Jazzed in Cleveland
a jazz history by Joe Mosbrook
a special WMV Web News Cleveland series

Part 97 - Duke Ellington in Cleveland (updated)
Story filed May 18, 2005

In a Jazzed in Cleveland article eight years ago we listed 40 Northeast Ohio appearances by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra. After searching through old newspaper articles and consulting with several Ellington historians, we said at the time the list was a "project in progress." Since then I have discovered a few others and Ellington researcher Ken Steiner in Seattle has found reports of additional Ellington performances in Cleveland. Here is the updated list:

1. Week of July 4, 1931 -- Palace Theatre, E. 17th and Euclid. Ellington began his first national tour with a week-long engagement. He had just hired singer Ivy Anderson and had just recorded "Moon Indigo." Plain Dealer reviewer Ward Marsh said, "Duke Ellington burns ‘em up."

2. Week of June 11, 1932 -- Palace Theatre.

3. August 4, 1932 -- Crystal Slipper Ballroom, 9802 Euclid Avenue.

4. December 27, 1932 -- Land O’Dance Ballroom, Market Avenue North, Canton.

5. January 27, 1935 -- Danceland Ballroom, East 90th and Euclid.

6. Week of March 22, 1935 -- Palace Theatre.

7. Week of May 11, 1935 -- Palace Theatre, Youngstown.

8. May 15, 1935 -- Public Auditorium, East 6th and Lakeside.

9. March 15, 1936 -- Trianon Ballroom (had earlier been called the Crystal Slipper), 9802 Euclid Avenue. Cab Calloway, who was playing at the Palace Theatre, made an appearance with Ellington at the Trianon and Ellington appeared with Calloway at the Palace.

10. March 17, 1936 – Youngstown

11. Week of July 31, 1936 – Palace Theatre. Juan Tizol had just composed "Caravan."

12. Week of August 6, 1937 – Palace Theatre. A young comic named Red Skelton was also on the bill.

13. November 3, 1937 – Trianon Ballroom. Clevelander George Early played with the Ellington band.

14. Week of October 7, 1938 – Palace Theatre.

15. November 25, 1938 – Trianon Ballroom.

16. December 11, 1939 – Public Auditorium.

17. June 14, 1940 – Stambaugh Auditorium, Youngstown.

18. Week of August 28, 1942 – Palace Theatre. The band broadcast from the Palace August 29, 1942.

19. February 20, 1943 – Public Auditorium. 7200 people heard "Black, Brown and Beige," Ellington’s longest piece. Clevelanders George Early and Skippy Williams were members of the orchestra.

20. November 29, 1943 – Public Auditorium.

21. Week of November 3, 1944 – Palace Theatre. Gunther Schuller later said many members of the band, unable to get hotel rooms, were sleeping in dressing rooms at the theatre.

22. June 23, 1945 – Palace Theatre, Akron. Band originated Date With Duke radio broadcast from the Akron theatre. Later in 1945, Clevelander Francis Williams joined the orchestra.

23. November 4, 1946 – Music Hall of Public Hall. 1800 attended the American debut of Django Reinhardt. The Cleveland Press reported, "French guitarist steals Duke’s concert."

24. February 11, 1948 – dance at Akron Armory. Singing with the band was Dolores Parker (Morgan) who later settled in Fairlawn.

25. Week of February 12, 1948 – Palace Theatre. Ellington’s last performance at the Cleveland theatre before it became a movie house.

26. October 16, 1951 – Cleveland Arena, 3717 Euclid Avenue. The Ellington band was part of a Norman Grantz touring package that included Nat "King" Cole and Sarah Vaughan performing at the sports facility.

27. Week of September 19, 1952 – Town Casino, East 107th and Euclid.

28. October 22, 1954 – Music Hall, with Dave Brubeck, Gerry Mulligan and Stan Getz.

29. July 25, 1956 – Severance Hall, University Circle. A concert with the Cleveland Orchestra.

30. November 23 to December 2, 1956 – Cotton Club, East 4th and Huron.

31. November 6, 1960 – Music Hall. 2500 attended the concert which also featured the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

32. June 27, 1961 – Coshocton.

33. June 28, 1961 – Public Auditorium with the Cleveland Orchestra. Symphony trumpeter Harry Herforth had a reunion with his boyhood friend Billy Strayhorn.

34. July 22, 1962 – Musicarnival, Warrensville Center Road, a 1,500-seat summer tent theatre on the grounds of the Thistledown race track.

35. July 14, 1963 – Musicarnival, a Sunday "jazz matinee."

36. July 15, 1963 – Karamus House, East 89th and Quincy. The band, which included Clevelander Ernie Shepard, recorded a program for WEWS-TV.

37. August 14, 1963 – Musicarnival.

38. December 17, 1963 to January 5, 1964 – Golden Key Club, 641 Euclid Avenue. The Cleveland Press reported, "The Duke Ellington-Golden Key honeymoon came to an abrupt and not entirely amicable ending over money matters."

39. May 30, 1964 – Musicarnival.

40. August 14, 1964 – Musicarnival.

41. March 27, 1965 – private party at Statler-Hilton Hotel, East 12th and Euclid.

42. July 18, 1965 – Musicarnival.

43. April 16, 1967 – Music Hall.

44. July 18, 1967 – Woodland Hills Park summer festival. The park at East 116th and Kinsman was later renamed Luke Easter Park.

45. July 29, 1967 – Cedar Point Ballroom, Sandusky.

46. July 14, 1968 – Woodland Hills Park.

47. October 2, 1968 – Music Hall. 1,900 attended.

48. September 28, 1972 – Private party at Sheraton-Cleveland Hotel, Public Square.

49. November 10, 1972 – LaPlace Shopping Center, Cedar and Richmond Roads, Beachwood. A Fairmount Jazz Festival benefit for the Glen Oak School scholarship fund.

50. May 6, 1973 – dance at Case Western Reserve University gymnasium, University Circle.

51. July 10, 1973 – Admiral King High School, Lorain.

Ellington was scheduled to perform in Cleveland February 9, 1974 but the concert was canceled because of Duke’s failing health. He died May 24, 1974. The following summer, August 12, 1975, Ellington’s son Mercer led the Ellington Orchestra in a concert at the Cleveland Palace Theatre – 44 years after his father had first played on the same stage.

Copyright 2005 Joe Mosbrook


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