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Herb Ellis

Show Count: 114
Series Count: 4
Role: Old Time Radio Star
Old Time Radio
Born: August 4, 1921, Farmersville, Texas, USA
Died: March 28, 2010, Los Angeles, California, USA

Mitchell Herbert "Herb" Ellis (August 4, 1921 – March 28, 2010) was an American jazz guitarist. Perhaps best known for his 1950s membership in the trio of pianist Oscar Peterson, Ellis was also a staple of west-coast studio recording sessions, and was described by critic Scott Yanow as "an excellent bop-based guitarist with a slight country twang to his sound."


Born in Farmersville, Texas and raised in the suburbs of Dallas, Ellis first heard the electric guitar performed by George Barnes on a radio program. This experience is said to have inspired him to take up the guitar. He became proficient on the instrument by the time he entered North Texas State University as a music major. Ellis majored in music, but because they did not yet have a guitar program at that time, he studied the string bass. Unfortunately, due to lack of funds, his college days were short lived. In 1941, Ellis dropped out of college and toured for 6 months with a band from the University of Kansas.

In 1943, he joined Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra and it was with Gray's band that he got his first recognition in the jazz magazines. After Gray's band, Ellis joined the Jimmy Dorsey band where he played some of his first recorded solos. Ellis remained with Dorsey through 1947, traveling and recording extensively, and playing in dance halls and movie palaces. Then came a turnabout that would change Ellis's career forever. Then, as pianist Lou Carter told journalist Robert Dupuis in a 1996 interview, "The Dorsey band had a six-week hole in the schedule. The three of us had played together some with the big band. John Frigo, who had already left the band, knew the owner of the Peter Stuyvesant Hotel in Buffalo. We went in there and stayed six months. And that's how the group the Soft Winds were born."

The Soft Winds group was fashioned after the Nat King Cole Trio. They stayed together until 1952. Ellis then joined the Oscar Peterson Trio (replacing Barney Kessel) in 1953, forming what Scott Yanow would later on refer to as "one of the most memorable of all the piano, guitar, and bass trios in jazz history".

Ellis became prominent after performing with the Oscar Peterson Trio from 1953 to 1958 along with pianist Peterson and bassist Ray Brown. He was a somewhat controversial member of the trio, because he was the only white person in the group in a time when racism was still very much widespread.

In addition to their great live and recorded work as the Oscar Peterson Trio, this unit served as the virtual "house rhythm section" for Norman Granz's Verve Records, supporting the likes of tenormen Ben Webster and Stan Getz, as well as trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, and Sweets Edison and other jazz stalwarts. With drummer Buddy Rich, they were also the backing band for popular "comeback" albums by the duet of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

The trio were one of the mainstays of Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts as they swept the jazz world, almost constantly touring the United States and Europe. Ellis left the Peterson Trio in November 1958, to be replaced not by a guitarist, but by drummer Ed Thigpen. The years of 1957 through 1960 found Ellis touring with Ella Fitzgerald.

The three provided a stirring rendition of "Tenderly" as a jazz improvisational backdrop to John Hubley's 1958 cartoon The Tender Game.

With fellow jazz guitarists Barney Kessel, Charlie Byrd and Tal Farlow, he created another ensemble, the Great Guitars.

Herb Ellis was also featured on the television show Sanford and Son accompanying Fred's singing.

Ellis gave cartoonist and The Far Side creator Gary Larson guitar lessons in exchange for the cover illustration for the album Doggin' Around (Concord, 1988) by Ellis and bassistRed Mitchell.

In 1994 he joined the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame. On Nov 15, 1997 he received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of North Texas College of Music.

Ellis died of Alzheimer's disease at his Los Angeles home on the morning of March 28, 2010, at the age of 88.

Source: Wikipedia

Broadcast: 27th April 1952
Added: Jun 13 2001
Broadcast: 26th January 1954
Added: Jun 27 2009
Broadcast: 15th December 1953
Added: Dec 15 2007
Broadcast: 9th February 1954
Added: Jul 04 2009
Broadcast: 17th April 1956
Added: Apr 17 2010
Broadcast: 13th September 1955
Added: Nov 29 2008
Broadcast: 29th May 1956
Added: Jun 13 2009
Broadcast: 24th May 1953
Added: May 24 2007
Broadcast: 15th March 1953
Added: Mar 15 2007
Broadcast: 13th March 1956
Added: Mar 13 2010
Broadcast: 18th October 1955
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Broadcast: 27th April 1954
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Broadcast: 20th April 1954
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Broadcast: 21st August 1952
Added: Aug 21 2006
Broadcast: 23rd February 1954
Added: Jul 11 2009
Broadcast: 6th September 1955
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Broadcast: 16th October 1956
Added: Oct 16 2010
Broadcast: 24th February 1952
Added: Apr 03 2010
Broadcast: 13th January 1952
Added: Jun 13 2001
Broadcast: July 28, 1957
Added: Sep 07 2021
Broadcast: 15th April 1951
Added: Aug 10 2009
Broadcast: 7th January 1951
Added: Feb 16 2010
Broadcast: 17th December 1952
Added: Dec 07 2013
Broadcast: 24th July 1950
Added: Jun 28 2011
Broadcast: 24th May 1950
Added: Jun 05 2009
Broadcast: 5th November 1952
Added: Mar 14 2013
Broadcast: November 21, 1956
Starring: Herb Ellis
Added: Nov 07 2019
Broadcast: 3rd August 1954
Added: May 10 2011
Broadcast: 8th June2
Added: Apr 29 2010
Broadcast: 30th December 1951
Added: Dec 30 2010
Broadcast: 22nd June 1952
Added: Jun 06 2010
Broadcast: 17th August 1954
Added: May 21 2011
Broadcast: 31st August 1952
Added: Apr 02 2011
Broadcast: 22nd May 1954
Added: Feb 01 2008
Broadcast: 13th July 1954
Added: Apr 22 2011
Broadcast: 6th May 1951
Added: Aug 15 2009
Broadcast: 27th January 1955
Added: Jan 29 2010
Broadcast: 16th December 1951
Added: Dec 20 2011
Broadcast: 1st September 1957
Added: Sep 24 2010
Broadcast: 31st December 1952
Added: Dec 31 2013
Broadcast: 28th October 1954
Added: Dec 03 2009
Broadcast: 21st October 1954
Added: May 31 2011
Broadcast: 20th January 1954
Added: Jan 20 2013
Broadcast: 30th December 1956
Added: Jan 01 2011
Broadcast: 26th August 1951
Added: Nov 19 2004
Broadcast: 31st October 1952
Added: Aug 19 2010
Broadcast: 25th February 1951
Added: Apr 22 2010
Broadcast: 5th November 1950
Added: Aug 09 2009