Summer Jazz – William Price King meets Ella Fitzgerald – The 40s and 50s

William and his music

Welcome to the second part of the Ella Fitzgerald story by my friend and wonderful guest contributor William Price King. William has been an International performer, composer and musician for over 30 years and has sung all the Jazz standards made so famous by the Jazz Royalty. He is on a Summer break at the moment and so I am repeating some of the earlier series for those of you who might have missed them.

Ella Fitzgerald rightly holds the crown as Queen of Jazz and her contribution to music was mirrored by her influence not only for women’s rights but also the civil rights movement during the 50s and 60s. Last week we looked at her early life and performances and now we move into the 40s and 50s.

The story continues…

Last week we looked at Ella’s early start in life that was filled with many challenges. However, following her win in a talent contest in 1935 and her subsequent collaboration with drummer and band leader Chick Webb, her career went from strength to strength.

The New York Times later wrote that Chick was, “reluctant to sign her….because she was gawky and unkempt, a ‘diamond in the rough’.” But, he offered her the opportunity to test with his band when they played a dance at Yale University. She began singing regularly with his orchestra throughout 1935 at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom and Ella recorded several hit songs with them, including “Love and Kisses” But it was her 1938 expanded version of the 19th century nursery rhyme, “A Tiskit a Taskit,” a song she co-wrote with Al Feldman (later known as Van Alexander) that brought her wide public acclaim.

Chick Webb died in June 1939, and his band was renamed Ella and her Famous Orchestra with Ella taking on the role of nominal band leader. She recorded nearly 150 songs with the orchestra before it broke up in 1942 and Ella began her solo career. Her first signing was with the well-established Decca label and Milt Gabler became her manager. It was a time of amazing productivity within the Jazz industry and Ella recorded with some of the most popular performers of the day including Bill Kinney & the Ink Spots. They recorded ‘I’m Making Believe” and “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall”. Both of these recordings reached #1 on the US Pop Charts. Fitzgerald teamed up with The Ink Spots again in 1945 to record “I’m Beginning to See the Light” and “That’s the Way It Is”.

Milt Gabler brought Ella together with Jazz Impresario and producer Norman Granz and she performed regularly with his Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts. Norman would eventually take over as Ella’s manager and remained so to the end of her career; she remained at Decca until signing for Verve Records the label that Norman Granz created around her. In the meantime she would record many hits for Decca in the company of the great musicians and singers of the day including Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Billie Holiday and Dizzy Gillespie.

With the demise of the Swing era and the decline of the great touring big bands, a major change in jazz music occurred. The advent of bebop led to new developments in Fitzgerald’s vocal style, influenced by her work with Dizzy Gillespie’s big band. Dizzy was a Jazz trumpeter, bandleader and composer who together with Charlie Parker became a huge influencer in the development of bebop and modern jazz.

It was in this period that Fitzgerald started including scat singing as a major part of her performance repertoire. In vocal jazz, scat singing is vocal improvisation with wordless vocables, nonsense syllables or without words at all. Scat singing is a difficult technique that requires singers with the ability to sing improvised melodies and rhythms using the voice as an instrument rather than a speaking medium.

Her 1945 scat recording of Flying Home” arranged by Vic Schoen and recorded with Dizzie Gillespie and Charlie Parker, would later be described by The New York Times as “one of the most influential vocal jazz records of the decade….Where other singers, most notably Louis Armstrong, had tried similar improvisation, no one before Miss Fitzgerald employed the technique with such dazzling inventiveness.”

Her bebop recording of “Oh, Lady Be Good” in 1947, written in 1924 by George and Ira Gershwin for the Broadway show of the same name, was similarly popular and increased her reputation as one of the leading jazz vocalists.

On the touring circuit it was well-known that Ella’s manager felt very strongly about civil rights and required equal treatment for his musicians, regardless of their color. Norman refused to accept any type of discrimination at hotels, restaurants or concert halls, even when they travelled to the Deep South. Once, while in Dallas touring for the Philharmonic, a police squad irritated by Norman’s principles barged backstage to hassle the performers. They came into Ella’s dressing room, where band members Dizzy Gillespie and Illinois Jacquet were shooting dice, and arrested everyone. “They took us down,” Ella later recalled, “and then when we got there, they had the nerve to ask for an autograph.” Norman wasn’t the only one willing to stand up for Ella. She received support from numerous celebrity fans, including a zealous Marilyn Monroe. This from the Marilyn Monroe Video Archives.

“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt,” Ella later said. “It was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him – and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status – that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman – a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”

Next week into the end of the 50s to the 70s as Ella becomes a worldwide phenomenon.

Marilyn Monroe Video Archives

Buy Ella Fitzgerald music.

William Price King – Jazz composer, musician and singer.


William Price King is an American jazz singer, musician and composer. Originally he studied classical music and opera but over the years his style has evolved to what many refer to as the ‘sweet point’ where music and voice come together so beautifully.
His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. His jazz album, ‘Home,’ is a collection of contemporary songs and whilst clearly a homage to their wonderful legacy it brings a new and refreshing complexity to the vocals that is entrancing.

His latest album Eric Sempe and William Price King is now available to download. The repertory includes standards such as “Bye Bye Blackbird” (a jazz classic), Sting’s “Englishman in New York,” Queen’s “The Show Must Go On”, Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and other well-known jazz, pop, and rock classics.

William and Eric Sempe have also brought their own magic to the album with original tracks such as Keep on Dreaming and Red Snow with collaboration with Jeanne King
Download the new album.

William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area.

Connect with William

Links to website –
Facebook –
Twitter –
Regular Venue –

You can explore all of William’s series at this link:

Thanks for dropping by and I hope you have enjoyed the amazing voice of Ella Fitzgerald.. Sally


A Man and his Music – William Price King meets Quincy Jones – Part Two

Welcome to the second part of the story of Quincy Jones; still going very strong in his 80s despite a recent health scare. Behind every successful singer with hit songs is usually and extraordinarily talented and skilled musician and arranger. Quincy Jones is as comfortable in front of the band as he is behind the scenes.  William Price King picks up the story as we enter the mid 50s and the 60s.  Part one can be found here.

Quincy in Paris

Quincy Jones was only in his late teens when he went on the road with band leader Lionel Hampton to Europe and he was to say later that it completely revised his opinion of racism in the United States.

“It gave you some sense of perspective of past, present and future. It took the myopic conflict between just black and white in the United States and put it on another level because you saw the turmoil between the Armenians and the Turks, and the Cypriots and the Greeks, and the Swedes and the Danes, and the Koreans and the Japanese. Everybody had these hassles, and you saw it was a basic part of human nature, these conflicts. It opened my soul, it opened my mind.”

Working with an established musician like Lionel Hampton opened many doors for Quincy and he opted to live in New York in the heart of the music business. All through the 1950s he worked as a freelance arranger for Tommy Dorsey, Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dinah Washington and his friend and collaborator Ray Charles.

As an example of the work that he was producing in collaboration with some of the greats. Sarah Vaughan with the Quincy Jones Orchestra and the classic ‘Misty‘ in 1958 for Mercury Records.

He also toured the Middle East and South America as a trumpeter and musical director for the Dizzie Gillespie band and on his return recorded his first album as a band leader for ABC Paramount Records which was released in 1956. It was considered a masterpiece of arranging and band leading. Over a short period of time the recordings evolved into a re-invention of big band music. Quincy used complex harmonies and rhythms that gave a younger and more vibrant sound that attracted a new generation of listeners as well as impressed the old hands. The pieces were also technically demanding for five or six players but took on epic proportions when performed by 20 musicians.

In 1957, Quincy settled in Paris where he studied composition with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen, and worked as a music director for Barclay Disques, Mercury Records’ French distributor. In 1958 Jones was invited by Princess Grace to arrange a benefit concert at the Monaco Sporting Club, featuring Frank Sinatra.

Here is Frank Sinatra with the Count Basie orchestra conducted by Quincy Jones.

He took to the road again as Musical Director of Harold Arlen’s jazz musical Free and Easy which closed back in Paris in 1960. Musicians who had been part of the tour included Art Farmer, Zoot Sims, Curtis Fuller, Phil Woods, Freddie Hubbard, Benny Golson, Art Blakey, and Hank Jones. Quincy took the newly formed band back on the road with families in tow and wowed audiences in Europe and the States. However, the overheads were astronomical and eventually they had to disband the orchestra. This left Quincy deeply in debt.

“We had the best jazz band on the planet, and yet we were literally starving. That’s when I discovered that there was music, and there was the music business. If I were to survive, I would have to learn the difference between the two.”

Mercury Records stepped in and helped Quincy out with a loan and he went to work for them in New York as music director. He went on to be appointed vice-president of the label and was the first African-American to hold that position in a white-owned company. As well as producing albums and writing arrangements for his own artists, he also worked with other artists including Andy Williams, Peggy Lee and Aretha Franklin. He still continued to work with Frank Sinatra, arranging conducting the album It Might As Well Be Swing.

The exceptional Peggy Lee with the Quincy Jones Orchestra in 1961 – As Time Goes By.

Into the early 60s and still under thirty years old, Quincy was working with top artists as an arranger. Joining his growing list of stars was the young Greek singer Nana Mouskouri. Quincy also released his own solo recordings including Walking In Space, You’ve Got It Bad and I Heard That! His Soul Bossa Nova has been used as the theme music for a number of films and television shows as well as the 1998 World Cup.

One of the most prolific singers that he worked with in the early sixties was Lesley Gore. Born Lesley Sue Goldstein, she recorded the iconic It’s My Party in 1963 at age 16 and went on to have hits with You Don’t Own me and California Nights. Quincy produced all of her four million-selling singles in the first half of the 60s including ‘The Look of Love in 1965.

In 1964 Frank Sinatra hired Quincy to arrange and conduct his second album with Count Basie, It Might As Well Be Swing. |He followed this by conducting and arranging the singer’s live album with The Basie Band, Sinatra at the Sands (1966).

Frank Sinatra was not the only member of the Rat Pack that Quincy was to work with when he arranged and conducted the trio along with Johnny Carson with the Count Basie orchestra at a charity benefit in 1965. The event was broadcast in movie theaters around the country before being released on DVD.

In 1964, it was time for Quincy to turn his attention to a then mainly white dominated sector of film scores and his first major motion picture project for Sidney Lumet was The Pawnbroker. The film that starred Rod Steiger, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Morgan Freeman. Apart from being Quincy’s first film score it was also the first American film to tell the story of the Holocaust from the perspective of a survivor and also one of the first to show nudity.

Quincy Jone and the main theme from The Pawnbroker

Following the success of his debut into the movie industry, Quincy left Mercury Records and moved to Los Angles. His career as a composer was established rapidly with films such as The Slender Thread, In The Heat of the Night, MacKenna’s Gold, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice and The Getaway. He has written the scores for over thirty major motion pictures.

This success led to he and his song writing partner, Bob Russell becoming the first African Americans to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song for The Eyes of Love from the film Banning. The same year Quincy was also the first to be nominated twice in the same year for Best Original Score for the film In Cold Blood.

My thanks to those who have uploaded videos to YouTube.

Buy Quincy Jones Music.

Sources and information on tours and news for Quincy Jones.

Next time… Quincy Jones and the 1970s

About William Price King

Price King Eric Sempe

William Price King is an American jazz singer, musician and composer. Originally he studied classical music and opera but over the years his style has evolved to what many refer to as the ‘sweet point’ where music and voice come together so beautifully.

His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. His debut jazz album is called ‘Home,’ a collection of contemporary songs and whilst clearly a homage to their wonderful legacy it brings a new and refreshing complexity to the vocals that is entrancing.

William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area. His album ‘Home’ is available to download and he is currently working on his new album available later in 2015.

Links to website –
Facebook –
Twitter – @wpkofficial
Regular Venue –

You can find the previous post for Quincy Jones and the other series including Nat King Cole, Mel Torme, Roberta Flack, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Sir George Shearing in this directory.

We both would be very appreciative if you could leave a comment and share this new series on social media – Twitter and FB in particular. Many thanks Sally and William.