Thursday, October 23, 2014

52 Ancestors #44: Edgar J. Wood's Jazz-Era Summer of Playing Jazz in Europe

When my father-in-law Edgar J. Wood (1903-1986) was in college at Tufts, he spent two summers during the 1920s playing his way across the Atlantic as part of an All-American college jazz band. At least two dozen college jazz bands toured Europe each summer, following a similar pattern.

Ed and his band buddies would board an ocean-liner in New York, receive free passage by playing for guests during the trans-Atlantic voyage, and then criss-cross Europe, playing at clubs and resorts that had booked their services. They would cruise back to New York in the same way, trading music for passage.

Above, Ed (second from right) with his college buddies on the S.S. Rotterdam, looking natty in their blazers and bow-ties, neat white trousers, and stylish shoes. Ed is the only one without an instrument, because his grand piano was in the ship's grand salon.

The 1926 summer band consisted of: Leo Lyons, Norm Mertelmeyer, Jimmie Rosselli, Joe Rosselli, Gil Gilbert, Ed Wood, Al Egerter, and Jack Conant.

Ed's scrapbook of this summer jazz tour includes a clipping from the Boston Herald of October 10, 1926. So 88 years ago this month, 23-year-old Ed was interviewed about his most recent jazz-era summer job. He told the interviewer about an unforgettable gig they played in a palace in Venice:
One of the things I remember best was when we played at a costume ball given by Count Volki, Italian minister of finance--he was at the head of the Italian debt commission to the United States, you know--at his castle on the Grand Canal, in honor of Prince Umberto, the Crown Prince. It was attended by members of the royal family and a host of Italian dukes and counts. It was one of the things that you see only in the movies, unless you are fortunate enough to be a member of the Italian nobility or a jazz musician.

2 comments:

  1. He was quite an adventurer.

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    1. You are so right! More photos of his European travels coming soon :)

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