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Music: Pittsburgh Jazz

This guide provides an overview of resources from the Music Department at CLP. We have books, printed music, sound recordings, databases, special collections and musical instruments.

Pittsburgh Jazz Musicians

This page is a good place to start your research for information about jazz musicians from Pittsburgh. The artists listed here have contributed to Pittsburgh's reputation as one of the most important cities in the history of jazz.

Saying that a musician is a Pittsburgh jazz musician might mean various things:

  • Born here but raised elsewhere (e.g., Paul Chambers)
  • Born elsewhere but raised here (e.g., Mary Lou Williams)
  • From a Pittsburgh suburb or exurb (e.g., Vinnie Colaiuta or Slide Hampton)
  • Attended school or taught here (e.g., Geri Allen or Sean Jones)
  • Spent a significant part of career here (e.g., Curtis Lundy)
  • Lived here for just a short while (e.g., Lena Horne)
  • Moved here late in career (e.g., Richie Cole) and so on.

Internationally Known Pittsburgh Jazz Musicians

The criteria used here to determine whether a jazz musician is “internationally known” is an entry in either Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler’s “Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz” or the “New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed.“, edited by Barry Kernfeld.

View table.

More Pittsburgh Jazz Musicians

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Pittsburgh Jazz Music Groups

Group names that simply contain artist names plus the type of group such as the Ahmad Jamal Trio or Roger Humphries Big Band are not listed.

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Further Research at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Music Department

Research on the above individuals and groups is a multi-faceted process and might involve using:

Further Research Online and Outside the Library

  • The African American Jazz Preservation Society of Pittsburgh is especially focused on the Musicians Local 471, Pittsburgh’s labor union for African American musicians, and conducted dozens of interviews with its members.
  • The late Harold Young’s Jazz Workshop Inc. has instructed hundreds of young musicians. Additionally, they provide concerts and programs to promote and preserve jazz in Pittsburgh.
  • The Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild hosts performances, produces live recordings, and provides educational programs to promote Pittsburgh jazz. They are home to Stanley Turrentine’s archive. Also, the MCG Jazz Pittsburgh Jazz Legends program pays tribute “to the jazz artisans who stayed in Pittsburgh” and mentored the hometown scene “on and off the bandstand.” It includes: Don Aliquo Sr., Chuck Austin, Michelle Bensen, Harold Betters, Kenny Blake, Cecil Brooks II, Harry D. Clark, Kenneth Cook, Etta Cox, Frank Cunimondo, Joe Dallas, Raymond A. DeFade, Dwayne Dolphin, Al Dowe, Jim Guerra, Nelson Harrison, Roger Humphries, James Johnson Jr., Gene Ludwig, Art Nance, Joe Negri, George “Duke” Spaulding, Judge Warren Watson, and John Wilson.
  • Many currently active Pittsburgh jazz musicians plus items of historic interest can be found on trombonist and jazz historian Dr. Nelson Harrison’s Pittsburgh Jazz Network.
  • The Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival employs over 140 local musicians each year.
  • The radio shows Swing and Sway and Saturday Night Jazz with Bob Studebaker on 90.5 FM WESA-Pittsburgh often feature Pittsburgh musicians. Also check out the Pittsburgh Jazz Channel.

Research Pages

Deuces Wild

Deuces Wild was considered to be one of the best small jazz combos in Pittsburgh during the 1940s and 1950s. This web page attempts to sort out their confusing history and fluid membership.

Founding and Naming of the Group

Obituaries for tenor saxophonist Jon Walton state that he "formed" or "helped form" Deuces Wild in 1946. Trombonist Tommy Turk stated:
"I played with a group in Pittsburgh and fell in love with them immediately. We hit it off real good. There was a tenor player by the name of Jon Walton who was with Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, and we got along immediately when we played together." (Obituary, Jazz Journal International, Nov. 1981).

According to Vince Leonard's obituary of Turk: "Turk established himself in Pittsburgh with the Deuces Wild, a jazz quintet that played the Carnival and Midway Lounges, downtown, during the '40s... Along with Turk and [Reid] Jaynes [piano], the earliest Deuces consisted of drummer Tommy Noll, later replaced by Dick Brosky; bassist Joe Wallace, the former symphony player replaced in the group by Danny Mastri; and John [i.e., Jon] Walton on saxophone." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Aug. 6, 1981).

However, a 1964 Pittsburgh Courier article about a Carl Arter and Jon Walton concert stated, "Mr. Brosky coined the name and played drums for Pittsburgh's most famous jazz group: 'The Deuces Wild.'" (Oct. 24, 1964). It's unclear whether Brosky was the original drummer or whether he contributed the name before joining the group.

Carnival and Midway Lounges

In the late 1940s era of the group, they gigged almost continuously at the Carnival Lounge in downtown Pittsburgh before moving to the Midway Lounge in 1950. By the early 1950s, Flo Cassinelli had begun replacing Walton on tenor saxophone. Cassinelli listed the members as himself, Turk on trombone, Jaynes on piano, Mastri (nicknamed "Foxy") on bass and Carl Peticca on drums. He also boasted in a 1993 interview that they were the "best band in town" and that "all the band players that would come a 25 mile area...would make a beeline to downtown to hear this band." (OHMP 92).

Pianist Bobby Negri stated in a 1994 interview that in the early 1950s he joined Deuces Wild at the Midway Lounge and mentioned Turk, Cassinelli and Walton as an original members. (OHMP 138).

Pianist Ray Crummie also described his joining of "Tommy Turk's combo" at the Midway Lounge in "1952 or 1953." He listed the members as Cassinelli, Walton, Turk, Mastri, and sometimes Dick Brosky, and later, Carl Peticca on drums. He said, "I think they still called it the Deuces Wild; that name was in existence since the late 1940s." (OHMP 114). Crummie also referred to Turk as the leader of the group and mentioned that in the last year and a half at the Midway "we had a lot of celebrities" sit in with the group including Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge and Miles Davis.

Roy "Little Jazz" Eldridge's sitting in with Deuces Wild was described by Roy Kohler: "By the late 1940s the Deuces Wild...had become the best known jazz group in Pittsburgh and saxist [sic] Jon Walton called his old friend, 'Little Jazz,' to come back to town and sit in. He came for one week in 1947 to the Carnival Lounge and stayed for three. His rapport with the Deuces Wild produced some great episodes in Pittsburgh jazz." (Pittsburgh Press, June 4, 1972).

According to both Cassinelli and Crummie, a typical week would involve playing 6 nights Monday through Saturday from about 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. with the addition of Saturday afternoons. Sets were typically 40 minutes with a 20 minute break. Pianist Teenie Trent often played solo in between Deuces Wild sets. (OHMP 92 and 114).

Two Deuces

In the mid-1950s, according to Bobby Negri, Deuces Wild split in two. (OHMP 138). Turk, bassist Harry Bush, and Brosky gigged at the Point View Hotel in Brentwood, a few miles south of Pittsburgh, while Cassinelli and Negri and Mastri played "constantly" in the Hill District, including the Crawford Grill. For example, Deuces Wild featuring Dodo Marmarosa on piano had a stint at the Crawford Grill in 1957. (Pittsburgh Courier, Nov. 16, 1957). This second group had Peticca on drums and then eventually Spider Rondinelli.

To make things even more confusing, Crummie also stated that he played with Cassinelli at this time. (OHMP 114).

Turk's gig in Brentwood was from about 1955 until he moved to Las Vegas in 1959, He returned occasionally, though; an ad in the Pittsburgh Courier for a 1962 Jazz Festival in Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in the Oakland neighborhood lists one of the acts as "Tommy Turk and the Deuces Wild." (Nov. 18, 1962).

In the late 1950s, the Cassinelli and Negri version of Deuces Wild also spent summers playing at the Cowshed in Conneaut Lake, a resort area about an hour and a half north of Pittsburgh. (OHMP 138).

By the early 1960s, the members of Deuces Wild had gone their separate ways. In June 1972, though, as part of a week-long Pittsburgh Jazz Festival, Deuces Wild played a special luncheon honoring trumpeter Roy Eldridge. The lineup for this incarnation of the group is unknown, but it was supposed to include original tenor saxophonist Jon Walton. Unfortunately, he died a month beforehand and "had been looking forward to playing at Roy Eldridge Day (June 16) during the Pittsburgh Jazz Week and Festival." (Downbeat, Aug. 17, 1972).

Regularly Performing Deuces Wild Members

  • Jon Walton - tenor saxophone
  • Flo Cassinelli - tenor saxophone
  • Tommy Turk - trombone
  • Reid Jaynes - piano
  • Bobby Negri - piano
  • Ray Crummie - piano
  • Joe Wallace - bass
  • Danny Mastri - bass
  • Harry Bush - bass
  • Tommy Noll - drums
  • Dick Brosky - drums
  • Carl Peticca - drums
  • Spider Rondinelli - drums

Featured Local Guests or Session Musicians

  • Tiny Irvin - vocals
  • Jeanne Baxter - vocals
  • Hershey Cohen - trumpet
  • Chuck Cochran - piano
  • Beverly Durso - piano, vocals
  • Dodo Marmarosa - piano
  • Terry McCoy - drums
  • Bill Price - drums
  • Rodger Ryan - drums

Four 45 RPM singles released in the mid-to-late 1950s by Deuces Wild (led by Cassinelli) are documented in Carlos Peña's Pittsburgh Jazz Records and Beyond, 1950-1985

Updated January 29, 2013.

Eugenie Baird (c. 1924-1988)

This page provides documentation on the life and career of jazz vocalist Eugenie Baird who had an active stage, recording and radio career in the 1940s and 1950s.

"Pittsburgh's Own"

Advertisements for Baird's appearances at Pittsburgh's Stanley Theater with Tony Pastor and his orchestra in October 1941 and with Glen Gray and his Casa Loma Orchestra in November 1943, both read "featuring Pittsburgh's Own Eugenie Baird." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 3, 1941; Pittsburgh Press, November 5, 1943).

She was described as a "local vocal vision" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and "the Pittsburgh girl" in the Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph. (October 4, 1941).

In 1948, advertisements for her engagement at Pittsburgh's Copa announced, "Pittsburgh's Darling Daughter Comes Home." (Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, September 20, 1948; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Tuesday, September 21, 1948).

Local bandleader Benny Burton complained that after Baird's career peak, when she returned to perform in Pittsburgh, she didn't acknowledge it as her hometown (OHMP 103).


The Pittsburgh Press more specifically described her as "the girl from Brookline," (November 6, 1943). Brookline is a neighborhood on the southern edge of Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph stated she was "the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Baird of 2715 Norabell Ave., Brookline" in an article saying she was "back home again -- singing in a local club," (September 21, 1948).

To further complicate matters, though, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described her as "the Mt. Lebanon girl who went from KDKA here to Bing Crosby's radio music hall." (September 20, 1948). It is possible that Eugenie or her family moved from Brookline to the more upscale Mt. Lebanon borough just outside the southern city limits of Pittsburgh, but this is unlikely for two reasons. An article stated she was "a student at Langley High School" which is a city school serving Brookline and not Mt. Lebanon (Montreal Gazette, August 17, 1948). Secondly, an article about an auto crash that killed Eugenie's brother, Eugene, stated, "Police said all four youths lived within a few blocks of each other in Pittsburgh's Brookline district." (New Castle News, December 19, 1953).

New York City

Though it's unclear exactly when Baird moved away from Pittsburgh, she was on the road with Tony Pastor's orchestra as early as 1941 and was regularly recording in New York throughout the early 1940s. In 1945, she "joined Bing Crosby as his singing partner for a whole season on his NBC 'Music Hall' series." (Naugatuck Daily News, July 19, 1947).

A cruise ship passenger list from February 1951 lists the 26 year old and unmarried Eugenie Baird as living at 220 East 73rd Street, New York, NY. Interestingly, her New York apartment's cupboards were full of cups, saucers, bowls and plates that she made herself: "Back home in Pittsburgh years ago, Eugenie became interested in ceramics, and when she earned her first big check for singing pop ballads, she invested in a small kiln and all the necessary equipment to make her own pottery." (Schenectady Gazette, November 8, 1952).

Pittsburgh Performances

According to Dave Goodrich's Key to the City: a Guide to Pittsburgh Music, History, Entertainment & More, which documents events between 1928 and 1954, we know of at least 5 performance engagements of Baird in Pittsburgh:

  • October 3, 1941 with Tony Pastor and His Orchestra - Stanley Theater, 237 7th Street, Downtown
  • January 8, 1943 with Jan Savitt and His Famous Top Hatters Orchestra - Stanley Theater, 237 7th Street, Downtown
  • November 5, 1943 with Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra - Stanley Theater, 237 7th Street, Downtown
  • September 20, 1948 as the headliner - Lenny Litman's Copa, 818 Liberty Avenue, Downtown
  • July 31, 1950 as the headliner with comedian Lennie Colyer and dancer Harriet Lane - Jackie Heller's Carousel, 815 Liberty Avenue, Downtown
  • A September 21, 1948 article in the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph proclaimed, "Eugenie...will appear with Paul Whiteman's orchestra in Syria Mosque on Oct. 18," but no ads, announcements, or reviews of the performance can be found in local papers around that date. Also, liner notes to the Eugenie Baird Sings, Duke's Boys Play Ellington album from 1958, described her as having gone from local radio to "night clubs around her home area" and having performed at the Hotel Statler [Hotel William Penn] in Pittsburgh but dates have yet to be confirmed.

Physical Appearance

As with many female performers, accounts of Baird frequently mentioned her physical appearance:

  • "In the vocal end are Eugenie Baird, the Pittsburgh girl, and Johnny McAfee, each quite easy on the ear, to say nothing of Miss Baird's claim to the eye." (Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, October 4, 1941).
  • "Mr. Pastor...has in Miss Eugenie Baird, a local, vocal vision..." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 4, 1941).
  • "...Miss Eugenie Baird, a package of oomph from Pittsburgh...sells both songs and sex-appeal with equal ease and in exactly the proper proportions." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 9, 1943).
  • "[Baird's] entrance was the signal for a chorus of approving whistles from the younger bloods present at the Stanley... She certainly fills that red gown with éclat -- with something anyway!" (Pittsburgh Press, January 9, 1943).
  • "In Pittsburgh's Miss Eugenie Baird, the outfit has a voice and a face that would caress the ear or grace a magazine cover with equal credit." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 6, 1943).
  • "Mr. Gray's vocal numbers are done most pleasantly by Eugenie Baird, comely songbird of these parts..." (Pittsburgh Press, November 6, 1943).
  • "Pretty Eugenie Baird, a big click as a singing single since her days as a band vocalist with Pastor and Casa Loma..." (Chicago Defender, July 7, 1945).
  • In 1944, the editor of Metronome magazine, George T. Simon described her as "the prettiest girl I've ever seen in front of a band, and, in addition, the possessor of one of the prettiest voices I've ever heard in back of a microphone." (Ragan, David, Who's Who in Hollywood: The Largest Cast of International Film Personalities Ever Assembled, New York: Facts on File, 1992)
  • Simon also wrote years later in his Big Bands book that Tony Pastor's bandstand "showcased the gorgeous and very talented Eugenie Baird, who [later] became one of the top jingle singers." (Simon, George T. The Big Bands. NY: Schirmer, 1981)
  • Even though it was in an article about a radio show, the Naugatuck Daily News described Eugenie Baird as "a five-foot-four brunette" and then said later in the same article that she had "a cascade of jet black hair." (July, 19, 1947)
  • Abbot Lutz's liner notes to the 1958 album Eugenie Baird Sings, Duke's Boys Play Ellington, declared, "Slim, curvaceous and charming, the titian-haired darling Miss Eugenie Baird is one of the truly versatile young singers in show business today. Here is a triple-threat professional who can hold an audience entranced in a theatre, supper-club, radio appearance or on your television set."

Recording Highlights

Eugenie Baird's recording career spanned from 1941-1958.

In her early career, she did numerous sessions with the following groups:

  • 1941-1942 with Tony Pastor and His Orchestra
  • 1943-1946 with Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra

And single sessions with:

  • 1945 with Mel Tormé and his Mel-Tones
  • 1949 with Cab Calloway and his Cab Jivers
  • 1958 with "Duke's Boys"/ [sidemen of Duke Ellington]

Hit Songs

  • "My Heart Tells Me"  -- Recorded with Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra in October 1943. According to Thomas S. Hischak's Tin Pan Alley Song Encyclopedia, this sold over a million discs and stayed on Your Hit Parade for nineteen weeks. In Pop Memories 1890-1954, Joel Whitburn claimed it was on the charts for 21 weeks including 5 weeks at number 1.
  • "My Shining Hour"  -- Also recorded with Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra in October 1943. In Hischak's American Musical Film Song Encyclopedia, Baird's version is described as "a bestseller" and Whitburn's Pop Memories stated it reached no. 4 on the charts.
  • "Suddenly It's Spring"  -- Recorded with Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra in February 1944. According to Hischak, the Baird version with Gray "popularized the song."
  • "Don't Take Your Love From Me"  -- Recorded with Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra in June 1944.
  • "I Fall in Love Too Easily"  -- Recorded with Mel Tormé and his Mel-Tones in April 1945.
  • "Say 'Si Si'"  -- Charted in 1953. Recording information unknown.

All of the above songs (except for "Say 'Si Si'") were released on the Decca record label.

More detailed discographical information can be found in the Tom Lord - Jazz Discography.


  • KDKA Pittsburgh - early 1940s
  • NBC - Kraft Music Hall with Bing Crosby, 1944-1945
  • ABC - Forever Tops with Paul Whiteman, 1946
  • NBC - Alec Templeton Time, summer 1947
  • CBS - Sing It Again, 1948
  • CBS - Robert Q. Lewis Show, 1949
  • NBC/ABC - The Breakfast Club, unspecified year

Timothy A. Morgereth's Bing Crosby: A Discography, Radio Program List and Filmography lists all the episodes of NBC's "Kraft Music Hall," recorded in Los Angeles, from Program No. 360 (November 9, 1944) to Program No. 388 (June 28, 1945) where Baird appeared with Crosby and what songs she sang.

Thomas A. DeLong's Pops: Paul Whiteman, King of Jazz describes Whiteman's choosing of Baird for his 1946 radio show both on the West Coast and New York. He wrote, "For the next two or three years Eugenie was on call as Pops's chief band and concert singer."

Eugenie Baird also had her own radio show at various times from 1946 to possibly as late as 1965 on ABC, MBS, and CBS.


As a replacement for Eileen Barton, Eugenie Baird appeared in the Broadway musical revue "Angel in the Wings" which ran for 308 performances at the Coronet Theatre from December 11, 1947 to September 4, 1948. It is unclear when Barton's tenure ended and Baird's began. John Stewart's Broadway Musicals: 1943-2004 indicates that Barton/Baird's musical numbers were "Holler Blue Murder," "Tambourine," and "If It Were Easy to Do."

The "Charming Wife of a Top Executive"

Baird's career appears to have ended in the 1960s. Her obituary in Variety stated, "She retired upon marrying Emerson (Bud) Meade [i.e., Mead], president of Smith-Corona," (Variety, June 29, 1988). They were married on July 11, 1962 and Mead (1916-1976) had four children from his previous marriage. (Who's Who in the East, 14th ed. 1974-1975; "Emerson Mead, 59, Was Head of SCM," obit., New York Times, May 19, 1976).

In 1969, an article titled "Meet Charming Wife of a Top Executive" about Mrs. Emerson E. Mead appeared in a Minnesota newspaper. It stated:

"It's nice listening to Mrs. Mead. She's enthusiastic and her voice is exceptionally pleasing. You have the feeling you've met her before. Then it all clicks and you realize you have. She's Eugenie Baird. Before her marriage she sang with Tony Pastor and Glen Gray, appeared on top television shows, toured with 'South Pacific' and made countless commercials -- the singing kind."

Then, though it said, "She doesn't seem to miss the spotlight at all," it went on to quote her: "'Once in awhile I get thinking I ought to do something about singing again. It would be fun to do some commercials...and if something came up, I might.' She still gets together with her old accompanist and sings -- but just for fun." (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, July 17, 1969).


In addition to her parents Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Baird and her brother Eugene, all mentioned above, Eugenie had a sister named Kay Marie who was also a singer. In 1941, Kay Marie was "singing with Mal Hallett," (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 29, 1941). In 1943, Eugenie "found her path crossing that of her sister, Kay Marie, when she auditioned for Glen Gray's Casa Loma band. Her sister was her chief competition, but Eugenie won out and got the job," (Naugatuck Daily News, July 19, 1947).

It's not surprising that the Baird sisters were both performers since their parents "had an extensive theatrical background" according to the liner notes to Eugenie Baird Sings, Duke's Boys Play Ellington.


A 1988 obituary in Variety magazine announced that "Eugenie Baird, 63, big band and radio singer, died June 12 of heart failure in Brewster, N.Y." (Variety, June 29, 1988)


This page was created in November 2011 by Timothy R. Williams, Music Librarian, in collaboration with Mike Plaskett of the radio show Rhythm Sweet & Hot. Updated April 2015.

Joe Westray (1913-1980)

Joe Westray (June 1, 1913 - July 9, 1980; full name: Benjamin Joseph Westray, Jr.) was a prominent figure in Pittsburgh's jazz scene as a guitarist, bandleader, nightclub owner, and as president of the Local 471 musicians union for ten years.

Westray was a teacher to guitarist George Benson for many years and two of his most famous sidemen were pianists Erroll Garner and Ahmad Jamal, (Variety, Aug. 6, 1980). Saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, at 14 years old, was taken into Westray's band to play gigs throughout the tri-state area, (New Pittsburgh Courier, Jun. 20, 1992). Dakota Staton was a featured vocalist with Westray in the early 1950s before she was discovered in New York, (Pittsburgh Courier, Feb. 24, 1962).

Westray was a graduate of Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University), (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jul. 10, 1980).

In his memoir, Dirt Street, alto saxophonist Hosea Taylor documented his time with Westray's band in 1946 and 1947. He described Westray as:

"a very aggressive and forceful man who was somewhat affluent -- let's just say he was ghetto rich -- he owned and rented all kinds of residential and commercial properties plus several trucks to handle a hauling contract with a big food chain warehouse... Joe Westray was quite the entrepreneur. He was a good role model for anyone who wished to succeed." (pp. 178-179).

Though Taylor said that Westray's band might have seemed outdated to a bebopper (p. 177-178), his band was "one of the three hottest Negro jazz and dance bands in the city of Pittsburgh at that time," (p. 158). The other two were Will Hitchcock's Big Dream Band and Walt Harper's group. The Pittsburgh Courier described Westray as a "wealthy businessman who probably was the first Negro bandleader in modern Pittsburgh to make it money-wise" and that "Walt Harper credits Westray with teaching him many of the business angle [sic] of the music field," (Feb. 24, 1962).

In addition to the guitar, Westray also played the electraharp, a kind of electric pedal steel guitar manufactured by Gibson in the 1940s. Westray was also described as "a top arranger" who did "a great deal of work for singers and other artists in addition to scoring for his own outfit," (Pittsburgh Courier, May 3, 1952). After he retired from active playing to devote more time to his business interests, Westray took up the organ, (Pittsburgh Courier, Feb. 24, 1962).

Westray's best-remembered business venture was Westray Plaza located on 913-917 Lincoln Avenue in East Liberty [or more accurately, the southern part of the Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar neighborhood] which included a skating rink and a dance hall, (New Pittsburgh Courier, Jul. 19, 1980).

As an example of Westray's significance to the Pittsburgh music community, at his July 12, 1980 memorial service at Shiloh Community Baptist Church, the pall bearers were prominent local musicians: LeRoy Brown, Nelson Harrison, Walt Harper, Honey Boy Minor, Thay Whiteley and Fred Pryor, (New Pittsburgh Courier, Jul. 19, 1980).

Further Research

A recording of a 1997 interview with Joe's sister Cathy Westray by Chuck Austin of the African-American Jazz Preservation Society of Pittsburgh is located at the Archives Service Center at the University of Pittsburgh.

Numerous photographs of Joe Westray, as an accompanist and group leader, and some photos of Westray Plaza are found in the archive of photographer Teenie Harris at the Carnegie Museum of Art.


Other than a 45 RPM single from 1962 where the Joe Westray Organ Combo is the backing band for Chuck Edwards, we know of no other commercially released audio or film recordings of Westray's music.

Jon Walton (c. 1921-1972)

Outside of Pittsburgh, tenor saxophonist Jon Walton's most renowned playing time was with Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw's big bands. But to Pittsburghers, he is likely best known for being a founding member of the jazz group Deuces Wild.

Clairton, PA

Though he was born in England, Jon Walton grew up in Clairton, PA, a steel town south of Pittsburgh, and attended Clairton High School, (Downbeat, August 17, 1972). Liner notes to the Jon Walton Swings Again album specify that he was of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, and moved to Clairton in 1925 when Jon was four years old. When he died at age 50, on May 14, 1972, Walton was residing with his mother Mrs. Lucy Annie Walton on 181 Carnegie Avenue in Clairton. He was buried approximately 6 miles northwest of Clairton in Jefferson Memorial Park, (Death Notice, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 17, 1972).

Music Career

As a teenager, Walton won "the Pennsylvania State Championship on saxophone in 1939," (Downbeat, August 17, 1972). His obituary inInternational Musician described him as "a prominent musician of the big band era" and stated that he played with "many of the well known bands of that time including Paul Pendarvis, Ted Weems, Phil Harris, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw," (November 1972). Walton recorded with the latter two.

Benny Goodman's Orchestra

Pittsburgh bandleader and teacher Max Adkins "sent young tenor sax star Jon Walton to his successful audition with Benny Goodman," according to a 1960s article by Roy Kohler, (Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, June 14, 1964). Walton's first recording session with Benny Goodman's orchestra was on July 27, 1942 in New York and his last was likely in April 1943, (D. Russell Connor, Benny Goodman: Listen to His Legacy, 1988.).

In James Lincoln Collier's Benny Goodman and the Swing Era, the author devotes a paragraph to the 1942 recording of "Six Flats Unfurnished" and mentions Walton:

"This is also one of the rare records by the band on which Goodman does not solo. The only solo is by tenor saxophonist Jon Walton, an early disciple of Lester Young who died young. 'Had he lived, he'd have been great,' Benny told Russ Connor," (p. 285).

It is confusing whether the phrase "who died young" and Goodman's quote refer to Walton or Young (1909-1959). Both did indeed die somewhat young (age 50 and 49, respectively) but both also had decades-long careers and many jazz musicians often make their most significant recordings and performances before middle age, Goodman included.

The Benny Goodman Orchestra was featured in three movies while Walton was with the band: Powers Girl (1942), Stage Door Canteen (1942), and The Gang's All Here (1943). In the Powers Girl, Walton is featured as a sax soloist in "One O'clock Jump." Pittsburgher Cliff Hill is also featured in the movie as bassist with Goodman, (Pittsburgh Courier, September 7, 1946).

Artie Shaw's Orchestra

Walton was in Artie Shaw's orchestra from autumn 1944 to autumn of 1945. (Vladimir Simosko, Artie Shaw: A Musical Biography and Discography, 2000) Walton was "a roommate of Roy Eldridge [trumpeter, orig. from Pittsburgh] during his stay with the Shaw band," (Downbeat, August 17, 1972). Pittsburgh pianist Dodo Marmarosa was also in Shaw's band at this time.

Deuces Wild

In 1946, Walton returned to the Pittsburgh area and formed the jazz group Deuces Wild. Billboard magazine described them as having a "fanatical following" during their two year stay at the Carnival Lounge. (November 6, 1948) Walton's obituary in Downbeat said the Pittsburgh group "was the most popular in that city for a decade." (August 17, 1972) Recordings of Deuces Wild from the 1950s, however, feature Flo Cassinelli on tenor saxophone instead of Walton.


Walton's relative lack of activity during this decade are explained by Roy Kohler's liner notes to Jon Walton Swings Again:

"Two nearly fatal incidents, an auto accident and an attack of pancreatitis, took Jon out of circulation for long periods in the 1950s. After the auto accident, at a financial ebb so low he didn't own his own saxophone, Jon Walton began to make a comeback."

Solo Recording

In 1963, Jon Walton recorded an album for Gateway, a local Pittsburgh label, titled Jon Walton Swings Again. It featured Jon Morris on trombone, Reid Jaynes on piano, Bobby Boswell on bass and Jerry Betters on drums, (Carlos Peña, Pittsburgh Jazz Records and Beyond, 1950-1985). Toki Schalk Johnson poetically praised the album in the Pittsburgh Courier:

"Jon Walton Swings Again" is a sweet, smooth, smoldering tone-poem that swings right into your heart... Jon Walton's sax tones are sheer beauty...his phrasing, excellent: the tone cascading in enchanted wonder, like quicksilver running over a sun-warmed surface, sleek and pure... It's a "must" for anyone who loves jazz. Great jazz! (November 16, 1963).

This page was created in December 2011 by Timothy R. Williams, Music Librarian, in collaboration with Mike Plaskett of the radio show Rhythm Sweet & Hot. Updated July 2013.

Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981)


Not only was Mary Lou Williams a scholar of the history of jazz, but she was also an important participant. As she said it, while others lived through the history of jazz, she played through it (which she literally does on her LP, The History of Jazz). An accomplished pianist and composer, her work reflects her dedication to her instrument, her thorough knowledge of jazz styles, and her openly religious musical aspirations.

Though she was born in Georgia, Mary Lou Williams grew up in Pittsburgh on Hamilton Avenue in the East Liberty neighborhood, attended Lincoln elementary school in the Larimer neighborhood, and graduated from Westinghouse high school in the Homewood neighborhood. Though she left Pittsburgh as a teenager and became famous elsewhere, Williams was instrumental in starting the Pittsburgh Jazz Festival in 1964. She is buried in Pittsburgh's Calvary Cemetery. Therefore, we are proud to include her in our pantheon of Pittsburgh Jazz Musicians. Newspaper and magazine clippings related to Mary Lou Williams can be found in our Pittsburgh Music Information File

Williams often returned to Pittsburgh to visit or perform. Dave Goodrich's Key to the City lists 14 concerts of Mary Lou Williams in the Pittsburgh area. From 1930-1942, Williams appeared with Andy Kirk at such venues as the Pythian Temple, The Gardens, Savoy Ballroom, Arch Tavern, Club Mirador, Olympia Park (McKeesport), Washington Gardens (Washington, PA), and St. Moritz. In the late 1940s, Williams performed at Mercur's Music Bar and at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Music Hall with her trio and other acts including Joe Negri and Sammy Nestico. Of special interest is Williams' appearance at the Syria Mosque on August 7, 1946, as part of the "Night of Stars" with other Pittsburgh jazz legends Maxine Sullivan, Earl "Fatha" Hines, Billy Eckstine, Billy Strayhorn, Erroll Garner, Lois Deppe, Ray Brown, and Roy Eldridge.

As a testament to her continuing inspiration and influence:

  • In 2000, trumpeter Dave Douglas released a CD titled Soul on Soul as a tribute to her music.
  • Pianist John Hicks released his Impressions of Mary Lou accompanied by Pittsburghers Dwayne Dolphin on bass and Cecil Brooks III on drums.
  • The Dutch Jazz Orchestra researched and played rediscovered works of Williams on their Lady Who Swings the Band in 2005.
  • In 2006, the Mary Lou Williams Collective, fronted by University of Pittsburgh graduate Geri Allen, released Zodiac Suite: Revisited.
  • A children's book based on Mary Lou Williams titled The Little Piano Girl by Ann Ingalls and Maryann MacDonald with illustrations by Giselle Potter was published in 2010.
  • Yona Harvey, a Pittsburgh poet and Carnegie-Mellon University professor, wrote a poetry book inspired by Mary Lou Williams titled Hemming the Water that was published in 2013. Its keystone poem is titled "Communion with Mary Lou Williams."
  • Also in 2013, the American Musicological Society published Mary Lou Williams' Selected Works for Big Band, a compilation of 11 of her big band scores. The book also includes stylistic analysis, critical commentary and a subchapter titled "From Pittsburgh to Kansas City."
  • The University of Pittsburgh hosted a cyber symposium devoted to Mary Lou Williams in March 2014. Headed by Geri Allen, the symposium also included pianists Vijay Iyer and Jason Moran and panelist Father Peter O'Brien from the Mary Lou Williams Foundation.
  • Filmmaker Carol Bash's documentary Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band was premiered on public television stations in April 2015.

Explore more Mary Lou Williams materials and resources


Pittsburgh Music Reference Collection

The Music Department has gathered thousands of recordings by musicians with Pittsburgh connections. These are kept as reference (i.e., they cannot be checked out of the library though a few duplicate copies may circulate) so they will always be on hand for researchers and curious listeners. There is a listening station in the Reference Department that can play LPs, cassettes and CDs. For Mary Lou Williams, there are both vinyl records and CDs in the reference collection for you to explore.

Vinyl Records
The History of Jazz
In 1970, Mary Lou Williams tape recorded herself in her apartment narrating and playing the history of jazz. This LP still has not been officially released on compact disc.
r RECORD AL 13962
Mary Lou Williams: A Keyboard History
In 1955, Williams' piano trio recorded this history of her own career from her early ragtime, blue and boogie-woogie styles to modern jazz. This recording also has never been officially released on CD.
r RECORD AL 16254
The Best of Mary Lou Williams (r) RECORD AL 13370
Mary Lou Williams & Cecil Taylor Embraced r RECORD AL 13950
Mary Lou Williams in London r RECORD AL 14321
Mary Lou Williams Quartet featuring Don Byas (r) RECORD AL 13908
Mary Lou Williams: the Asch Recordings 1944-47 r RECORD AL 13978
Free Spirits r RECORD AL 14020
My Mama Pinned a Rose on Me r RECORD AL 14129
Solo Recital (r) RECORD AL 12953

Compact Discs

Most of the CDs in the Pittsburgh Music Reference Collection are also available as circulating copies. Reference items have an "r" in the call number while circulating items do not; titles with both reference and circulating copies are signified by "(r)" in the call number.

The Asch Recordings, 1944-47  (r) Jz Wil 38914 
At Rick's Cafe Americain  (r) Jz Wil 38913 
Circle Recordings  r Jz Wil 29672 
Free Spirits (Mary Lou Williams Trio)  (r) Jz Mar 29664 
A Grand Night for Swinging  Jz Wil 38366 
Ladies of Jazz: Mary Lou Williams & Barbara Carroll  (r) Jz Wil 29671 
Live at the Cookery  (r) Jz Wil 41214 
Live at the Keystone Korner  (r) Jz Wil 21111 
Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz with Guest Mary Lou Williams: Conversation and Music as Heard on National Public Radio  (r) Jz McP 40590 
Mary Lou Williams, 1953-1954  (r) Jz Wil 29676 
Mary Lou Williams Presents Black Christ of the Andes  (r) Jz Wil 22470 
Mary Lou's Mass  (r) Jz Wil 24181 
My Mama Pinned a Rose on Me  (r) Jz Wil 29673 
Nite Life  (r) Jz Wil 42950 
Solo Recital: Montreux Jazz Festival 1978  (r) Jz Wil 38447 
Zodiac Suite  (r) Jz Wil 9521 
Zoning  (r) Jz Wil 10160 


Additional Catalog Searches

For more Mary Lou Williams recordings, including albums where she collaborated or performed with other bandleaders, you can perform an author search for Mary Lou Williams. Be sure to explore the catalog to find scores or videos and DVDs as well.

Listen Online

The library subscribes to a streaming audio database, Naxos Music Library Jazz, that contains a few albums of Mary Lou Williams music: her concert with avant-garde pianist Cecil Taylor, the solo recital from the 1978 Montreux Jazz Festival, and the Dutch Jazz Orchestra's album of rediscovered works. In addition, the Smithsonian Global Sound database contains almost 100 tracks from Mary Lou Williams that are easily found through an alphabetical artist search.

All of the library's streaming audio databases are free and can be accessed off-site with a Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh library card.

Further Research

The library has numerous periodicals related to jazz including Down Beat, Jazziz, and Jazztimes Magazine. These journals and hundreds of others are indexed in the Music Index database. Articles about Mary Lou Williams are also available in JSTOR, a scholarly full-text database only available in the CLP Main library building. 

Finally, the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University maintains the largest archive of materials related to Mary Lou Williams. 

As always, if you have any questions, please ask a librarian.

Updated June 2015.

Skip Nelson (1920-1974)

Skip Nelson (orig. name Scipione Mirabella) achieved his greatest fame in the early 1940s singing such hits as "Dearly Beloved," "Moonlight Becomes You," and "That Old Black Magic" with the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Nelson also had a hit in 1944 singing "It's Love-Love-Love" with the Guy Lombardo Orchestra.

In the 1940s, Nelson also performed nationally with the big bands of Chico Marx, Tommy Dorsey, Teddy Powell, and Glen Gray, and in the late 40s and early 50s in Southwestern Pennsylvania with Benny Burton, Walter Gable and Joey Martin. Besides singing, Nelson played piano and guitar and wrote songs.

Early Life and Career

A ship passenger list documented nine-year old Scipione Mirabella arriving in the U.S. with his mother and two siblings in June 1929. His place of birth was Pozzuoli, Italy and the Florida Death Index stated his date of birth as August 9, 1920.

According to the 1940 U.S. Census, the Mirabella family was living in New York City where 20-year-old Scipione worked as a movie theater usher and his father worked as a drummer. It is unclear exactly when Mirabella moved to Pittsburgh, but a copyright entry for his song "Mem'ries of Yesterday" dated Apr. 10, 1941, listed his location as Pittsburgh and his name as both Skip Nelson and Scipione Mirabella.

Pittsburgh bandleader Benny Burton stated that "When [Skip Nelson] came to Pittsburgh, he was broke. I staked him to a room at the old Fort Pitt Hotel and gave him a job." ("Benny Burton's Memories Are as Mellow as a Favorite Melody," Pittsburgh Press, August 9, 1985). Confusingly, though, the same article said, "[Burton] recalls a young fellow named Skipione Mirabella from Brooklyn who came to him in the the late 40s." Most likely, this should read the early 1940s. In a 1993 interview, Burton elaborated that after a show Mirabella was in folded, he was brought in to audition as a pianist by Burton's bassist. Though Burton described him as a "terrific piano player," his style didn't fit the band so Mirabella revealed that he sang too. Burton, liking his voice, would hire him for one-nighters with his group. Burton also claimed to have given him the name "Skip Nelson." (Oral History of Music in Pittsburgh [OHMP] 103).

Tenure with Glenn Miller Orchestra

John Flower's "Moonlight Serenade: A Bio-discography of the Glenn Miller Civilian Band" has the following information on Nelson:

12 July, 1942 (SUN)

Ray Eberle was discharged from the Miller band this evening and Miller hired Skip Nelson, a 20-year-old [i.e., 21, almost 22] Pittsburg [sic] boy who was singing with the Chico Marx band in New York. Nelson arrived in Chicago by air from New York in less than 24 hours after Eberle's departure. Nelson, besides singing, played piano.

13 July, 1942 (MON)

The payroll records show that Skip Nelson worked for the orchestra from July 13th (first day of work actually was July 14th) until the orchestra disbanded on September 27, 1942.

14 July, 1942 (TUES):

Victor Studios, Chicago, Illinois Same personnel as for March 19th broadcast except that SKIP NELSON (SCIPIONE MIRABELLA), vocalist, replaces Ray Eberle.

George T. Simon's book "Glenn Miller and His Orchestra" elaborated: "[Ray Eberle's] replacement came from the Chico Marx band, at the suggestion of Glenn's old boss Ben Pollack. Skip Nelson (real name: Scipione Mirabella), a musicianly singer who also played piano and guitar, joined just in time to record with the band on its final Victor sides. ... Nelson's first recording, "Dearly Beloved," showed him off to best advantage, though "That Old Black Magic," which he sang with the Modernaires, was more popular." (p. 307).

Simon's Glenn Miller book has a photograph of the handsome Nelson.

Both books stated that Nelson returned to Chico Marx when Miller's civilian orchestra disbanded in the autumn of 1942.

Mel Tormé

At age 17, multi-talented vocalist Mel Tormé joined the Chico Marx band and Skip Nelson was his roommate. In "My Singing Teachers: Reflections on Singing Popular Music," Tormé wrote: "[Nelson] hailed from Pittsburgh, and I must admit I looked up to him for a lot of reasons. He was tall, good-looking, of Italian descent, and he could sing. The timbre of his voice was gorgeous, full, round, and commanding. He sang the ballads while I sang the "jump" tunes. Any pretensions I might have had toward ballad singing with the Marx band were quickly stifled as soon as I heard Skip sing." (pp. 78-79).

In his autobiography, "It Wasn't All Velvet," Tormé also wrote: "Skip was a wonderful character from Pittsburgh; he was a tall, good-looking lady-killer who also sang the total hell out of ballads. He possessed a vocal quality not unlike Dick Haymes's -- deep, rich, and perfectly in tune." (p. 66).

Nelson was something of a mentor to the young Tormé in another way. In a chapter of "It Wasn't All Velvet" entitled "Virgin," Tormé wrote, "Skip and most of the rest of the band ribbed me mercilessly about my status as a virgin." Then he candidly told the tale of how during a one-week run in Pittsburgh, a woman who worked in the hotel coffee shop at the William Penn Hotel was "recruited" by Skip and other band members to help Tormé solve his musician's "problem." (pp. 69-75).

Selected Performances in Pittsburgh Area

Skip Nelson's performance engagements in Pittsburgh include:

March 5, 1943, Stanley Theater with Chico Marx's Orchestra featuring Skip Nelson, Kim Kimberly and Mel Tormé.

Due to Chico's illness, Harpo Marx filled in as bandleader. Reviewer Harold V. Cohen wrote, "His brother's band has come along fine in one short year and Pittsburgh's Mr. Skip Nelson is doing a bang-up job of singing with it." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 6, 1943). Kaspar Monahan wrote, "It's a good show, particularly on the vocal side. Skip Nelson, the local boy, does justice to 'Moonlight Becomes You.'" (Pittsburgh Press, March 6, 1943).

April 21, 1944, Stanley Theater with Teddy Powell and His Band.

Cohen wrote, "In Pittsburgh's Mr. Skip Nelson and cute little Miss Peggy Mann, Mr. Powell has a couple of singers who are far above average. In fact, just mentioning the two in the same breath with average is grossly unfair to them." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 22, 1944).

June 16-18(?), 1951, The Ankara with Walter Gable's Orchestra.

"Walter Gable's orchestra featuring its newest member, Skip Nelson, continues at the Ankara." (Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, June 17, 1951). While engagements at the Stanley were typically for a week, it's unclear how long Nelson performed at the Ankara, located in McKeesport, about 12 miles southeast of downtown Pittsburgh.

Cohen wrote, "The breaks have finally started to come Skip Nelson's way. Not only does the former Glenn Miller and Glen Gray vocalist open tonight at the Ankara as Walter Gable's featured singer and the m.c. of the ice show but he's also just signed for a new teevee show." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 18, 1951). The program with Edythe Aymes was a quarter-hour, two afternoons a week, on WDTV.

Concert dates were found in Dave Goodrich's book "Key to the City: A Guide to Pittsburgh Music, History, Entertainment & More!" which lists performances in Pittsburgh between 1928-1954. 

Film Appearance

Skip Nelson made an uncredited appearance in the 1944 film "Broadway Rhythm" singing "Irresistible You" with the Tommy Dorsey orchestra. Approximately 13 minutes into the film, the song begins and Nelson is seen singing lead in the middle of a group of five vocalists. At 15:20 minutes in, he steps forward to deliver the final line of the song.

Career Struggles

Pittsburgh bandleader Benny Burton said Skip Nelson had a dark cloud that followed him and enumerated Nelson's string of bad luck with the big bands with whom he performed:

Glenn Miller: "...Miller was lost in an airplane over the English Channel during World War II."

Teddy Powell: "...Powell dissolved his band when he was convicted of avoiding the draft."

Tommy Dorsey: "...Dorsey got mad one day and fired the whole band."

Guy Lombardo: "...complained that Nelson's music overpowered his band." ("Benny Burton's Memories Are as Mellow as a Favorite Melody," Pittsburgh Press, August 9, 1985).

Mel Tormé lamented: "When the Miller band broke up and Glenn went off to war, Skip literally disappeared, after a short stint with Tommy Dorsey. I heard that he had returned to Pittsburgh and was singing locally there, but he never again enjoyed high visibility, his moment in the sun being those few short months with Glenn Miller. What a shame." ("My Singing Teachers: Reflections on Singing Popular Music," p. 80).

By the late 1940s and early 1950s, Nelson was indeed singing with regional groups at venues around southwestern Pennsylvania such as the Little White House Inn in Scottdale, Musical Bar in Monessen, Hotel Beeson in Uniontown, and the VFW Country Club in Indiana, PA.

"The twice-weekly Skip Nelson-Edythe Aymes program fades from Channel 3 on the twenty-first after a six-month run," wrote Harold V. Cohen in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, (December 13, 1951).

In June 1956, a newspaper article from the International News Service newswire began with the question, "Anyone remember crooner Skip Nelson?" It then described a $100,000 suit that Nelson filed against RCA alleging that the record company was selling recordings of his without identifying him as the singer. The article also stated that Nelson was "now living in Miami and working the local nightclub circuit." (The Stars and Stripes, June 30, 1956).

Benny Burton also said in the newspaper that Nelson ended up in Florida "selling used cars" but in another interview said that Nelson died as a young man "selling pianos" in Florida. (Pittsburgh Press, August 9, 1985; OHMP 103).


Skip Nelson's obituary in Variety stated that he retired to Florida when he developed a heart condition. He died on March 31, 1974 in West Palm Beach, FL at age 53. (Variety, April 17, 1974).

This page was created in July 2012 by Timothy R. Williams, Music Librarian, in collaboration with Mike Plaskett of the radio show Rhythm Sweet & Hot. Updated September 2013.