“ONE OF THE BEST”: LEO McCONVILLE

A postscript to my tribute to Leo McConville, provided by Rob Rothberg — its source is the Evans and Evans book on Bix:

To Leo:

One of the best personally and musically — thanks for saving my life on the Camel Hour numerous times — The Best

Bix Beiderbecke

What more would anyone ever want?

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7 responses to ““ONE OF THE BEST”: LEO McCONVILLE

  1. Truly a remarkable document. Here is Ralph Sutton with “In the Dark:”

  2. This is one of those wonderful pianists that you sit back in you chair, close your eyes and just plain enjoy,,,,

  3. Hank Sheffer

    I was fortunate to have Leo as a teacher for many years. I even got tagged as “little leo” for a while. What a great experience that was. I can still hear him on the old King horn Jimmy Dorsey gave him at our playing sessions.. . .truly a great player and musician.

  4. Please, Hank, tell us more! I know Leo Jr. would like it as much as my cyber-audience . . . Thanks in advance, Michael

  5. Hank Sheffer (Little Leo)

    Please accept humble apologies for being so very remiss in getting back to the site.
    Leo McConville was one of the most recorded trumpet players of all time–he and his long time playing buddy, Manny Klein. They seemed to be everywhere at one time playing on one recording session after another–either separately or together as needed.
    Leo said there was a time when traveling around the countryside, he and Manny a climbed down off the train and with their stage derby hat mutes on their heads , were arguing as to which town they were actually in . . . turns out it was Philly–not New York! It would be interesting to see a compilation of all the things they accomplished.
    The year is 1925:Leo told me a story one time about he and Bix Beiderbecke. Apparently a substantial amount of bathtub gin had been involved one evening prior to a recording slated for Bix in the morning. Hix was real slow in getting himself in gear for the morning session . . . Leo said he managed to get the youngster out of bed but couldn’t find his cornet anywhere. Bix told Leo he pro’bly left it at the “establishment” last night. Leo asked where his mouthpiece was as Leo would would lend Bix his horn for the session if need be. Bix said–“Can’t–it’s soldered in the horn so I won’t loose it!” (Bix had a habit of carrying his horn around in a brown paper bag and had a propensity for forgetting it and leaving it behind).
    So, Leo gave Bix $2 bucks and told him to go get a horn out of one of the local hock shops somewhere to play the gig. Bix did and, as the story goes, he made it to the session in time to play one of his best known recordings, “Davenport Blues.”
    Leo said that Bix did find his own horn later–re-hocked the other horn but never got his $2 bucks back . . . . Alas–welcome to the bigtime!

  6. It is great to hear from you again! I’d love to hear whatever you remember about my Dad as I’m sorry to say I did not really take an interest in his career when I was young. I was into the Beatles! I really regret not sitting down and discussing his experiences! I really envy you so much! He would probably fall over if he knew that I go to see the Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey Band today! Of course I still like Classic Rock!
    Would love to be able to get together some time!
    Leo McConville, Jr.

  7. Sorry for the time delay. There has been much water flow under the bridge these last two years. Health & physical failings have even kept me from my horn. That I hate greatly. I am working on trying to get back in some semblance of playing. My wife and I are heavily involved in the theatre here in Arizona. I do all the publicity and graphic arts/videos and such. That aside, there were many stories your Dad and I shared. Unfortunately some have faded with time. However, As you know (or perhaps don’t) Leo hated elevators and was much like Mr. T on the A Team when it came to bridges. Heights were not at the top of his “likes” list I assure you. I was playing a solo at St Elizabeth’s in Baltimore, a church half as long as New Jersey. I was to play in the chancel in a loft above the 4 or 5 keyboard Molar organ. The tune was Tutti Camarato’s “Trumpeter’s Prayer.” It was in the original key which for me as a 14 year old was up in the air. Leo had always said if I needed to play higher he’s get me a piece of paper to stand on. (his kind of humor). For the first time I managed to nail the piece away. I was happy as a lark . . . your paid me the best compliments I have ever received: He said I was a wonderful trumpet player . . . I almost cried hearing that from one of the finest players of all time. There was a time when I was afforded the opportunity to talk with Rafael Mendez in person and numerous times before I joined Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club and journeyed to the Persian Gulf. Leo, the trumpet has been good to me–even to the point of playing with some of the modern-day Glen Miller boys. In great measure your Dad traveled with me. He taught be to play the damned thing. He always said, “When in doubt, just play the tune” . . . I’ve followed that advice ever since!

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