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Fred & the Roy Eldridge Band – approx. 1946
About Fred – Excerpt from his introduction to Dialogues In Swing “I had grown up with music. A sister played in string quartets, we never missed the NBC Symphony or New York Philharmonic broadcasts and I listened far too late each night to the dance band remotes from the Blackhawk in Chicago, the Hotel Pennsylvania and the Lincoln in New York, the Meadowbrook in New Jersey (especially Saturday afternoons), the Steel Pier in Atlantic City and dozens of other glamorous and far-off ballrooms and nightspots. I’d wear earphones to protect the rest of the household and rejoice with Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa and Artie Shaw and the Dorseys and Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Alvino Rey, Jimmy Lunceford, Glen Gray, Teddy Powell, Ray McKinley and Will Bradley with Freddie Slack and more and more and more. By 1941, I was much closer to these greats. By then, in my town of Washinton, D.C. I was engineering radio remotes myself.
Then, wonder of wonders, I began getting assignments out-of-town, to many of those same hotels and ballrooms. From then on, my headphones became a part of me. All the while, every spare nickel from my lean ($16.00 a week and all the free beer I could drink) radio station salary went to collecting records. Most often, I’d get them second hand from stores that disposed of used jukebox records. For a nickel you could get the latest Fats Waller or Chick Webb, Bob Crosby or Larry Clinton (with my favorite singer of the time, Bea Wain). When Pearl Harbor came, I was among the first to broadcast the bulletin on WWDC and, within a month, I was in the Navy. After a lot of technical training, largely in then-new RADAR, I was in the South Pacific and ship repair.
But soon entertainment radio came back into my life, first through AES Noumea, run by the Red Cross and commandeering one of our communications transmitters. Then the Armed Forces Radio Service took over and we built the “Mosquito Network.” I got assigned full time to this project and began to be on the air day and night. I even began to lose (with considerable effort) my Southern accent. War over, I left the Navy in late 1945 to build the first in a series of radio stations in New Mexico and California. More and more I moved into programming. I took free-lance assignments from Mutual an d ABC Radio over the next thirty years and developed an interview technique (empathy and lots of advance research, not confrontation) while covering mostly politicians all over the nation.
My wife, Gita and I covered Presidential Nominating Conventions from Miami to Chicago to San Francisco and Los Angeles. By the time I was running my own stations in California I had honed that knack to the point that I was ready to talk with the people I had wanted to interview all along, my heroes: the band leaders, the soloists and sidemen, the singers, arrangers and composers who made swing swing!
This book, in response to listener requests from those who catch my SWING THING radio show around the nation, collects a few of those treasured get-togethers. These are cameos, anecdotal in nature. If you want gossip or scandal, look elsewhere. Every interview was done under the most relaxed conditions, even though it may have had a formal beginning. Usually I visit an artist’s home. He or she is relaxed there and as soon as it’s apparent to them that I know what I’m talking about, and this isn’t to be another series of dumb or hackneyed questions, the whole situation becomes laid-back and easy. What I hope evolves is an impression of that star performer as a human being, first, and as a professional, second. The music business is a small business. You’ll note that there is a lot of cross-connecting, Mel Torme talks about Artie Shaw and George Shearing. Shearing talks about Mel and Peggy Lee. Dick Haymes, Jo Stafford and Paul Weston all expand on Tommy Dorsey. There’s a mutual-admiration society that interconnects musicians and singers and arrangers and composers and leaders. After all, each is necessary to the other.”