Sandy Brown Jazz

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On A Night Like This, The Story Is Told ...

Roy Eldridge
Let Me Off Uptown

 

 

Roy Eldridge

Roy Eldridge

 

'Other white bandleaders were now hiring other black stars, as well, and dealing as best they could with the trouble their new men often encountered on the road. Artie Shaw canceled thirty-one one-nighters in the South rather than give in to a contract that required him to seat Lips Page a minimun of fifteen feet from the rest of the band ... and Gene Krupa was briefly jailed for punching a Pennsylvania restaurant owner who had allowed all of his men except Roy Eldridge through the door ...'

'For all his power and combativeness, Eldridge was also a proud and sensitive man. In the end the effort required to maintain his composure in the face of the daily indignities he experienced as the sole black musician in a white band would prove more than even he could bear:

Roy Edldridge and Gene Krupa

 

 

"I knew I'd have to be awful cool; I knew all eyes were on me .... All the guys in the band were nice, and Gene [Krupa] was especially wonderful [but when] we headed west for some one-nighters, winding up in California, that was when the trouble began. We arrive in one town and the rest of the band checks in. I can't get into their hotel, so I keep my bags and start riding around looking for another place, where someone's supposed to have made a reservation for me. I get there and move all my bags in .... then the clerk, when he sees I'm the 'Mr Eldridge' the reservation was made for, suddenly discovers that one of their regular tenants just arrived and took the last room.... By the time that has happened night after night, it begins to work on my mind, I can't think right, can't play right....."

"When we finally got to the Palladium in Hollywood I had to watch who I could sit at tables with. If they were movie stars who wanted me to come over, that was all right; if they were just jitterbugs, no dice. And all the time the bouncer with his eye on me .... I had to live way out in Los Angeles while the rest of the guys stayed in Hollywood ... I got to brooding .....Then it happened. One night the tension got so bad I flipped. I could feel it right up to my neck while I was playing 'Rockin' Chair'. I started trembling, ran off the stand, and threw up. They carried me to the doctor's. I had a 105 fever; my nerves were shot".

 

 

 

 

Listen to Roy playing Rockin' Chair with the Gene Krupa Orchestra.

 

 

 

 

...Things got worse in the South. In Norfolk, Virginia, Eldridge and the white singer Anita O'Day had to perform their hit duet 'Let Me Off Uptown' from opposite sides of the stage. He found himself barred from the men's room and expected to make do with a bucket ... '

 

Roy, Anita and the Gene Krupa Orchestra together in 1942 with Let Me Off Uptown.

 

 

 

'He loyally stayed with Krupa till that band broke up. In 1944, he accepted an offer to join Artie Shaw and again met with trouble in California ...

"Some of the guys who knew I liked Mexican food suggested that we go to a little Mexican joint. When they refused to serve me, all the other guys walked out with me, but it all started to put me in that mood again. [Then] I went to the place where we were supposed to play a dance and they wouldn't even let me in .... 'This is a white dance,' they said, and there was my name right outside. When I finally did get in , I played that first set, trying to keep from crying .... Man, when you're on the stage you're great, but as soon as you come off, nothing. It's not worth the glory, not the money, not worth anything. Never again!"

In fact he would join Krupa five years later. By then, thanks in part to his courageous pioneering, integrated bands were no longer so great a novelty and conditions on the road had at least begun to change ....'

From: Jazz - A History Of America's Music by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns

 

Roy Edldridge Anita O'Day and Gener Krupa

 

 

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