More on eBay from the seller “anystuffyouwant” — some remarkable photographs, all new to me.

The first — not an Ellingtonian — is the short-lived tenor saxophonist Dick Wilson, who died in late 1941, less than two weeks after his thirtieth birthday. He played and recorded with Andy Kirk, a Mary Lou Williams small group, and he can also be heard on one of Jerry Newman’s uptown recordings with Harry Edison and Count Basie.  I’ve never seen a portrait of him in action, and I recall that Billie Holiday thought he was one of the most appealing men she’d ever known.

DICK WILSON second tryThe next group of photographs shows the Ellington band — broadcasting over KLZ and in a ballroom. (I presume that they were on their way to California, but do not know if this tour pre-or-post dates JUMP FOR JOY.  However, the string bassist is Junior Raglin, not Jimmie Blanton.)

“Everybody look handsome!”

ELLINGTONIANS Colorado and an autographed portrait of the Rabbit, Mister Johnny Hodges:

HODGES Colorado

Anyone for trombones? From left, Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton, Juan Tizol, Lawrence Brown, and in front, Mister Ben Webster:

BEN and TBNS Colorado

What would the Ellington band have been without stylish Sonny Greer?SONNY GREER ColoradoFinally, two people who didn’t get photographed as often as I would like. One, the utterly irreplaceable Ivie Anderson:

IVIE Colorado

The other, a master of sounds — Tricky Sam Nanton:

TRICKY SAM ColoradoI’ve heard the Ellington band of that period on recordings and live airshots for many decades now, but these photographs bring the sound even closer to me. The other photographs I’ve posted from the same seller were all autographed to “Rollie”: did (s)he take these?  All mysterious, but the evidence that remains — even when slightly damaged by dampness — is wonderfully evocative. (My post on Rollie’s photographs can be seen here.)

The seller also has been displaying pictures of the Lunceford and Hampton bands . . . wonderful finds!

May your happiness increase!


  1. Thanks for sharing, Michael. Did “I Didn’t Know About You” have a life before it was published with lyrics? To my tired eyes, it sure looks like that is what Hodges is playing…

  2. I don’t have my books nearby, but my tired memory guesses at SENTIMENTAL LADY. One of the Ellingtonians can tell us.

  3. Absolutely right!! There still may be some interest here, as it that would seem the band had been playing the tune for a year or more before it became a hit, or that Anderson had returned to the band in late 1943. Where are those Ellingtonians?


  5. the photo of the Duke Orchestra with Junior Raglin bowed over the bass looks like he is tuning the instrument so maybe the entire band looks so attentive since they were also tuning.

  6. Matthias Heyman

    Another very interesting photo is the second one, as it is (to my knowledge) the only photo where you can actually see which song the band is playing. With Junior Raglin bowing, Duke conducting (and looking serious at that!), and the whole band on their feet, this can not be anything else than their rendition of “God Bless America,” which as we know from the Fargo recordings was in their repertoire since at least late 1940.

  7. Matthias Heyman

    An interesting take from babylovet, but I doubt that they are tuning. Tuning a bass happens with open strings or by using harmonics, and it does not look like Raglin is using either ways. Also, brass instruments would often tune to a Bb whereas saxes often tune to an A, so they could, but most often don’t tune simultaneously. Some other things: a whole band tuning at the same time results in chaos, and tuning can be done seated, so why stand? Finally, I doubt the Ellington band ever tuned on stage in front of an audience. At least, I have never heard it on any broadcasts, air checks or live records by Ellington (or any other swing big band).

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