert schedule at Carnegie Hall. By this time, nearly everyone in the country knew about Stan Kenton's new orchestra. The newspapers and the radio had told of the band's whereabouts and the critics were finally starting to understand. Good reviews had come out of the Des Moines paper and the Cleveland Plain Dealer had a headline stating that "Stan Kenton's Band Is Applauded." The Carnegie Hall concerts were absolute sell-outs. The management placed three or four hundred people on stage, behind the band to handle the overflow of VIP's.

While Shelly was in the city, Billy Gladstone presented Shelly with a 6"x 14" black lacquered snare drum with gold plated hardware and snares. On the inscription plate was engraved — “To Shelly Manne with Admiration, Billy Gladstone, April 9, 1950, Drum No. I.” It was the first in a series of hand-crafted snare drums built by the master himself.

After the Carnegie Hall concerts, good press was given by the New Yorker, the Times, the Daily News, and the Herald Tribune. As the band made its way towards the South, some of the old hits were finding their way back on the program in a thing called "Montage," a collection, a medley if you will, of the "Artistry" days, including "Artistry in Percussion" and "Concerto To End All Concertos."

On a visit to Washington D.C., the band heard that Buddy Rich's band was playing at the Washington National Armory and Shelly and some of the guys went to hear the band. Milt Bernhart tells the story — "We were all standing in the back of the room listening to the band and Rich was playing one of his unbelievable flag-waver drum features. When he finished the number he got on the mike and said that the famous drummer Shelly Manne was in the room (Shelly had been winning poll after poll) and proceeded to call him to the band stand to take a bow. Shelly put his head down and under his breath said "Buddy, don't do this." Once Shelly was on the stand, Rich asked the audience if they would like to hear the famous drummer play. Of course, there was much applause, so Shelly sat behind the drums and Buddy called the SAME barn-burner he had just played. Shelly, not knowing the piece, asked where the drum part was — Rich didn't read so there was none. Rich counted off the tune and Shelly found himself in an uncomfortable position, but made the best of it. After this episode, whenever Shelly had to go to the bathroom he would say, 'I've got to drop a line to Buddy Rich.'"

June Christy was a hit everywhere the Kenton band went, some said because of the contrast between the seriousness of the orchestral works and the lightness of June's voicings. Some critics were appeased with the old hits back in the offerings but many picked apart even the way the band was presented. Kenton wanted the curtain to rise on an empty stage, save for the instruments, and when the curtain went up, he would have the musicians walk out, in groups of fives, to their chairs. Each section would take its place on stage at different times. Even this little change bothered the relentless bores. June sang "Conflict" offstage, out of sight. This effect was too much for some of the local writers. After Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado, the Innovations Orchestra went home to Los Angeles. On May 18th, the orchestra recorded a strings only selection entitled "Cello-logy" and Kenton let the string players know that after next week he would no longer need them until next season's tour. The same day the orchestra recorded "Art Pepper," a Shorty Rogers composition and Shelly did a thing with a brass section called "Halls of Brass." On June 3rd, at the Hollywood Bowl, the orchestra played the final concert of the season. The string players were let go, but Kenton kept the nucleus "dance band" intact as they were booked for the summer at the Rendezvous.

With the Kenton band planning to make Los Angeles its permanent home, at the end of May, Shelly had applied for a Local 47 card — the American Federation of Musicians required a six-month waiting period before a new member could take a steady job in the local. With the Kenton band doing three nights at the Balboa ballroom, Shelly could take incidental engagements around L.A. (as long as he didn't officially work a steady job in Local 47 territory). Now was the time, the Mannes thought, to settle in California

In August, the Kenton band backed Nat Cole for a Capitol recording of "Orange Colored Sky" and a week later recorded some fairly commercial tunes that featured vocalists Jay Johnson and June Christy. The band was preparing for a tour with the 19-piece dance band, Shelly was busy in the recording studios. On September llth, he recorded with June Christy, backed by a new group — a new sound — Shorty Rogers had put together. With the birth of the "cool sound" on everyone's mind, Shorty began to write for a "small big band" concept that featured four saxes, trumpet, French Horn, tuba and three rhythm. It was a forecast of what later would be called "the West Coast Sound." The next day Shelly recorded a Rogers arrangement with the Kenton band called "Viva Prado". A day later he recorded three more arrangements by Shorty on a Maynard Ferguson session. On September 14th, Shelly went into the studios again (the fourth day in a row), and recorded with the Kenton band. Two days later the band went on the road.

Carlos Gastel, the fire, the creator, the man who put it together and kept the band going, was no longer in charge of the Kenton machinery. Gastel and Kenton had severed their professional relationship back in the spring, at the Hollywood Bowl. Gastel was trying to get Kenton to understand that the fans wanted more pop stuff, more dance music. Kenton wouldn't bend. He had lost about $125, 000 on the Innovations tour, but he wouldn't subvert his art, the direction he wanted his music to take. Yet, after all the yelling, the band played dance music all summer at Balboa and now they were going out on the road to play mostly ballrooms for the next five months. Without Gastel in charge of management, this road trip was going to be a nightmare.

To be Continued and Concluded in Part 6.

[Research for this feature includes Gene Lees, Woody Herman, Leader of the Band, Michael Sparke’s Stan Kenton: This is An Orchestra!, Dr. William Lee, Stan Kenton: Artistry in Rhythm, Steven Harris, The Kenton Kronicles, Burt Korall’s Drummin’ Men, Jack Brand and Bill Korst, Shelly Manne: Sounds of A Different Drummer, Georges Paczynski, Une Histoire De La Batterie De Jazz, a host of Down Beat, Metronome, Esquire and Modern Drummer magazines, websites such as Drummerworld and a bunch of liner notes to Shelly’s manny LPs and CDs.]

All of the referenced recordings that Shelly made with Woody can be found on the CD Woody Herman: Keeper of the Flame - The Complete Capitol recordings of the Four Brothers Band [Capitol CDP-7 98453 2]

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


Each time I delve into the career of drummer Shelly Manne, I come away amazed by the scope of his involvement in the modern Jazz movement that began towards the end of the Second World War.

He seems to have known and worked with just about everyone on the 52nd Street scene, the birthplace of modern Jazz in NYC, from Coleman Hawkins to Ben Webster to Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker; and later he filled the drum chair of the big bands of Woody Herman and Stan Kenton.

All of this during what was essentially the first decade of his playing career!

His activities on the West Coast Jazz scene of the 1950’s with Shorty Rogers’ Giants, Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse All-Stars and with his own quintets and his years of operating his own club - The Manne Hole - in the 1960’s were all yet to come!!!

The bus carrying the scaled down [sans strings] 19-piece Stan Kenton Orchestra left on September 16th, 1950 and the Kenton band played in Sacramento and the San Francisco area before their Midwestern swing. Shelly was driving in the Kenton car, ahead of the bus. The tour was a booking disaster. "The office really screwed up on several dates and I kept asking for itineraries in my letters so I would know where to write to," recalls Flip. "They were scrambling for booking dates at the last minute, then hit a couple of blizzards and couldn't make the jobs. At one point Stan confessed to Shelly that he was not only broke, but in debt. They were traveling together part of the time in Stan's car, sometimes with Jay Johnson (singer and Shelly's roommate), and Leo, one of the band boys." Kenton met a girl in Denver and pretty soon Shelly was back in the bus. On October 19th, they played the Hill Billy Barn in Bluefield, West Virginia, a far cry from the Innovation concerts at Carnegie Hall and the Civic Opera House. On the way to Bluefield, Kenton was in a car accident and was three hours late. Shelly led the band and put together material for the broadcast.

While in Bluefield, Shelly heard the band's latest recordings on the radio and was very happy with the music, but on this tour the band was playing much of the old stuff; material that was recorded even before the "Artistry" band. Having experienced the excitement of the Innovations Orchestra, and then having to play "Eager Beaver" on one-night stands in ballrooms was not making for a happy Shelly Manne. His letters to Flip tell of the frustration with the music, the canceled gigs, the lousy weather. On the way to Bridgeport, while traveling in Al Porcino's father-in-law's car, they had to urinate in the radiator to keep it going. On Thanksgiving Day they hit a blizzard on the way to Carroltown and it took eight hours to go 150 miles.

The band was late, Kenton even later and Shelly, once again, led the band. They missed their Cleveland and Youngstown dates entirely, the roads being closed. Bob Cooper, Kenton, Leo and Shelly drove to New York and got stuck in the snow for four hours. The band appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on December 3rd and on the 6th, Shelly wrote his wife about a new "secret" drumhead that Billy Gladstone had developed. "It's not made of the hide of an animal. It's a cloth of some kind that he discovered. The weather cannot affect it. You can pour water on it and it will just roll off, and it's twice as strong as the old style heads. He can make a fortune with it and also put all the drumhead companies out of business. He had the heads on a drum of his and I tried it with sticks and brushes and the sound was great. He may put two on my snare drum as long as I don't tell anyone what they are." The Kenton band rehearsed all day on the 18th for the Cavalcade of Bands scheduled to be telecast on the next day.

On the 19th Shelly wrote to Flip about "my new drums were waiting for me.. They are really beautiful. Very different looking. Gretsch also made Stan some new music stands to match my drums — black and gold. They are only about 7" high, so you can see all of everyone sitting behind them, except their feet. We will have the stands in Phila. and will the band look sharp! That TV show we did today was miserable. They wouldn't let us play anything; and everything had to be played half-volume because they didn't know how to balance the band. The producers are real cornballs. A week before the show, they kept bugging Stan to have a tune called 'Christmas In Killarney' (yuk yuk) made up to close the show with. Of course they had a case! At rehearsal we tried to please them and play something sweet, so we did 'Interlude', and when it was over, they said it was too weird a number. I couldn't believe what I heard. All they wanted was a melody they recognized. At rehearsal, the producer told me they would have to spray the gold hoops on my new drums to keep them from glaring. They use some sort of an auto wax. I told him I didn't want the wax on them because it's so hard to get off and gets in all the threads on my rods. I told him they could use some masking tape like in the movies. That does the trick and is simple to remove. Well tonite, while we had a break to dress for the show, they sprayed the crap all over the drums. When I saw  them I flipped."

Shelly wrote Flip that when they were going into the Rustic Cabin, there had been a hurricane and all the wires were down, no air-shots, no telephones. People couldn't call to see if the band was playing. While in the New York area, Shelly and Shorty recorded "Destination Moon" with Nat Cole, backed by the Neal Hefti Orchestra. On the recording date, in the trombone section, was their old boss, Will Bradley. The Kenton band opened the Click in Philadelphia for a four-day stand, beginning on the 20th of December and Shelly got there an hour early to get the wax off his drums.

Many of the veterans of the band had tried to settle permanently in L.A., but the work was scarce and nobody wanted to pay any money; back on the road they went. Shelly was now playing in a rhythm section that could cook. The bongos had temporarily vanished, Ralph Blaze was on guitar, and Don Bagley was on bass. The band was playing some charts by Neal Hefti and the charts Shorty was writing for the band swung. Shelly's job in the Kenton band was not to swing the band — it wasn't a swing band and Kenton couldn't care less about the band swinging — Shelly's job was to propel the orchestrations forward, keep them from falling. He also literally invented the drum parts on all the variations of the Kenton band on which he performed (he always played what the composer wanted but then added his special musical touch). Now he had a decent rhythm section to work with and they were playing a lot of the tired old "chestnuts." Though they were playing for dancing, something Kenton hated, the tall leader would throw in a few of the more exotic Rugolo numbers and announce — "Don't try dancing to this one, we're uninsured." The "St. James Infirmary" routine had been replaced by "The Death of Dixieland", a thing Ferguson and Shelly dreamed up.

The Stan Kenton Orchestra opened the Hollywood Palladium on February 20, 1951, for a six-week stand. During this spring stay on the coast, the band recorded several Gene Roland tunes once again trying to capture a more conservative audience. Bassist Eddie Gomez sang along with Ray Wetzel on a novelty ditty called "Tortillas And Beans," and by May, Kenton had the band singing — that's right, the BAND singing an ensemble version of "Laura." On gigs, the guys could barely keep from breaking up on the stand. As the band started to sing, somebody would start to giggle and then the whole group would lose it — and Stan would get in front of the band and yell, "Sing, Goddammit!"

It seemed that Stan and management were trying to find some magical way of making up for the economic disaster of the Innovations tour. While the band continued to record a mixed bag of tricks, some Rugolo, some Roland, some Rogers, the office was booking the 19-piece band for a jaunt to the Northwest. It was going to be a haphazard tour that would include Oregon, Washington and into Canada. During one of their Canadian appearances, The Royal Mounties, in full uniform, came onto the bandstand and hauled off Maynard Ferguson. He was a native Canadian, who, as a local bandleader, had forgotten to pay a lot of income tax! He was finally released, but decided it would be better to avoid the place in the future. Shelly wrote to Flip from San Francisco telling her that Ray Wetzel left, replaced by Johnny Coppola. The band went on to Portland and Seattle, and Shelly wrote that he would be home the 13th of May and that — "Shorty is going to try and get me an opening date at Hermosa Beach for the 3 or 4 weeks we are off." (Rogers, having left the band after the first Innovations tour, was working at a club called the Lighthouse.) The Kenton band was in the studio during this time, recording "Laura", "Jump For Joe" and a Kenton arrangement of "Stardust Boogie". Shorty, still writing for the band, wrote and the band recorded "The Hot Canary" featuring the screech trumpet of Maynard Ferguson.

The band went out again, this time working its way east. Shelly writes home complaining that he's losing his voice from singing "The Death Of Dixieland" so many times. Ken ton tells Shelly that Gene Roland has written another novelty vocal called "Count The Days I'm Gone" but they wanted Manne to "think up some words for it." The band played Canada again, this time with Al Porcino subbing for Ferguson. "The band is not playing the good things — I'm not happy — it's so hot, my uniform hasn't dried out for weeks — Ray Wetzel was killed while travelling on Tommy Dorsey's band." Kenton was getting ready for the second Innovations tour; Shelly told him he would be leaving the band after that trip. Kenton told his drummer that he was trying to line up a radio or TV show in Hollywood so maybe he wouldn't have to quit the band.

After working the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, the band bus had travelled to the Midwest and eventually home to California. A new brass section was in place as the band recorded its final session before the last Innovations trip. Conte Condoli, Stu Williamson, and Coppola replaced Rogers, Alvarez and Childers. Milt Bernhart was staying in L.A. — now Bill Russo would be writing and playing trombone and Kenton added bass trombonist George Roberts. They recorded "Coop's Solo", "Samba", some June Christy takes and several takes of "Blues In Burlesque" sung by Shelly. By the last week of September, new gray uniforms had been distributed and new music was rehearsed by new players. It was always hard to find good string players that would travel for light money and it was harder than ever to find them after the stories about the first Innovations tour. By now, Kenton was starting to realize that he might be losing his drummer, the poll-winner, the musician that had created so much of what the band played, the way it played. For Shelly Manne, he knew this would be his last tour as Kenton's percussionist.

In the early fall of 1951, before Shelly went back on the road, Shorty Rogers took a group into the recording studios and it would make music history. The band was Shorty Rogers and His Giants. With Shorty on trumpet, Shelly on drums, Jimmy Guiffre on tenor sax, Art Pepper on alto, Hampton Hawes on piano, Bagley on bass, and the unusual addition of John Graas on french horn and Gene Englund on tuba, the Giants made their initial recording. Discographies and the original record jacket state that this session occurred on the 8th of October, but band itineraries place Shelly on the road with Kenton in the Midwest. This very important recording session must have taken place in September when the Kenton band was in L.A. recording the Blues in Burlesque session. The Giants' tunes had some strange names, "Popo," "Didi," and "Four Mothers" among them. This recording would become one of the most important in jazz, as it was the public's first chance to hear the tight-swinging, cleanly-written and executed jazz arrangements that would, in some critics' minds, set the "West Coast" musicians apart from the funkier East Coast players. Roger's approach to writing was clearly influenced by Basie, a happy swinging kind of jazz. Gene Norman, a local disc jockey, jazz promoter, and record producer, put together

As the Innovations II Orchestra departed for the road, there would be a set of timpani in the freight compartment of one of the two busses. Some of the compositions would require very involved percussion work by Shelly including Greattinger's second movement of the "City Of Glass". One of the features of the band was Maynard Ferguson's unbelievable trumpet excursions into the musical stratosphere. The fans were anxious to hear this amazing talent in person, to see if he really did play all those high notes. Trumpet players were ready to come out of the woodwork to see and hear him. Shelly Manne, the perennial pollwinner, was equally popular. The Gretsch Company back in June had asked him to write out a four bar solo that they would have printed up for his fans. He would give the local drummers the Gretsch promo and happily autograph the copies.

The two busses left for a tour that would give the musicians only about ten days off in as many weeks, and many of them would be spent traveling. Dallas, Texas was the first stop and the next day, after the first concert, Shelly wrote to Flip. "You never heard anything so loused up in your life! There were a few times when nobody knew where we were (in the music). The people didn't seem to know the difference." He went on to write that he was pleased with himself in that he didn't miss one tuning on the timps. Greg Bemko, one of the string players, told Shelly that the first cellist with the Dallas Symphony heard the concert and was quite impressed with Shelly's performance. In Houston, the Houston Symphony timpani player came backstage to tell Shelly that he thought his timpani work was excellent. The band was grinding out 300 and 400 mile jumps in one day. By the first week in October the concerts were going better. A new piece featuring the French Horn of John Graas had a very difficult part for Shelly, but the bigger the challenge, the harder he worked. This time out much of the press gave good reviews.

Shelly told his fans that he was happy to be playing with the Innovations band, that it was a special kind of challenge. Little did he know how invaluable this orchestral experience was going to be when he returned to the West Coast.

There was a young drummer in New Orleans, a music student, who couldn't wait to talk to Shelly Manne. The band played a concert at the New Orleans Municipal Auditorium Concert Hall on October 2nd, and after the concert a young Earl Palmer went around to the stage entrance, and sure enough out came Shelly with some of the musicians. As Palmer approached the group and yelled for Shelly, the guard said, "Get away from here, nigger!" Shelly Manne instantly yelled to the young man, "Oh, there you are, I've been waiting for you." He had never seen Earl before in his life, but immediately understood the situation, put his arm around the young man, and the two became life-long friends.

The band played another engagement at Carnegie Hall in October and Shelly visited family and friends. He commented on the change he was seeing on the Street. The joints were closing or becoming whorehouses. Heroin was ruining the lives of so much music talent in the city. It was depressing, and the wonderful rush he always felt when he returned "home" wasn't there anymore. He was happy with his and Flip's decision to make California their home. They continued to write to each other everyday, discussing things about their new house and that made him all the more anxious to get home to Flip and a new lifestyle. But there were more "niters" to be played. Philly Baltimore, Norfolk, then D.C. and others. One night, Art Pepper visited the "quiet" bus and returned to the "balling" bus to tell the guys that he couldn't believe it. "They were reading!" The balling bus was always full of booze; whenever Flip was traveling with the band, she and Shelly rode the "quiet" bus.

On this tour, Shelly spent most of the time driving Stan's Buick. Coop remembered that one night, while riding in the "balling" bus, "We looked out to see the other Kenton bus going the opposite direction!" Stan's divorce had been settled and now he was doing some serious drinking after work — never during the job. Though he was drinking away his cares on the bus, he never tolerated drugs on the band and would fire anybody who even smoked grass, not wanting any musical problems or bad publicity. With Gene Krupa being labeled a "dope fiend" after serving a brief time for possession of grass, the entire music business was trying to live down the jazz musician's reputation as a bunch of drunks, potheads, and junkies. Kenton had been very successful in elevating the status of jazz to the concert hall and would not stand for any musician to destroy that.

As November of 1951 rolled around, the orchestra had worked its way back to the Midwest for another sell-out crowd during a two day concert series at the Civic Opera House in Chicago. While in town, Shelly put together a group to record some Bill Russo charts. The "Shelly Manne Septet" went into the studio on November 12th and recorded four tunes, one featuring Shelly Manne singing "All Of Me". That night, the Innovations Orchestra played in Minneapolis. Young Johnny Faraher was busy in Madison, Wisconsin, preparing for the November 14th appearance of the 19-piece Kenton band. He had talked Stan into playing at the Eagles Club with the smaller unit as he made his way to the concert on the 15th in Milwaukee. Kenton simply sent the strings on to Milwaukee after the Minneapolis concert. From time to time Kenton would "fill" dates with the smaller "Progressive Jazz" band, if the location wasn't too far off the scheduled itinerary After Milwaukee, the band hit Des Moines, then Kansas City, then a night off— the first in almost two weeks.

Except for a long jaunt back to Washington, D.C., the band was working westward, wrapping up the Innovations concept for the season. The band was worn out. Shelly wrote home to say that "things are getting bad on the bus." They were in Seattle on the 25th and finished at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on November 30, 1951. It was in this same place that, just 20 months earlier, Stan Kenton introduced his first Innovations Orchestra. The two tours had cost him more than a quarter of a million dollars; he had loved every minute of it.

Like so many other innovators, Kenton was criticized, cursed, and it was said he was way ahead of his time. Probably no other single person has had so much influence on the very music that is heard today in films and in modern jazz bands, both in high schools, colleges and professional groups as did Stanley Newcomb Kenton. Shelly Manne loved him, respected him, and appreciated what Stan had done for him in his drumming career — and what he had done for modern music.


[Research for this feature includes Gene Lees, Woody Herman, Leader of the Band, Michael Sparke’s Stan Kenton: This is An Orchestra!, Dr. William Lee, Stan Kenton: Artistry in Rhythm, Steven Harris, The Kenton Kronicles, Burt Korall’s Drummin’ Men, Jack Brand and Bill Korst, Shelly Manne: Sounds of A Different Drummer, Georges Paczynski, Une Histoire De La Batterie De Jazz, a host of Down Beat, Metronome, Esquire and Modern Drummer magazines, websites such as Drummerworld and a bunch of liner notes to Shelly’s manny LPs and CDs.]


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