THE NEWTON-LEACOCK PAPERS

Having good friends is a delight in themselves.  When the friends are generous, that’s more than one can hope for. Here’s evidence: Jeanie Gorman Wilson, who took very good care of the singer Barbara Lea in Barbara’s last years, shared these pieces of paper with me . . . and with the readers of JAZZ LIVES.

What you’ll see below is admittedly a small collection but absolutely irreplaceable: two 1951 missives from trumpeter / composer Frank Newton to the youthful but impressive Miss Barbara Leacock.  These aren’t simply rare pieces of paper, but artifacts from a gifted man, his life too short — but testimony to his humanity, his affectionate wisdom.

The envelope, please:

NEWTON letter 1 envelope

And the contents:

NEWTON letter 2 first

Dear Barbara:

     Here’s thanking you for whatever contribution you made toward the wonderful birthday party.

     Let me wish you lots of success with your singing. Don’t be discouraged by a lot of your friends’ opinions, neither feel too exalted by their compliments, but try to work as hard as time will allow, out of which will come something of which you are deserving and will be proud of.

     Give Larry [Eanet] my regards.

     As ever, your well-wishing friend.

                                          Frankie Newton

Eight months later, when Newton was working as a counselor at KIDDIE KAMP in Sharon, Massachusetts (the postcard’s motto is “Thanks feller, for the swell vacation!”):

NEWTON letter 3 front of Kiddie Kamp

And his note, which ends “hurry and write”:

NEWTON letter 4 Kiddie Kamp

Hello Barbara: — Just to let you know where I am, and what I am doing. I am counsler at this camp for kids and I am having a ball.  I shure wish you could drive over here and see the camp it is only 20 some miles from Boston George Wein and the band were up here last week. If you can write me and tell me what’s what is happening to you

hurry and write

love

Frankie Newton

Yes, Newton’s handwriting, spelling, and punctuation are much more informal, but I imagine him dashing off this note, leaning against a tree, while children around him demanded his attention.

More information on KIDDIE KAMP can be found here – thanks to the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

Thanks to Jeanie for allowing us to read some of Newton’s words.  He has been gone for nearly sixty years. If his sound isn’t distinctive in your ears, here is a deep, mournful sample: his 1939 THE BLUES MY BABY GAVE TO ME (with Mezz Mezzrow, Pete Brown, James P. Johnson, Al Casey, John Kirby, and Cozy Cole — the session supervised by Hughes Panassie):

Barbara Lea is nearer to us: December 26 was only the second anniversary of her death, but it’s always a privilege to hear her remarkable voice once again. Here she is, with Dick Sudhalter and James Chirillo, performing the uplifting IT’S ALL IN YOUR MIND:

And since we can all dream of hearing Mr. Newton and Miss Leacock together, I offer here (yet unheard) evidence of such a musical meeting. Newton’s actual birthday was January 4, so it is possible that this disc was cut at the birthday party he mentions in his first letter.  Someday . . .

May your happiness increase!

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4 responses to “THE NEWTON-LEACOCK PAPERS

  1. It is touching to read letter I last saw mr Newton for a fundraiser at his Union Square apartment after his terrible fire Thank you Eric D Offner

    Sent from my iPad

  2. Larry Eanet, a fine jazz pianist, also had a day job. He was a dermatologist.

    I don’t know how good Larry was at dermatology, but he was an excellent pianist, who not only played well, but was always truly inspired in his choice of material. I had the pleasure of hearing him and talking with him several times in the very intimate confines of the Gardner Theater in Meadville, PA, through the good offices of the late Joe Boughton.

    How I miss those cozy jazz weekends, and Joe.

    MICHAEL P. ZIRPOLO,
    Author,
    “Mr. Trumpet…the Trials, Tribulations
    and Triumph of Bunny Berigan”

  3. How easy it is to share when someone is as enthusiastic and generous as Michael! Barbara Lea had many interesting associations with musicians which I am still finding out as she was never one to boast about such things while I knew her. Hers was a long and varied career; by her own admission, her favorite of her own recordings was the one she did with her longtime pal, Larry Eanet, who was not only a wonderful person but a fabulous pianist.

    Thank you, Michael, for your interest in not only the music but the history/lives of the musicians that make it! Your dedication makes it easy to share what little I might have to add. Come back for a visit again soon and perhaps we can uncover some other small treasure, dear friend! And thanks for the amazing photos: you should certainly post the Crimson Stompers to this blog!

    Happy New Year, Michael, and sorry for the delay in acknowleding your post!

  4. At some point in the early to mid 1970s, when I was a younger man first immersing myself in the music, my parents and I attended a Roseland Ballroom show that featured the big bands of Sy Oliver and Tito Puente. My dad, a longtime Jimmy Lunceford fan, approached Sy, who had been one of the Lunceford band’s arrangers. Their conversation eventually turned to Frankie Newton who my father had worked with at a left-wing summer camp in upstate New York. Oliver praised Newton’s talent and integrity, remarking that he might have been “world famous” were it not for his health issues and his having “been a Red.” By most accounts, this great talent was not only a erudite and committed political activist, but also a tender and caring human being, as these brief notes show.

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