1996 Inductees

Julia, born July 8, 1922 in Honea Path, South Carolina, moved to Tulsa with her family, where he father began his infamous barbeque business.

She graduated from Booker T. Washington, going on to further her education at Dillard University in New Orleans, and was awarded a full scholarship to study at Julliard School of Music in New York City. She was hired as the musical director for the USO Touring Company of Porgy & Bess, immediately following graduation. The company toured the South Pacific. In addition, she also served as a civilian actress and technician based in Assmanhasen, Germany.

An accomplished accordionist, Warren was director of music at First Baptist North Tulsa for 16 years and taught piano for more than 40 years at Latimer School of Music. Many of her students became musicians. She served as director of the Civic Male Chorus.

Ernie Fields Jr., not to be confused with just plain Ernie Fields, is an established bandleader, producer, talent scout, and saxophonist. As a young man, Fields Jr. played a range of saxophones in his father's bands. By the time his father retired in 1966, Fields Jr. was already well established. He's a fine example of the horn player who is much more than that, often lending considerable assistance to whatever bandleader is employing him in a variety of areas. Fields Jr., collaborating with producer Steve Garrie, is credited with pulling Bobby Bland out of the bland and totally revitalizing his career. While making some of his own goofy records in the '70s, of which "Avenging Disco Godfather" is one of the more memorable titles, Fields Jr. was best known as a collaborator. His associations include great soul performers such as the late Marvin Gaye and the eventually rehabilitated Rick James; as a top Hollywood studio contractor through the '80s, Fields Jr. took part in countless recording sessions, some of which he did not receive proper credit.

The swing revival of the '90s brought Fields Jr. great pleasure as a saxophonist, allowing him a chance to revisit the music he had originally played with his father. He also began touring in the modern funk band of trombonist Fred Wesley, the addition of bagpipes to the saxophonist's arsenal of instruments in keeping with the general weirdness of Wesley's Funkadelic vibe. Wesley's recording of "Wuda Cuda Shuda" provides a taste of Fields Jr. on bagpipes, an instrument previously associated in jazz with only a few players such as Rufus Harley and Albert Ayler. 

Fields is the son of the infamous Ernie Fields, band leader of the Ernie Fields Orchestra.

Harold (Hal) Singer was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1919. A talented young musician, he could play the violin, piano, and especially the reed instruments. He soon chose the saxophone over all other instruments. He quit college at Hampton begin his musical career on the road with bandleader Terrence Holder. This led to others such as Ernie Fields, Ed Christian, Nat Towles, Lloyd Hunter, Tommy Douglas and Jay McShann. Singer moved to New York and spent the mid forties with the bands of Earl Bostic, Big Sid Catlett, Don Byas, and Roy Eldridge. In  1947 Singer joined the band of Oran "Hot Lips" Page and soon developed a two tenor team with Texan Tom Archia. 

He recorded the instrumental "Cornbread". It became a huge hit on the R & B charts that year, and gave Singer a new nickname. Now a big draw on the personal appearance circuit, he recorded a follow up tune called "Beef Stew" which although a good seller, was no match for his first record for the label.

In 1950, Singer and his combo became big box office items with The Orioles at Baltimore's Royal Theater. Hal and his band were the first Black entertainment act to play the Savoy Cafe in Boston. In July Singer moves from Savoy records to the Mercury label. In November his first side for Mercury is released - "Fine As Wine" and "Rock Around The Clock" on # 8196. In May of 1951 Hal Singer joins with Helen Humes and Joe Turner on a tour of the Midwest, and at about that time, Singer moves to another label, this time Decca's subsidiary label Coral Records. In September, Coral # 65070 is released featuring Hal and his combo on the tunes "Blue Velvet" and "Buttermilk and Beans". 

At the Apollo Theater in New York in February of 1952, there is a big "battle of the bands" featuring Singer, Lowell Fulson, and Ray Charles. In March Coral Records releases "I Hear a Rhapsody" and "Easy Street" on # 60669. Sarah Vaughn joins Singer and his band for an R & B river boat cruise in Washington D.C. In July Hal does an interesting date in Atlantic City for one week backing up Billie Holiday. In August Singer changes labels once again, this time returning to Savoy Records. His first outing is with Florence Wright with a rhythm & blues version of the country-pop hit "I Went to Your Wedding". In September Savoy releases "Indian Love Call" and "The Frog Hop" on # 861. In October Coral pulls one off the shelf with Singer's versions of "Secret Love" and "Please Doctor Jive" on 65098. 

In February of 1953, the Hal Singer combo stays for a week's engagement at Pep's in Philadelphia. During that time he and his combo record with the Four Buddies and Dolly Cooper for Savoy. His five piece combo consists of Singer on tenor sax, Kenny Owens on piano, Jim Cannady on guitar, Jimmy Lewis on bass, and Bobby Donaldson on drums. He then embarked on a month tour of one-nighters in the Midwest. He records for Savoy and his band cuts the tunes "Easy Living" and "Home Town" released on # 890. In 1954 there are tours of the South and a long stay in Philadelphia, followed by a West Coast tour with The Ravens. By June of 1955 Hal Singer decides to quit the road, and remain in New York City and concentrate on studio and freelance work as soon as all tour obligations are met. These include a Southern tour with Earl King in the fall, and a six week tour with the "Lucky Seven Blues Show". Late in 1955 Hal records "Hot Rod" and "Rock And Roll" on Savoy # 1179. In early 1956 "Hot Rod" is such a big instrumental hit that Singer decides to remain on the road in support of his record. 

In February of 1956 Hal appears at Hunter Hancock's big "Rock 'n Roll Jubilee" at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. In March at Buffalo's Club Zanzibar, WKBW deejay George "The Hound" Lorenz honors Singer as having the biggest instrumental hit of the year and a top ten seller in the area. In June, Singer's original version of "Cornbread" from 1949 is listed as one of the top fifteen greatest R & B instrumentals ever. In July Singer covers "Movin' and Groovin" and "Crossroads" on Savoy # 1194. In March of 1957 "Catnip" and "Early Hours" are released on DeLuxe # 6114. Late in 1957, Ann Cole, Little Willie John, Hal Singer and his band hit the road for a series of one-nighters throughout the South. In 1958 Jamie Records of Philadelphia acquires a number of master recordings by Hal Singer from Teddy McRae originally on sessions for Savoy.

Hal Singer spends the late fifties appearing on many R B, rock, and jazz package shows. He also records some jazz works for the Prestige label. He has a long running gig at New York City's Metropole where he joins many swing jazz veterans for on stage jam sessions. After an early 1960s European tour with Earl Hines, Singer remains in Europe settling in France and becoming a member of the ex-pat musical community. He records for the French labels Black & Blue, Pathe, Le Chant du Monde, and Futura. He has made a number of international tours with various musicians, and appeared in the film "Taxi Blues" in 1990. This interesting film about life in Russia after the fall of the Communist regime, gives Singer a chance to play his own life-an American sax player who likes the musicianship of a Russian tenor player who is fighting his alcoholic excesses. In the film Singer is the way out for the Russian. It is further ironic that about this same time the world was re-discovering another ex-pat American sax player - Dexter Gordon, in the French made "Round Midnight".

Hal Singer was one of the many session players that were so often uncredited on many classic R & B recordings. In his case however, two all time classics live on - "Cornbread" and "Hot Rod.”

Billy Hunt was born in Grove, Oklahoma, in 1935. Hunt graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a major in music. He played with the Woody Herman band for seven years and with Harry James for three years before returning to the Woody Herman Band for another five years. He won a Grammy award for his record jazz solo of “Days of Wine and Roses.
He played the Copa Club in New York City and the Dunes in Las Vegas. He played with many well-known vocalists during his time. Upon returning from his musical career tour he attended the University of North Eastern State and received his Master’s degree. During that time he began playing at the Shangri La Resort with the Forrest Watson Orchestra where he played for approximately 20 years.

Nolin was born in Oklahoma City on April 3, 1934. Inspired by the guitar sound of T-Bone Walker, B. B. King and Lowell Fulson, he began playing in public as a teenager, launching his recording career after moving to California. Nolen performed and recorded with Jimmy Wilson, Chuck Higgins, and others, most notably Johnny Otis, on the West Coast. He played guitar on Otis’ classic “Willie and the Hand Jive” in 1958 in addition to numerous other sides with Otis and recordings of his own for Federal, Elko and Imperial. Nolen’s first session with James Brown in 1965 produced the first of a multitude of trendsetting No. 1 hits, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.”

Jimmy Nolen, blues guitarist whose funk rhythms formed the basis of the James Brown groove for almost 20 years died of a heart attack on December 18, 1983, in Atlanta. Although his position as a sideman in the James Brown band kept him in near anonymity, Nolen was hailed in blues circles for his own recordings of the 1950s and for the blues solos he always delivered at regular stops during Brown’s live performances. 

Walter Purl “Foots” Thomas was born in Muskogee, February 10, 1907, and died in Englewood, NJ August 26, 1981. Reed player and arranger, brother of Joe Thomas, he grew up in Topeka, Kansas and began his career as a musician while attending college. After moving to New York in 1927, he worked with Jelly Roll Morton., Luis Russell, and the pianist Joe Steele, and in 1929 joined the Missourians; he remained a member of this band after Cab Calloway assumed its leadership. He contributed many arrangements to its repertory, including “Minnie the Moocher” recorded in 1931. He left the band in 1943, played for a brief period with Don Redman, and in 1944 worked as a leader. In 1948, he ceased playing to pursue a successful career as an agent, manager, and music publisher. Thomas played alto, tenor, and baritone saxophone, clarinet, and flute; he may be heard as a soloist on early recordings by the Missourians and Calloway, but in his late years, he worked chiefly as a section player and arranger.

Melvin Moore, originally of Tulsa and now a New Yorker, wanted to be a singer when he was eight years old and was barely 17 when he ran away from home to pursue that goal. Just three units shy of high school graduation at the time he greatly displeased his father when he left. But he returned in a year, made peace at home and finished high school before leaving again.
From 1936 to 1950, Moore sang and recorded with some of America’s finest bands, including Fields’ orchestra, of course, and performed in front of such musicians as Billy Taylor, Terry Gibbs, Charlie Mingus, Neal Hefti and Zoot Sims. He left the Gillespie Band in 1950 for the Billy Bowen Ink Spots, and stayed with them until 1962. Moore then joined Decca Records as a promotion and marketing executive and went to Brunswick in 1966 as national director of R&B promotion and artist development. At the time of his induction, he was still serving as a consultant. 

Don Byas, born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, October 21, 1912 died August 24, 1972. As a teenager, he played alto subbing in territorial bands like Bennie Moten's and Walter Page's Blue Devils. As a student at Langston College, he led his own band, Don Byas and the Collegiate Ramblers. Between 1933, when he switched to tenor, and 1941, he worked with a variety of bands, first in California and then New York--among them: Buck Clayton, Lionel Hampton, Eddie Barefield, Eddie Mallory, Lucky Millinder, Andy Kirk and Redman. In January 19'41, he became Lester Young's successor in the Count Basie band and quickly established his abilities, cementing his reputation. 

Byas' style evolved in the lush, rococo, full-bodied tenor tradition of Coleman Hawkins, but his sound was unmistakably his own, immediately recognizable. Byas was a masterful swing player with his own style, an advanced sense of harmony, and a confidence and adventurousness that found him hanging around the beboppers and asking to play. He held his own and did so while insistently remaining himself: he never picked up the rhythmic phrases, the lightning triplets that are indigenous to bop. Yet Charlie Parker said of him that Byas was playing everything there was to play. 

When he left for Europe in the fall of 1946 with the Don Redman band, Don Byas' reputation was at its peak. He was celebrated as a tireless, original and influential musician in his romantic approach to "Laura," he had something of a hit in that recording. 

He stayed in Europe, becoming the first in a continuously expanding family of expatriate jazzmen, and although the he was much in demand by the jazz-appreciative Europeans, he was largely forgotten back home. Few of his records were available here and without personal appearances it is difficult, if not impossible, to sustain a following. He returned to the U.S. once, in the summer of 1970, received little of the money or adulation he might have expected, and returned to Holland where he died in August 1972 of lung cancer. He was 59.

A Tulsa native, born in 1929, by the age of 12 was playing regularly at his church. He toured the “chittlin’ circuit” with his high school band teacher Clarence Fields, in a jazz group called the Music Masters with Ernie Fields, Sr., and Clarence Love, before organizing his own trio. In the armed forces, Estell played with the Air Force Band. An accomplished singer, he was proficient at piano, reeds, and brass. Fields, Sr. said the difference between Estell and other big names of the time “was a record contract.” Estell was known and respected coast to coast as “a musician’s musician.” Although he toured nationally with Lionel Hampton, Sam Cooke, Bill Doggett, Ernie Freeman, Roy Milton and Art Farmer, he was only known to record once with Farmer. In 1959, he married and settled in Tulsa and began playing local clubs and touring on weekends. During the 60s, among others, he played with local band leader Harry Vann.