Ernie Felice

If you have read the earlier article about Jazz in Finland, you will see that a particular feature in its history has been the popularity of Accordion Jazz. Ernie Felice was an American jazz accordion player who became a member of the Benny Goodman Orchestra. Ernie learned to play the accordion as a child in the 1920s in San José, California and by the 1930s he was playing and touring with Ernie Felice and Benny GoodmanThe Four Sharps, a band from San Francisco. After the War, he joined the Benny Goodman Orchestra before signing up his Quartet with Capitol Records in 1947. The Quartet featured Ernie on accordion and vocals, Dick Anderson (clarinet), Chick Parnell (bass) and Dick Fisher (guitar). Then after 1950 he seems to have disappeared from the scene.

Jari Salo in Finland has been trying to find out what happened and sent us this article. (Jari sent it to us in Finnish, so we apologise if things are lost in the translation):

Jari SaloPeople will probably remember Ernie Felice from his time with Benny Goodman in 1947, but he disappeared at the end of 1950. Had he died or what happened?

When I started my investigation I found a reference to Ernie being related to a woman's fiancé so I emailed her - there was no reply. Then in 2009 I discovered a clip on YouTube from a film where Ernie had his own show The Ernie Felice Show which was broadcast in Los Angeles around 1959. (Click here to see the video with Ernie singing and swinging Blue Skies).

Jari Salo

I investigated the video and discovered that Ernie had a son, Dan Felice. Contacting Dan, I learned that Ernie had left the music business because he did not like the direction in which things were going with the emergence of pop, rock and other mainstream music. He quit playing in one fell swoop. Dan subsequently sent me digital copies of all Ernie's music.

A regular visitor on Ernie's TV program was Sue Raney who has told me that Ernie was a nice man and that the programmes were fun to make. I have also found out that Les Paul and Ernie set up their own label - F&M Records - and their first release was No More Cryin'- a Country Music number with Mary Ford, Ernie and Les Paul playing in the background. Ernie sings I Love You Dearly on the B side.

I cannot understand why Ernie is not more widely acclaimed. His band was tight and could play just about anything. He was a real singer, a crooner, a baritone who swung when given a band behind him. In my opinion he is one of the most entertaining musicians and it would Ernie Felice recordbe good to see a record company put out a collection of his work.

Ernie, at the age of 88, was honoured at the Grammy Museum in October 2010 and there is a video of the event with Ernie talking about his career (click here).

I am regularly in touch with Dan Felice and my daughter visited him in the United States in 2010.

Dan has subsequently put up a short video about his father called 'Who Was Ernie Felice' that starts with the Blue Skies clip and then moves on to others (click here). Ernie also appears in the 20th Century Fox movie "With A Song In My Heart", starring Susan Hayward, which is the movie about the music career of Jane Froman (click here for the clip).

In January 2012, Jari Salo told us that there is now a website for Ernie Felice at www.erniefelice.com where there are extensive details, photographs and music samples for Ernie.

Ernie Felice passed away on the 13th September 2015.

 

© Sandy Brown Jazz 2011 - 2015

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