1993 Inductees

The late Earl Bostic, best known as an alto saxophonist, composer and arranger, but also an accomplished trumpeter and guitarist, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma April 25, 19113.
He played clarinet and alto in high school and Boy Scout bands, then studied harmony, theory and various instruments at Xavier University in New Orleans before touring with Charlie Creath-Fate Marable, Marion Sears and Clyde Turpin.

Moving to New York City, Bostic played with Edgar Hayes, Don Redman, Leon Gross, Hot Lips Page and Cab Calloway. He arranged for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra as well as Louis Prima and the Ina Ray Hutton all-girls’ band. 

He played alto as well as trumpet and guitar heading his own band in Harlem in 1941 at the Mimo Club. He joined Lionel Hampton’s band for two years, before starting again on his own in 1945, recording first with a big band on the Majestic label, then with a smaller group for Gotham records.

Bostic achieved extraordinary success later on King records, but not in jazz music. Instead, his big-toned, extroverted alto saxophone solos found favor with rhythm-and-blues audiences – his hits included “Flamingo,” “Sleep,” “Moonglow,” “Cherokee” and “Your Go to My Head.”
Bostic was elected to the 1959 Playboy All Star band in a readers’ poll and appeared at the Playboy Jazz Festival in Chicago in August of that year.

He scored as a songwriter with “Let Me Off Uptown,” the Gene Krupa band’s novelty hit featuring Anita O’Day and Roy Eldridge on vocals; “The Major & the Minor,” recorded by guitarist Alvin Ray, and “Brooklyn Boogie,” recorded by Louis Prima.
Bostic died October 28, 1965, in Rochester, New York.

The late Elmer L. Davis, Sr. made a significant and indelible impression on the Tulsa community with a brilliant dual career as a director of sacred music for his church – Paradise Baptist – and Tulsa public Schools, in which he directed the entire system of vocal music for 10 years.

His first teaching positions were with the racially separate Bristow and Anadarko public schools. He spent a brief time in Bristow, and then moved to Anadarko, where he spent four years as director of music for Lincoln High School. He returned to college – the University of Oklahoma, on scholarship – and was awarded an M.A. degree in 1957. He then applied for and received a position with the Tulsa Public Schools as an elementary teacher of music. He taught at Ralph Bunche, E. W. Woods, and Barnard until 1971, when he was made supervisor of music for kindergarten through sixth grades, system-wide. He held that position for two year, then rose to the directorship of the TPS vocal music system, a position he held until his death in 1983. Peaking at the membership of 35-40 at any given time, the Chorus of Angels cumulatively numbered in the hundreds who learned from their director and took t hose lessons with them to other church choirs, a number serving elsewhere as music directors.

Elmer Davis spent most of his life singing for something or someone. After his high school graduation, he spent the summer in California working for Warner Brothers and appearing at the old Palace Theater under the stage name of Lee Lane, a sojourn he repeated the next summer following his first year at Langston University.

His voice was a beautiful tenor akin to t hose of  Nat “King” Cole  and Billy Eckstine.
He performed at the famed Skyline Club in Oklahoma City on the same bill with Jimmy Witherspoon, by whom he subsequently was selected to travel for several months as an opening act. Another forte was serious concert music. He performed for many club groups around Tulsa, and for others throughout the state; but gospel music was his greatest love, so he returned to that discipline and to the more stately messages of spiritual music, which he believed to be a dying art.

As a composer and writer of music, Davis was noted for songs he wrote as signatures for the various schools at which he taught and for music created all-school music concerts, including “We Are the Future of Tulsa.”

Another sideline interest developed in journalism. Her wrote sports and special projects for the Oklahoma Eagle and also served as advertising sales assistant.
Elmer L. Davis, Sr., died June 24, 1983.

Bebop, the first jazz played publicly for art’s sake rather than entertainment, exploded out of New York’s 52nd Street in the late years of World War II. Although bop enchanted jazz musicians, many people didn’t quite know what to do with its complexities. Bob puzzled many before it soared in popularity.

Bop’s co-creator, John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie, died in his sleep in January 1993 at the age of 75 in New Jersey Hospital where he was being treated for pancreatic cancer. People didn’t quite know what to do with or about Dizzy early on – but they soon learn4ed to enjoy him and his huge spectacular artistry.

Dizzy Gillespie visited Tulsa a number of times. When he was here last, in 1991 for an appearance at the Mayfest celebration, the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame made him an honorary member – and delighted him with a plaque.

His formal and posthumous induction into the Hall will took place June 16, 1993, in connection with the Juneteenth on Greenwood Heritage Festival.

Along with Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Miles Davis, Gillespie stood as one of the towering figures of modern jazz. He turned jazz in new directions in at least two ways – as a founding Father of….bebop and when he collaborated with Cuban musicians (most importantly, conga player Chano Pozo) to give African-American music a Latin beat.  Early-jazz pioneer Jelly Roll Morton referred to as the "Spanish Tinge".

Gillespie's image is almost inseparable from his trademark trumpet whose bell was bent at a 45 degree angle rather than a traditional straight trumpet. In honor of this trademark, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History has collected Gillespie's B-flat trumpet. This was said to be the result of accidental damage caused during a job, but the constriction caused by the bending altered the tone of the instrument, and he liked the effect.
In 1960, he was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame.

In the 1980s, Dizzy Gillespie led the United Nation Orchestra. For three years Flora Purim toured with the Orchestra and she credits Gillespie with evolving her understanding of jazz after being in the field for over two decades. David Sánchez also toured with the group..
In 1982, Dizzy Gillespie had a cameo on Stevie Wonder's hit Do I Do. Gillespie's tone gradually faded in the last years in life, and his performances often focused more on his protégés such as Arturo Sandoval and Jon Faddis; his good-humored comedic routines became more and more a part of his live act.

In 1988, Gillespie had worked with Canadian flautist and saxophonist Moe Koffman on their prestigious album “Oop Pop a Da” He did fast scat vocals on the title track and a couple of the other tracks were played only on trumpet.

In 1989 Gillespie gave 300 performances in 27 countries, appeared in 100 U.S. cities in 31 states and the District of Columbia, headlined three television specials, performed with two symphonies, and recorded four albums. The next year, at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts ceremonies celebrating the centennial of American jazz, Gillespie received the Kennedy Center Honors Award and the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers Duke Ellington Award for 50 years of achievement as a composer, performer, and bandleader. In 1993 he received the Polar Music Prize in Sweden.

Gillespie published his autobiography, To Be or Not to Bop in 1979

Jimmy Liggins, brother of Joe Liggins, seemed to have little in common with his brother. According to Specialty Records, “Joe the elder (born in July, 1916, Guthrie), wrote and recorded music which was organized, that of a schooled musician, while Jimmy’s (born October 14, 1922, in Newby, Oklahoma) was more rough and primitive. That is not to say that Joe’s was wimpy or that Jimmy’s was hard on musical ears. On the contrary, both made exciting, danceable music which was very popular in its time – the heyday of urban jump blues, that important link in the evolution between Swing and Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

The work of the two brothers foreshadowed rock-and-roll in the views of Specialty and other observers. Guitarist Jimmy Liggins had a smash hit on specialty called “Cadillac Boogie” in 1947. Jackie Brenston had a Number 1 hit in 1951 with what’s often referred to as the first rock-and-roll record, “Rocket 88 on Chess, but one source says Brenston freely admitted it was based on “Cadillac Boogie.”

The Liggins family moved to San Diego when Jimmy was about nine and Joe was 15. Joe recorded Honeydripper in 1944 which sold over one million copies in 1945-46. Jimmy did not immediately follow Joe’s path. He was a disc jockey for a while, a professional boxer    very briefly, then worked for a year as Joe’s driver when the band was on the road.
Impressed by the kind of money Joe was earning from “The Honeydripper” and another classic, “I’ve Got a Right to Cry,” Jimmy started writing songs himself and formed his own band in 1946. Neither Joe nor Leon Rene’s Exclusive Records showed any interest; however, so Jimmy turned to specialty Records, which had been having some success at that time with Roy Milton.

Jimmy’s Drop of Joy Orchestra recorded for Specialty from 1947 to 1952 and the relationship yielded a number of Billboard Top 10 R&B hits. They toured widely throughout the southern states, where j8mmy’s brand of blues and rocking boogie – quite different from his brother Joe’s more urbane music – proved popular with record buyers and influential with the young post-war generation of southern blues and R&B musician.

Jimmy’s success did not follow his brothers in Specialty’s account: “Misfortune hounded Jimmy, in spite of his successful records, in the form of bad bookings, canceled engagements and continuous union problems. . . .Then, on April Fools’ Day 1949, Jimmy was accidently shot in the mouth and badly hurt during a fracas at an engagement in Jackson, Mississippi….” He recovered and bounced back with recordings of “Saturday Night Boogie Woogie Man,” “Shuffle shuck,” and “Drunk,” the last song his biggest hit at Number 4 in the Billboard rankings in late 1952. Jimmy and the Drops of Joy left Specialty in 1954 and recorded just briefly for Aladdin before essentially disappearing from the national scene.

Jimmy established his own label, Duplex, in 1958, and continued to release singles sporadically over the next 20 years while moving his headquarters from city to city – Los Angeles, San Diego, El Dorado in Arkansas, Tennessee and Madison, Florida – before settling in Durham, North Carolina, in the mid-70s. In Durham, Jimmy stayed busy with his record shop, studio, and nightclub promotion. When the Swedish Route 66 label released a collection of Liggins’ 1947-52 recordings in 1981, his own Duplex label served as Route 66 distributor for the southeastern United States. 

Jimmy died in Durham on July 18, 1983, preceding brother Hoe’s death by four years and two weeks.

Lee Shaw studied classical music from the age of five and continued without interruption – even during the summers – until she had earned a master’s degree. Established as a classical accompanist and teacher, she had achieved what she’d worked so hard for. But something was missing – she was not entirely fulfilled.

She heard jazz and decided to pursue a career as a jazz pianist. This abrupt shift was triggered in the late 1950s when she was working as an intermission pianist at Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago, where she was exposed to singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday appearing with their own trios. They took her to see and hear Count Basie at the Blue Note. She decided to learn to play the wonderful music she heard.

“I have never regretted it,” she told an interviewer, “although the cost of playing only the music I believed in has been very great and I had to adjust my style of living to the income of a dues-paying jazz musician.” Shaw lived in New York state for years and has ranged out from that base in her performances with her trio, including husband Stan on drums. They were married in 1963, two years after establishing the trio.

Shaw was born in Cushing and reared in Ada. She earned a B.A. degree from the former Oklahoma College for Women and a master’s from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago.  She did further graduate work at the Conservatory of Music in Puerto Rico, and later, after she’s made her transition to jazz music, studied privately with jazz great Oscar Peterson. She asked him to take her on. Also conservatory trained, he agreed after he heard her play.