Saturday, April 3, 2021

The Manne Hole - Part 1

© Copyright ® Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

By the late fifties, many of the L.A. jazz clubs had gone out of business. The Haig, Zardi's, Billy Berg's, The Peacock - all had closed their doors. These were the clubs, along with the Lighthouse (that was still going), where what they called "West Coast jazz" had become so popular. Groups like Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker and the Giants had grown from local club date groups to internationally known stars. Shelly had always had owning a jazz club in mind. He simply wanted a place to play jazz in an environment that was friendly to the musicians, had a good piano, and nobody would tell you what to play or how to play it!

During 1959, Shelly had mentioned to Dave Stuart of Contemporary Records that he was seriously interested in opening a jazz club. While Shelly had talked about this for years, no one took him very seriously because they knew he was unbelievably busy in the studios. But after his successful stint at the Blackhawk, he told Stuart he was determined. After all, here was the most popular drummer in the country who occasionally played in jazz clubs across the nation, and played drums in the best known (even if it was a fictional place) jazz club ever "Mother's" on the Peter Gunn show. Now Shelly wanted to play in his own place. A manager would have to be found, someone who knew how to run the business end of the night club business. Rudy Onderwyzer, a sometime traditional jazz trombonist and manager of The Unicorn (a Los Angeles coffeehouse), was called and the gentlemen met at Ah Fong's Chinese restaurant on the Sunset Strip. By the end of the meeting, Shelly knew he had the right man for the job. Now a location had to be found; Rudy and Shelly and everyone else excited about the idea started looking. Flip was not too pleased with the prospect of having her husband gone even more hours than he already was. They spent as much time as possible enjoying their show horses and between the studio work, the concerts, and the recordings, a new venture would steal away the precious hours. Nevertheless, Shelly was on a mission and she knew him well enough that once his mind was made up, there was no looking back, and she was supportive.

Anyhow, he promised, time would be set aside for the many horse shows they enjoyed - The Indio near Palm Springs in February, Santa Barbara in the spring, Del Mar [north of San Diego] in the summer, and the Cow Palace [San Francisco] in November. They were training the horses themselves, competing with the big show barns, yet winning their share of prizes. There were the three- and five-gaited saddle-bred for Flip. and a standard-bred road horse for Shelly. Shelly recorded a lot of commercials for Jon and Faith Hubley, wonderfully innovative artists. One day Jon came up with a logo design for the Marine Stable - the "Dancing M," the letter "M” with feet on it. Flip comments, "The big barns had dozens of trunks, coolers, etc., with their logos - so Shelly got a little watering can, painted it, and we used to put it out for laughs." In between the jazz recordings and the movies and the jingles and the jazz gigs and the horse shows, Shelly Marine was going around with Rudy looking for a jazz club location!

In the meantime, Shelly signed for a spring 1960 JATP tour in Europe. This tour would feature Ella Fitzgerald, Roy Eldridge, Paul Smith, Gus Johnson, Jim Hall, Jimmy Giuffre, and in a move to include the so-called "West Coasts” scene, Shelly Manne and His Men. As Flip and Shelly prepared for the trip, their first trip abroad, a new tux was needed and while Shelly worked until the last minute, he barely scheduled in the fittings but never tried it on. Flip tells us the story - "On opening night in Berlin. he showered, put on his shirt and tie, then tried get into his pants. They were about a size 2! He kept trying to get into them, unwilling to face the fact that it wouldn't work. He had to play the concert as the only one in a suit. The next day we had to go find a ready-made tux. It was heavy wool, like a suit of armor, and Shelly sweated way across Europe. It was great to hear Ella every night, and she was very sweet to me - no Prima Donna act - a great lady." While in England. the Men recorded what would be called West Coast Jazz in England. Shelly couldn't stand the term, hated it more each time he heard it and it annoyed the hell out of him. It would haunt him the rest of his life.

After the European tour, an arrangement made between Orrin Keepnews and Bill Grauer of Riverside Records and Les Koenig of Contemporary Records that two albums one for each label - would be recorded with Thelonious Monk and Shelly as co-leaders. This strange arrangement came about when Grauer, who had been in Europe when the two musicians were there, casually asked Monk about such a project and he evidently agreed, but it was to be an ill-fated arrangement. The recording took place at the Blackhawk in San Francisco, a two-day session that was soon aborted. As the session got under way and a musical decision was necessary, Manne always referred to Monk’s opinion. Shelly was like that when working "for" someone - always eager to please. Orrin thought that Shelly was too respectful. Also, Keepnews could imagine what was going on in Monk's mind. "If I'm the top man, how come we share the billing?" The first day's session (April 28, 1960) resulted in an "acceptable version of a new as yet untitled Monk tune", and a rather rambling "Just You, just Me." The next day, they started to work on "Round Midnight," and Shelly could see it wasn't going to work. He took Keepnews aside, told him he simply wanted out and flew back to Los Angeles, refusing to be reimbursed for the plane fare. He had been extremely saddened by the experience and the failure of the session.

Back in L.A., there were more sound tracks to be recorded. Films like Hell to Eternity, High Time, Pepe, Moment to Moment, The Great Impostor, and others. Andre Previn, his wife Dory, and Shelly collaborated to compose the title song for the film Tall Story, and Shelly scored the movie The Young Sinner. The Proper Time was finally released, and the young composer John Williams was orchestrating for a television series called Checkmate. "Checkmate, Inc.," was a private eye firm that had characters played by actors Sebastian Cabot, Doug McClure, and Tony George. Williams, after playing for Mancini, was now making his own name as a composer and Shelly Manne would do his drum work. The series ran for two seasons. Singer Ruth Price had come out to Los Angeles in 1960 with Red Clyde after she had sung with Dizzy's band. Shelly and his group were working at a place called Jazz City and she was invited to sing. "Shelly hired me to work there after I sat in. After work he would drive me home and on the way we would look at coffee house-type places." By mid-summer, the location for Shelly's jazz club was found. The Men had played a club on North Cahuenga Boulevard called the International, which later became The Lamp, which then evolved into a gay bar called The Macabre. It had potential; it was located in what was then called "Mid-Movietown" on Cahuenga between Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards. He stopped there with Ruth to show her. She liked it and the location was now available. Rudy and Shelly agreed and a lease was signed. They decided they wanted a very funky atmosphere - it would be cheap to furnish and would look and feel like a real jazz club. Most of the furnishings came from a place called Scavenger's Paradise. They found distressed timbers of odd sizes which were as hard as a rock and they were covered with lots of varnish. The summer was spent "decorating," Rudy doing most of the work, getting the small kitchen ready for the limited menu they would offer, and planning the advertising for the place they would call Shelly's Manne-Hole. Rudy would take 35% of the profits and soon was calling himself - as one of the partners - Mr. Hole. "Shelly wanted to control his environment," recalls Onderwyzer. "In other clubs the music was a step-child, in the Manne-Hole, it was everything." On the darkened walls they hung old photographs, newspaper clippings, murals, Shelly's Contemporary album covers and in the back of the room, a lighted drum head with Shelly's picture on it. Underneath the legend read "Founder and Owner, 1960 A.D." Ruth Price thought there was too much "stuff" on the wall. The furnishings were "early Goodwill." old hanging lights and funky wooden tables and chairs. Until they were able to get a beer and wine license, they would open just as a restaurant, "a good little restaurant," as Shelly called it, with a Swiss chef. Shelly took Bob Cooper in to see the place, and after seeing the cobwebs coming off the ceiling, Coop said, "Boy, you've got a lot of work to do in here." Shelly said "What’d-ya-mean? This place has soul!”
Jazz recording dates were slowing down; so were club dates for jazz players everywhere (the Manne-Hole was about to take care of that problem), but film work was keeping the 40-year-old drummer busy. Orchestral recording sessions included things with Johnny Green, Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Fielding, Axel Stordahl, Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Oliver Nelson, and Mancini. In August, singer Jo Stafford included Shelly and his old friend from the Street [52nd in New York], Ben Webster, on a Columbia album [Jo + Jazz; Columbia CL 1561, CS 8361]. On the last days of September, the Poll Winners were at it again. This time the album was Exploring the Scene [Contemporary M3581, S 7581]. In the next week, Shelly became part of the “Marty Paich Orchestra” and backed Helen Humes in an ambitious album for Contemporary. [Songs I Like to Sing; Contemporary M3582, S7582, OJCCD 171].

At lunchtime over at Universal, as Bob Bain recalls, it was "Hot soup at the Manne Hole!" - and everybody would drive ten minutes on the freeway down to the club and eat lunch. Shelly's infectious personality had won him so many friends, that it was only natural that they would give the little restaurant a try. Shelly was like a kid with a new toy. He was giving it everything had; he wanted it to be a success. So did his friends, but with the great humor that abounded among the musicians, they couldn't help but put him on a bit. When the place had just opened, guitarist Jack Marshall came in, sat down and opened his guitar case, took out a table cloth and silverware. Just then a waiter from the Brown Derby, in formal red jacket, walked in with a lunch on a silver tray. Not to be outdone, Shelly “accidentally" knocked over the table. Bain recalls another hilarious incident - "Jack used have all these phony flies and spiders, and he enlisted the help of fellow-guitarist Bill Pittman - a very straightforward nice guy. Jack and I were sitting on the other side of the restaurant, away from Pittman because Shelly would have caught on to us right away. Bill very audibly called Shelly over and told him there was a fly his soup. Shelly was so upset, I told Jack we should tell him, but Jack said, 'No, no, this is too good!' Shelly was in the kitchen, rattling pans and going all over the place. Finally he came back and Bill Pittman and all of us were breaking up. He was mad at us for a week. He loved that place."

As if he wasn't busy enough, Shelly lectured local colleges, conducted seminars and clinics, and taught at the new college music building at Northridge on the Valley State campus [California State University, Northridge]. In August, Northridge held a two-week High School Music Institute that found Henry Mancini, Stan Kenton, and Shelly donating their time. This was not an unusual thing for Shelly. He would help anyone who asked him, not only with schools, but individuals as well. Flip recalls, "One time were out in the barn and a fellow showed up that Shelly hardly knew. He said his wife was having a very difficult pregnancy and he was broke and she had to go to the hospital. Shelly knew he was a junkie, so he made the check out the hospital. The man never attempted to pay it back: I don't even remember his name. During the 20 years we lived out here, Shelly got to be the father-figure and 'Salvation Army' to Local 47.” When he knew of a young drummer in need help, he would make sure he had some equipment on which to play While he was so busy with so many things, he always had time to care.

By November the Manne-Hole had its beer and wine license. The plan was to have the Men play the weekends, Friday through Sunday, and other local groups would fill the weeknight schedule. The musicians were more than happy to work "off-nights" playing jazz, even if it was for "light bread." "We'll always feature a vocalist with my band on weekends," promised Shelly, knowing that this would enhance the entertainment factor for the audience. Helen Humes would be the first in a series of talented singers that appeared with the Men. Opening night was planned and it was to be called "The Les Koenig Invitational Opening Party" The Men would consist of Shelly, Freeman, Kamuca, Gordon and a young bass player by the name of Chuck Berghofer. Monty Budwig would not be a regular because he had relocated to San Francisco. Berghofer recalls getting the call from Shelly. "I was sitting at home and the phone rings and it was Shelly Manne! He said 'I'm opening this new club and I need a bass player."' The 22-year-old bassist had worked with Skinnay Ennis' band and then for about a year with Bobby Troup, and for a time with Herb Ellis. Now he was getting a call from a living jazz legend. He was to meet Shelly at the club for an audition. "I was so nervous on the way to the club that I had to stop three or four times to go to the john. So I went down to rehearse in the afternoon and we got half-way through the first tune and Shelly turned and said 'Yeah, you'll do."' The pay would be $16.50 a night.

November 4th was opening night and Jack Sheldon played instead of Joe Gordon who was in jail. Bob Bain and Jack Marshall strolled among the tables playing their guitars and singing. Shelly made sure everybody who was anybody was invited. The little store-wide club was packed with a who's who of the L.A. scene. As the visitors entered the club, they made an abrupt left and there, right in front of their the small stage on the left wall, with the Men wailing away. Across the room towards the back was a service bar just big enough to serve the room. The ambience of the room was warm and inviting - a small space with a high ceiling and great acoustics. The carpeted bandstand was a little over a foot off the floor and the quintet comfortably fit in front of a velvet curtain that backed the stage. Shelly made sure that piano was the very best they could find, a great black instrument of which Shelly said, "It was built in 1888, the Year of the Blizzard, and I got it from a little old lady in Pasadena. She says it's a one owner and she never played anything faster than Moonlight Sonata on it!" It would always be in tune. This night was Berghofer's very first job with the band.

"Meanwhile, back at the ranch," the Mannes were expanding their ventures and adventures into Flip's first love, the horses. The Manne den, always full of awards for Shelly, now included a wall filled with ribbons, some of them blue, and gold and silver trophies awarded by the horse show circuit. The former Rockette told a reporter that she gets "more nervous at a horse show than I ever did on the Radio City Music Hall stage." “The Dancing M" was becoming well known in the equestrian circles of California. From the very first pleasure horses they received as a gift at their first small house to their present growing stable, they loved the animals. They had purchased an old show mare (Saddlebred) early-on, but she went lame almost immediately. The Mannes bred her three times and got three winners! Flip says, "It was most unusual and sheer luck." They were all five-gaited Saddlebreds. After Shelly decided to show, they bought “Panama Limited", a Walking Horse. He won the Reserve Amateur Championship with him at the Cow Palace. "Walking Horse people did terrible things to their animals, so when it came time to sell the horse, we sold it at a loss as a pleasure horse," recalls Flip. That's when Shelly bought "Scataway", who "taught" his drummer-owner how to drive.

In late November, Shelly did an album of music from West Side Story with Cal Tjader and the Clare Fisher Orchestra, and a few weeks later recorded with Johnny Mandel, backing Mel Torme in a musical tribute to Duke Ellington and Count Basie. The Manne-Hole hadn't been open two months, but by Christmas it had become the talk of the town. The Los Angeles gossip and music columns gave it plenty of press, and Shelly talked it up everywhere he went. The name of the place always invited humor and trumpeter Manny Klein couldn't help himself. He told everybody that he was going into the shell business, had rented the store next door to Shelly's club and was going to call his new store “Manny's Shell-Hole." In the club Shelly was booking a variety of groups for the Monday through Thursday calendar. Phineas Newborn, Teddy Edwards, Paul Horn, Jimmy Giuffre, Frank Rosolino, Conti Candoli, Jack Sheldon, Terry Gibbs, Dexter Gordon, Barney Kessel and others brought their own groups in. "It was a fantastic thing," remembers Bob Bain, "you could go there any night and hear great jazz." Rudy painted a ladder going up the wall to the ceiling, where a painted manhole cover had its lettering reversed. Contemporary engineer Howard Holzer made sure the sound system was perfect. The Manne Hole was serving lunches and dinners and selling beer and wine, but it was tough to make it on just that. The door charge was kept to a minimum so that anybody could afford to hear jazz, but one problem that Rudy saw right away, was that everybody was a friend of Shelly's. That got to be a problem because everybody expected to get in free. The jazz club business has always been a tough business, but it was even tougher for Rudy because of all of Shelly's friends.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was inaugurated 35th President in January, the Civil War had started a hundred years before, and by the spring, the Soviet Union had a man in space, orbiting the world. Jimmy Dean sang "Big Bad John," and the serious crooners with the "funeral home vibratos" were singing "I Believe in You," from How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying. The pop scene had Ricky Nelson singing his own song, "I'm a Travelin' Man," Connie Francis moaning "Where the Boys Are," and others singing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight - Wimoweh," "Michael Row the Boat Ashore," and "Hey, Look Me Over." The Academy Award nominee and eventual winner for the best song was "Moon River", words by Johnny Mercer, music by Henry Mancini and drums by Shelly Marine. He would play again at the Academy Awards Presentation - he almost always did if Johnny Green, or Elmer Bernstein, or Mancini conducted. Shelly would play on other films that year - West Side Story, Flower Drum Song, King of Kings (timpani), and others. David Raksin used Shelly on Too Late Blues, which was a John Cassavetes film. Raksin recalls the project: "We were recording at night at the Paramount sound stage because we couldn't get the stage that day The high brass had come in from New York and the studio had taken them out to dinner and then didn't know what the hell to do with them after that, so they brought them down to see what we were doing. We were doing a take and Shelly was playing his 'Rim Shot Heard Around the World' drum solo, then we trooped into the control room and they were all listening and saying 'Wonderful, wonderful.' Shelly was standing over there and I said, 'We will take another take,' They all said 'What's wrong with you?” and I said 'That isn't vintage Shelly.' He smiled at me as if to say: ‘I was wondering if you would be intelligent enough to recognize that.’ We trooped out to make another take and Cassavetes stayed in the booth and for some reason Benny Carter did too and one of the executives said ‘Gee, that Guy (Shelly) really seems to know what he’s doing and John Cassavetes said, “Yeah, but he’s Jewish!” and Benny Carter said ‘That isn’t all, he’s also not colored!” In February [1961], the Men went on the road playing clubs back East and in the Midwest, where in Milwaukee, the Sentinel and the Journal raved about their concert.

Henry Mancini used Shelly on Breakfast at Tiffany’s (including "Moon River") and Bachelor in Paradise. Shelly played the Mahalia Jackson TV special, recorded an album for Mancini called Mr. Lucky Goes Latin [RCA Victor LPM/SP2360], even though the TV show of the same name had been canceled (Shelly did the soundtracks for that, too). Shelly once again acted on screen in an episode of Adventures in Paradise, the series that starred a lean Gardner McKay, who portrayed a lucky Adam Troy who leisurely sailed the South Pacific aboard his yacht, the Tiki. The episode was called "Wild Mangoes," and Shelly, Kamuca, and Candoli played "hip" musicians stranded on Bora Bora after being fired from an ocean liner gig (probably played too hip). Their "wives" chartered the Tiki to rescue them and they all lived happily ever after. Before the middle of 1961, Shelly had recorded albums with Sammy Davis, Jr., Joannie Summers, Mel Torme, trumpeter Howard McGhee, and the Johnny Williams Orchestra. in the spring, enough material was recorded for two albums, "live" from the Manne-Hole. A two record set featured the Men, and a one record album recorded during the same three days featured Helen Humes. Conte Candoli had replaced Joe Gordon who had died tragically in a fire. (Joe never actually played with The Men at the Manne-Hole. He was in jail when it opened, and then the chair was "taken.") The night Joe died, he was visiting the club and Rudy drove him home. The instrumental double album recorded at the Manne-Hole March 3rd, 4th, and 5th, 1961, is available in two separate CD albums from Contemporary [C3593-94, S7593-94, OJCCD 714-715].

In the fall Shelly recorded an album of themes with Alfred Newman, a prolific Hollywood film composer, and did a session with Martin Denny's "island"- sounding group, complete with bird calls. Caesar Giovanni arranged a large orchestra and used Shelly to record Exciting Sounds, billed as The Clebanoff Strings and Percussion. The percussionists on the date were Shelly, Milt Holland, Hugh Anderson, Larry Bunker, Mike Pacheco, Johnny Ray, Johnny Cyr, and Irv Cottler. A battery of first call Hollywood percussion players. On October 4th, the Monterey Jazz Festival drew 10,000 devotees of modern jazz, and they were rewarded with the sounds of Max Roach, the Modern Jazz Quartet, the Jimmy Giuffre Three, Sonny Rollins, Diz, Leroy Vinnegar's group, the Mastersounds, Brew Moore, and The Men. The press called Shelly's group the highlight of the day. On October 23rd, the "Poll Winners," Brown, Kessel, and Manne, gave an afternoon concert at The Pilgrimage in Hollywood. The Men and Ruth Price appeared on Strictly Informal, a television show on KTLA, and on October 24th, the Men recorded Checkmate [Contemporary C3599, S7599, OJCCD 1083-2], music suggested by the television show of the same name. In November Shorty Rogers used Shelly, Emil Richards on vibes, and an all-star group to record The Fourth Dimension in Sound for the Warner Brothers label [Warner Bros. BS 1443]. The same month. Shelly did a Pacific jazz album starring Bud Shank [Barefoot Adventure [PJ/ST 35].
By now the Manne-Hole was sending out bright orange calendars to a vast mailing list across the country Pat Willard was handling the publicity for the club, and it added to the warm friendly concept and the inviting feeling of the whole operation. The band was cooking and Shelly was very happy that he had created a place for jazz musicians to play in a time when there were fewer and fewer places to play modern jazz. He was happy with his playing, too. "I feel much freer in the Manne-Hole than I have ever felt in a club before. Working here has been one of those gigs where you literally can't wait to get there and start playing. And the band has gotten freer and more exciting, partly I think as a result of the room." Rudy, who liked traditional jazz, said, "Just by working at Shelly's I got a whole education in modern jazz." The Men, most of them now doing film and/or recording dates, were happy to be able to play in a club where the music was the only important thing. Chuck Berghofer was getting an education not only from working with Shelly, but having the opportunity to play with Russ Freeman was fantastic. He was learning new chord changes and new rhythmic concepts. "The only time Shelly ever said anything to me, was one time he just looked over and said, 'Wait for me."' Berghofer was young and energetic and the rings were high on the fingerboard and he was just slightly ahead of the drummer who had the perfect time.

Russ Freeman remembers playing with Shelly at the Manne-Hole - "Shelly was having a real good time. When Shelly was at his best, which was most of the time - nobody's is at his best all the time - he was my favorite drummer. He was the most empathetic of all drummers I had worked with." They were experiencing that very special musical bond, the same feeling they had when they recorded The Two [issued as “The Three” and “ The Two” OJCCD 172-2] seven or so years earlier. Shelly would direct the band with audibles, telling the bass player to lay out, playing duos with just drums and piano, or drums and Conte's trumpet, or sax and drums. Variations were tried and discarded or called up a month later. The band was tight, yet flexible enough to change course in mid-stream. Shelly would play the whole range of dynamics - wailing like crazy and then suddenly, instantly, he would take the volume down to a whisper. He had the ability to be roaring on the ride cymbal at a very fast tempo, then switch to brushes without losing the intensity The interplay between Freeman and Manne was something to behold. Things magically happened, it was musical telepathy "We never even talked about that - this is just where we were. We never sat down and said 'You know what you did there, or what I did there, let's try to re-create that.' That never, ever happened. It was just spontaneous. That's what was terrific about playing with Shelly, because he listened very closely to everything everybody was doing, which, of course, is the ideal thing to do in a group. That's one of the hard things in playing jazz, to not only play well and be creative, but be able to do it while listening to everybody else in the group at the same time - and incorporate it all so that it becomes one. He was terrific at that, he listened to everything, trying to be creative but not ignoring what the other guy was doing. Shelly was not as loud as some of the bebop drummers; he wasn't a basher, though there are some terrific bashers. He was very sensitive; to him the drums were a musical instrument. I used to put him on about the drums 'not being a musical instrument'."
It didn't take Rudy long to realize that though the club had become an instant success, the meager admission they were charging at the door on Friday and Saturdays wasn't going to be enough. It had started out at just $1 on Friday and Saturdays with weeknights and Sundays no admission charge. While they sold pizza and cheese-sticks, beer and wine for 50 cents (if the wine had a cork it cost more!), they found that the average customer was only spending an average of $1 after they got in the door. They would have to sell hard booze to make it. Shelly was putting in every spare moment at the club to make sure everything was working right. When he wasn't there, some of the musicians would play short sets and take long breaks. He had to crack down on that, and he made sure that loud patrons were gently advised that this was a jazz performance room and that loud talking was not permitted. He was not timid about this and occasionally had to introduce himself as the owner and suggested that perhaps this was not the place for non-listening people. After working all day in the studios, he would go home for supper, lie down for a few hours, then drive back to the Manne-Hole for most of the evening. Flip was far from thrilled with the arrangement, but this was Shelly's dream come true, a gathering place for musicians to play jazz in a club where the owner understood the music.

The place was "pure serendipity" according, to Rudy. The layout of the club was small enough to be intimate, even cramped like a jazz joint should be. The jazz disc jockeys were pushing the club and would be there most nights too. Jumpin' J. Rich never could seem to get the name right - he would say "Get down to Shelly Manne's Hole." Sam, Tony, and Major were the main hired help. Sam would work the door on week-ends and got to see the celebrities. It was a who's who of the Hollywood scene. Don Rickles would come in and tell everyone that when Shelly and Rudy got together they flipped a coin and Rudy won, he got the door! Woody Herman brought his big band in to the little club on Cahuenga. So did Gerald Wilson and Don Ellis. The club was not only making jazz happen. it was causing a renaissance of jazz clubs around L.A. By the early 60s the club list was long. The Town Hill, the Zebra Lounge, Mr. Konton's, the Purple Onion, the Summit, It Club, Paradise West, The Troubadour, and The Lighthouse were all offering jazz. But the Manne-Hole was consistent, like Shelly. Once a policy was set, Manne and Onderwyzer stayed with it. Shelly was footing the bills, making it possible to build the business. Saxophonist Gary Foster had stayed on the Coast after Stan Kenton suggested he give the scene a try, and Foster recalls that "the Manne-Hole was great for a guy with no money. They offered a bottomless cup of coffee for 60 cents."

Shelly wanted his old friend Ben Webster to play the club. Shelly asked him and mentioned that "we usually pay scale." Webster said, "I don’t play for scale!" But they worked it out and Ben played the club. Rudy recalls - "He would drink about a bottle-and-a-half of port and we would carry him to the cab. it never affected his playing. The next day he would be right as rain." Jackie Cain remembers working a jazz concert with the tenor saxophonist. "He would be backstage, sound asleep, holding his jug in a paper sack, and someone would go back and wake him up to tell him he was on, and he would come out and blow like crazy" The legendary jazz player was truly formidable in every respect.

The racial make-up of the Manne-Hole audiences depended on the featured groups. Harold Land, Teddy Edwards and Buddy Collette drew predominantly black audiences. This, of course, was not in the plans and wasn't even considered by Shelly, who only thought of the music and the musicians, and the respect it and they deserved. What kind of crowds was only important in their number, not any other consideration. The biggest problem was money and how to make sure the club was kept going. Musicians wanting to play were plentiful, money generation was the tough part.

Universal International was producing as many as sixteen hours of television programming each week and Shelly was doing most of that work. Eight a.m. calls were common and triple sessions too. The 41-year-old jazz drummer, studio musician, club owner, husband, and horseman was keeping an unbelievable schedule. If he wasn't at Universal in the daytime hours, he was at some other film studio, or recording studio, or he could be found lecturing at a college, or planning a television appearance for his group, or just promoting jazz wherever possible. Often he would do an evening studio call in between UI and the Manne-Hole. He teamed up with Jack Marshall for several recording sessions, not to mention the Mancini calls, not to mention the Michel LeGrand calls, or the Elmer Bernstein sessions, or any number of other composer's call.

In January of 1962, Ray Brown and Michel LeGrand joined Shelly for a week-long stand at the Manne-Hole. This would be the first of many appearances by the film composer-cum jazz player. While LeGrand was hardly a hard driving jazz pianist, he was a smash hit among the Hollywood crowd and he would appear at the club many times. Thursday nights were called "Freaky Fridays" and featured groups headed by Jack Sheldon. One night Peggy Lee was sitting quietly enjoying the sounds and Sheldon carried the mike to her and she sang in her usual fantastic way. The club was so popular, yet the receipts were not completely covering all the expenses. Shelly called it a success because it wasn't taking too much of his own personal income to keep it afloat.

In the late winter and early spring of 1962, Shelly recorded with Eddie Jones, Hank Jones, and Coleman Hawkins for Impulse Records [2 3 4 Impulse A(S) 20, GRP 11492] while in New York City. The Men performed at a benefit at the Capitol Theatre in Yakima, Washington. Ruth Price traveled with the group and during a week's stand in Seattle, she recalls – “Shelly rented a station wagon and picked us up to go to the gig. I always had dogs and during this time it was 'Alfie,' a little Dachshund. One night I couldn't find the dog, so Shelly sent the guys in the band to different floors to look for the dog. I was in the lobby and all of a sudden the elevator doors open and there's the dog - by itself!" One can only wonder who was responsible for that.” Ruth Price was learning much from working with Shelly. "One time, he took me aside on a break and said, 'When you're not making it, you're trying too hard. Relax and sing what you know how to sing. It's OK to copy yourself.”

There were lighter moments, of course, like the time she remembers Shelly coming in to the club in a new 'drip-dry' suit. He had gotten in the shower with it to see if it worked! She remembers, "Richie Kamuca and I just stood there while Conte and Shelly discussed the suit.'"

In March Shelly recorded with the Candoli brothers for Warner Brothers Records. On the 5th of April, he received a letter from Twentieth Century Fox's John Erman that Shelly "was a natural in Wild Mangoes (acting) and that he had enjoyed his visit to the Manne-Hole". Leonard Feather mentioned in his column that Andre Previn had been sitting in at the Manne-Hole in preparation for an upcoming album. In June there was a Neal Hefti album to record, and a TV appearance with the Men on Jazz Scene USA, a show that was alternately hosted by Oscar Brown, Jr. and Bobby Troup. The movie and television work was keeping Shelly more than awake during the day Two Weeks in Another Town, Walk On the Wildside, Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation, and Mutiny On the Bounty were some of the films he did. Mancini used Shelly on two films in 1962, Hatari and Experiment in Terror. Manne joined percussionists Milt Holland and Larry Bunker for an album called The Brilliant Soul for Pianos and Percussion, for Cesar Giovanni. By August he was in the studios recording with the great Bill Evans. The pianist wrote Shelly after the session - "Just a note to ell you that I picked up a test pressing of one side of the date we did, and I had such warm feelings listening to it and remembering the pleasure of that night with you and Monty, that I wanted to tell you about it. Gee, you sound ,wonderful." He closed the one-page letter with, “I just wanted you to know I think you're a playin' fool!"

Occasionally the Manne-Hole would experiment by bringing other types of music to its jazz audiences. Pianist Jimmy Rowles remembers he and his wife dropping down to see Shelly and there was a Flamenco act booked for intermissions. Shelly sat down front next to Jimmy and watched the thin, agile fingers with the long nails do magic with the guitar. Shelly leaned over and whispered in Jimmy's ear, "How'd you like that guy to tickle your balls?" In a while a piece plywood was placed onstage and a Flamenco dancer came out to perform. It didn't take Shelly long to whisper to Jimmy, "How'd you like that guy to kick you in the ass?" The humor of Manne extended from the subtle to the raunchy and Jimmy was often involved when the two were doing studio dates for Mancini or others. He would "steal" cigarettes and Rowles' Dunhill lighter, go to the drum set and light up. When red recording light would come on, he would throw the cigarettes to Jimmy just as the downbeat came down. The next time it would be the lighter. Gary Foster recalls Mancini studio sessions when some big name singer would come in - a Streisand or Andrews or somebody of that musical stature - and Shelly would crack-up the studio players by standing up and saying loudly, "Hank - in that measure - number 138, do you want me to play a 'boom-ditty-boom' or a 'doodeley boop'?" Anything to be funny and to crack the pressure of the moment. As often as not, several musicians in the studio would have difficulty (from laughing) playing when the light came on. Not Shelly; the red light meant business.

In September, the Men returned to the Blackhawk in San Francisco for a weekend stand. Shelly liked to take the group out when his schedule permitted. It gave him a time away from the hectic pace of the studio and an opportunity to meet new fans. He was very approachable, liked people, and it was a time away from the 12 hour days of studio playing and jazz club operations. But those times were limited. He had to make a living and the studio work offered him the cash to keep the Manne-Hole going. He did dates with Mahalia Jackson, Joni James, a Mel Torme radio transcription (later issued on LP and CD) with Shorty's Giants, a big band date with Rogers, and an album with Nancy Wilson.

After the Blackhawk date, he went into the studios at Capitol for a session with his friend from the Kenton days, Laurindo Almeida. The guitarist had become as busy as Shelly in the studios, and their paths crossed often. Whenever he had a record date under his own name, he used Shelly, if he was available. By this time, the bossa nova had become the big thing and Laurindo was scheduled for a Capitol session. Almeida had been playing samba jazz, as it was called by Brazilians, as early as 1952. Other jazz players had been experimenting with the music throughout the fifties. Cannonball Adderley had put together groups for tours in South America, and Sergio Mendez had taken it to Mexico in 1958. The music originated around Rio and with the Stan Getz/Astrud Gilberto album hitting the charts, it had finally reached the ears of fans in the United States. Now Laurindo used the expert Latin-playing ability of Shelly - "Shhhelly," as the soft dialect of the Brazilian pronounced it. On the same record date, they did an interview cut of Shelly for radio promotional use, Shelly being the eloquent spokesman that he was.

In November, Shelly recorded with the Jack Sheldon Quartet on Capitol, a session stretched out over four days. In December the Men appeared at UCLA with Marni Nixon and Ruta Lee, and before Christmas, Shelly recorded a Contemporary album called My Son, The Jazz Drummer [Contemporary M3609,S7609] , a tongue-in-cheek, play-on-words jazz version of old Jewish favorites. Though the jazz recording sessions were slowing down, an indication of the nationwide sad state jazz was in during the early 60s, live jazz was fairly good on the Coast, and the film work was keeping the players quite busy. By now the drum sections included Joe Porcaro and Emil Richards, two stellar percussion performers who joined the ranks of Milt Holland and Larry Bunker, and other legends. They would spend much of their careers sharing the percussion section with Shelly, enjoying his talents and humor.
In the pop recording business, Hal Blaine was working day and night, drumming for the likes of Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys, Sam Cooke, and Roy Orbison. Now the recording studio sound engineers were changing the drum sound. The producers would come in, say they wanted the drums to sound just like they did on So-and So's album, and more often than not, it was Blaine's drumming. This was really bugging the jazz drummers because it had always been important that they get a "live" sound out of their kits. Contemporary had always given Shelly the sound he wanted, but when he went into the commercial world of recording, he was finding that they would muffle his drums, or that they would ask him to play on the studio set. The individual's sound was unimportant to them. Blaine would often use a huge kit with several tom toms and cymbals. Shelly, never missing an opportunity to put somebody on, stenciled on his trap case something like - "Shelly Manne, Kit # C-9601." This era was only the beginning of a changing world for the recording drummer. In the meantime, Shelly continued his varied work with everything from a movie theme album with Alfred Newman to Billy Rose's Jumbo. The new year of 1963 would see some big changes at the Manne-Hole.


  1. Joe Gordon did play with Shelly's Men at the Manne Hole In July August 1963 With Russ, Shelly Monty And Joe Mani on tenor. I drove to Claifornia that summer to hear Richie Kamuca and Joe after listening to the Blackhawk records,but Richie was on the east coast, thanks for the great insights on west coast jazz, Pat Labarbera

  2. This web site truly has all of the information I
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  3. Cool!
    If you search the interwebs for Roddy McDowell's home movies, you can see The Manne Hole (outside) in 1965, along with the Whiskey A Go-Go.


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