Raymond Eberle was born January 19, 1919 in Mechanicville, New York and followed in his elder brother Bob’s footsteps who fronted Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestra as a Big Band singer. With no formal training he started singing in his teens and in 1938, when Glenn Miller, looking for a male vocalist asked Bob if he had any siblings at home who could sing, he answered yes, and Ray was hired on the spot.
Ray went on to find success with Miller deeming the songs for the 1942 film Orchestra Wives, such as the jazz standard At Last, to be among his favorites. He also appeared in the Twentieth Century Fox movies, Sun Valley Serenade in 1941. From 1940-43 he did well on Billboard’s College Poll for male vocalist.
Miller ran a tight ship and often fired people after one negative incident. When stuck in traffic one day during a Chicago engagement, Ray was late for a rehearsal and Miller fired him on the spot, and replaced him in 1942 with Skip Nelson. After his departure from Miller, Eberle briefly joined Gene Krupa’s band before launching a solo career. He appeared on numerous television variety shows in the 1950s and 1960s, and later joined former Miller bandmate Tex Beneke’s orchestra in 1970 for a national tour, and reformed his own orchestra later in the decade.
He made several Universal films, including Mister Big, making a cameo appearance as himself. Eberle mostly sang ballads. He led his own orchestra called, The Ray Eberle Orchestra as well as the Serenade In Blue Orchestra from 1943 and maintained his band until his death.
Vocalist and bandleader Ray Eberle died of a heart attack in Douglasville, Georgia on August 25, 1979, aged 60.
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Quentin “Butter” Jackson was born January 13, 1909 in Springfield, Ohio. His brother-in-law Claude Jones, who played with McKinney’s Cotton Pickers taught him to play the trombone. During the Thirties he played with Zack White, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers and the Don Redman Orchestra.
The Forties saw Butter, as he was affectionately known, working with Cab Calloway and then Lucky Millinder, taking occasional solos with those groups, and in the early days was a ballad singer. In 1949 he became a fixture in the Duke Ellington Orchestra, becoming his best wa-wa trombonist utilizing the plunger mute. This relationship, that included recordings, lasted until 1960, both as a soloist and in the ensembles.
Jackson went on to tour of Europe and recorded with Quincy Jones, then performed and recorded with Count Basie for two years and recorded notable work with Charles Mingus in 1962-63, followed by a return to Ellington and worked with the big bands of Louie Bellson and Gerald Wilson. By the 1970s he was working with the Mel Lewis/Thad Jones Orchestra until near the end of his life.
A consummate sideman he recorded with Dorothy Ashby, Kenny Burrell, Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Hodges, Leon Thomas, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Louis Armstrong, Milt Jackson, Herbie Mann, Freddie McCoy, Wes Montgomery, Shirley Scott, Jimmy Smith, Clark Terry, Billy Strayhorn, Randy Weston and Dinah Washington, who did a version of Bessie Smith’s Trombone Cholly on her album Dinah Sings Bessie Smith, enlisting Jackson on the horn, under the title “Trombone Butter”.
Trombonist Quentin Jackson, whose only session as a leader resulted in four titles in 1959 that were reissued by Swing, passed away on October 2, 1976 in New York City.
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Wendell Philips Culley was born on January 8, 1906 in Worcester, Massachusetts. He performed locally in Boston, then moved to New York City in 1931 and found early work playing with Horace Henderson and Cab Calloway.
He then spent eleven years in the employ of Noble Sissle, recording with him extensively. Following this he played with Lionel Hampton from 1944 to 1949, and then briefly worked again with Sissle.
In 1951 he joined the Count Basie Orchestra and until 1959 he recorded twenty albums with the man and toured the world. After his tenure with Basie, he retired from music and pursued a career in insurance. Trumpeter Wendell Culley, who never led a session of his own, passed away on May 8, 1983 in Los Angeles, California. He was seventy-seven years old.
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Henry Coker was born December 24, 1919 in Dallas, Texas. He studied music at Wellesley College before making his professional debut with John White in 1935. From 1937 to 1939 he played with the Nat Towles territory band, then moved to Hawaii to play with Monk McFay.
Following Pearl Harbor, Coker settled in Los Angeles, California and played with Benny Carter from 1944 to 1946. He did a stint with Illinois Jacquet in 1945, then performed with Eddie Heywood between 1946 – 1947, and with Charles Mingus in the late ’40s.
Falling ill from 1949 to 1951 Henry played little, but after recovering he worked with Sonny Rollins and then joined Count Basie’s band, playing and recording with him from 1952 to 1963.
Working as a studio musician in the Sixties, he then toured with Ray Charles from 1966 to 1971. He did freelance and film/television studio work in the mid-1970s, rejoining Basie briefly in 1973 and Charles in 1976. Osie Johnson wrote a tribute to him entitled Cokernut Tree in 1955. Coker recorded on J.J. Johnson’s Trombones Incorporated session, featuring ten trombonists.
Trombonist Henry Coker passed away in Los Angeles at the age of 59 on November 23, 1979.
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Marshall Brown was born on December 21, 1920 in Framingham, Massachusetts. Little recorded, he devoted most of his career to education, earning a music degree from New York University, as a member of the Zeta Psi Fraternity.
He was also a high school band director leading the Farmingdale New York Daler Band from the early 1950s through 1957. Brown was the first high school band director to initiate a jazz education program, which he did in his tenure at Farmingdale High. By 1956 his stage band, the Daler Dance Band, a jazz big band with an average age of 14 years old, was so formidable and impressive, boasted future jazz stars pianist Michael Abene, saxophonist Andrew Marsala, and whiz drummer Larry Ramsden. One night at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival, Count Basie, who was late for his appearance as he entered the festival grounds heard the Daler Band performing their set and exclaimed, “Damn, they started already”, mistaking the Dalers for his band.
Marshall received some attention for performing and recording in a quartet with Pee Wee Russell in the early 1960s. While Russell was most often associated with Dixieland or swing, their quartet performed more adventurous, free jazz-oriented pieces, including pieces by Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane.
During the Sixties he was the resident trombonist at Jimmy Ryan’s, a noted dixieland venue. He also club dated with Luke O’Malley’s Irish band during this time. Brown also performed or recorded at one time or another with Ruby Braff, Beaver Harris, Lee Konitz, George Wein and Basie.
Conductor, arranger and educator Marshall Brown, who also played the valve trombone, trumpet, euphonium, electric bass and the banjo, passed away on December 13, 1983 in New York City.