Hoosier History Live! features host Nelson Price, Saturdays noon to 1 p.m. on WICR 88.7 FM in Indianapolis.

Saturdays, noon to 1 p.m. ET on WICR 88.7 FM.
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Our call-in number during the show: (317) 788-3314

Dec. 17, 2016 show

Jazz notables from Indy history - a sequel

So many historic jazz entertainers emerged from Indianapolis - from instrumentalists and singers to dancers and educators - that one Hoosier History Live show can merely scratch the surface.

Last month, following the recent death of the last of the Hampton Sisters, we explored their lives and impact, along with those of other multitalented families, including Wes Montgomery and his brothers. Because a parade of many other jazz notables came out of Indy, particularly its Indiana Avenue scene, we have invited our guest, music historian David Leander Williams, to return and share additional insights.

David, a graduate of Attucks High School (like most of the notables we will explore), grew up near Indiana Avenue and is the author of Indianapolis Jazz (The History Press, 2014). His book features profiles of notables whom we will explore during this "sequel" show. Several had the same musical mentor: Harold Brown, a beloved band director at Attucks who was on the original staff when the school opened in 1927.

Flo Garvin reigned at the piano bar in the Executive Inn in Indianapolis.In fact, a quartet of Attucks alums called themselves the Brown Buddies in the 1930s as a tribute to their favorite teacher. During this show, we will explore the Brown Buddies, who dressed in tuxedos, performed with synchronized movements and, according to Indianapolis Jazz, "captivated their audiences ... in overflowing nightclubs wherever they performed."

Also during our show, David will share insights about:

  • Leonard & Leonard, a dancing duo that appeared on Ed Sullivan's TV show in the 1950s and drew rave reviews during a world tour that included stops in Australia. The dancers were not related to each other, but both shared names that included "Leonard": Leonard Chester Thomas and Paul Leonard Harrell.
  • Flo Garvin, a singer-pianist who enjoyed a devoted following for decades at nightclubs in Indy and across the Midwest. In 1951, she became the first African-American entertainer to appear on TV in Indiana. Trombonist J.J. Johnson graduated from Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis and went on to a successful career in jazz. Image courtesy Music Online.She was the headliner on Sentimental Journey, a music program broadcast on Channel 6/WFBM (now WRTV). Wes Montgomery and his brothers Monk and Buddy were Flo Garvin's instrumental accompanists on the show.
  • And J.J. Johnson, a widely acclaimed trombonist and Attucks grad. After performing at Indiana Avenue clubs, Johnson "left in the late 1940s and thrilled jazz aficionados on both coasts," David notes in his book.

During our previous show with David, we played a rare Hampton Sisters recording on the Savoy label from 1953. We only had time to enjoy their rendition of Hey Little Boy, an upbeat, fast-paced song. David Leander Williams.During this show, we hope to air a much different tune the sisters recorded during the same session, a song David describes as "a slow-moving, sensual love ballad."

Dawn Hampton, the last surviving sister, was 88 when she died in New York City earlier this year. David shared details about her life and career - as well as those of her sisters Carmelita, Aletra and Virtue - on our previous show. This time, we will discuss the next generation of the multitalented family. For example, Virtue's son, Pharez Whitted, is a noted jazz trumpet player and composer.

Speaking of trumpet players: We will explore the impact of Indy native Freddie Hubbard (1938-2008), a Tech High School  graduate who, according to Indianapolis Jazz, was "considered by jazz historians as one of the two greatest trumpeters in jazz history along with Miles Davis." In 1972, Freddie Hubbard's album First Light won a Grammy Award.

Hubbard was one of the top trumpeters in the world during the 1960s and '70s. His stardom was diminished in the 1980s following surgery on his lip that, according to Indianapolis Jazz, "impeded his ability to hit those ... soaring notes that were so characteristic of his earlier works of art."

(David's book describes how Hubbard was expelled from the Jordan Conservatory of Music at Butler University for insisting on playing jazz rather than classical music.)

One of Hubbard's classmates at Butler - and his bandmate in his early performing years - was Larry Ridley, a bass and violin player. Our show will feature details about Ridley, who went on to create the jazz department at Rutgers University, and his younger brother, Michael, a trumpet player.

The Ridley brothers were altar boys at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Michael Ridley eventually moved to the East Coast and, as Indianapolis Jazz puts it, "dazzled New York jazz aficionados in the nightclubs."

Additional research courtesy Michael Armbruster.

History Mystery

The father of our “mystery” father-and-son duo is pictured here at his piano, circa 1920s. Image courtesy Indiana Avenue and Beyond.

During a Hoosier History Live show in November, we explored the careers of the Hampton Sisters and other families who were influential in Indianapolis jazz history.

The families included a father and son with the same name: Sr. and Jr. The father was a popular bandleader during the 1910 and '20s who served as a musical mentor to a young Hoagy Carmichael. He taught ragtime and jazz to the future composer of Stardust and other classics. The father's piano - on which he gave informal instruction to young Hoagy - is frequently displayed at the Indiana History Center.

The son performed with many Indiana jazz groups and taught music for more than 30 years in the Indianapolis Public Schools system.

Question: Who were the father and son with the shared name?

The call-in number is (317) 788-3314. Please do not call in to the show until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air, and please do not try to win the prize if you have won any other prize on WICR during the last two months. You must be willing to give your name and address to our engineer and be willing to be placed on the air.

The prize is a gift certificate to Story Inn, a bed and breakfast in Brown County, courtesy of Story Inn.

Roadtrip: Great antiquing in Kirklin in Clinton County

Old Bank Antiques and Uniques is in Kirklin, Indiana, on U.S 421. Image courtesy Larry Paarlberg.

Guest Roadtripper Larry Paarlberg, who by day is the director of the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum in Crawfordsville, will be telling us about an historic small town where he makes his home. That town is Kirklin, which is no more than a half-hour drive north of Indianapolis along the Michigan Road, U.S. 421.

If you like to shop local and shop small, Larry will tell us about the great antiquing available in Kirklin. His favorite shop is Old Bank Antiques and Uniques, which is a Fair Trade Store supporting people in Third World countries who produce wonderful works of art and sustainable food items.

Other shops and places to eat in Kirklin? Mimi's Place, Empire Pizza, Clementine's, The Tin Rooster, Ten Thousand Treasures, Shoup's Country, White River Mercantile and an eatery called Momma Jeannie's that Larry tells us has great pies. Enjoy exploring another wonderful Indiana small town!

Your Hoosier History Live team,

Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Richard Sullivan, webmaster and tech director
Pam Fraizer, graphic designer
Garry Chilluffo, media+development director


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Hoosier History Live has produced more than 400 episodes - and counting - of original Indiana history journalism.

Image of a Christmas wreath.We are swimming against the tide, in a media landscape where ethical and objective reporting, without bias, has for the most part fallen by the wayside.

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Dec. 24, 2016 - show pre-empted for Christmas music

Merry Christmas and happy holidays from us to you!

Hoosier History Live will be taking the week off on Saturday, Dec. 24, and WICR will be playing Christmas music for the duration.

To help keep our loyal listeners warm and happy until the next Hoosier History Live program, we heartily recommend this video of a crackling fire in an old-fashioned fireplace.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

© 2016 Hoosier History Live. All rights reserved.


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