Jack Purvis

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Jack Purvis (December 11, 1906 – March 30, 1962) was a United States jazz musician.[1]

Purvis was best known as a trumpet player and the composer of Dismal Dan and Down Georia Way.[2] He was one of the earliest trumpeters to incorporate the innovations pioneered by Louis Armstrong in the late 1920s.[3] He also played trombone and on occasion a number of other instruments professionally (including harp).

Contents

Early years

John "Jack" Purvis was born in Kokomo, Indiana on December 11, 1906 to Sanford B. Purvis, a real estate agent and his wife Nettie (Jackson) Purvis.[4] He learned trumpet and trombone as a boy and by the time he attended high school he was playing in the school band. As early as 1921 he was playing locally in dance bands.[5]

After high school he worked in his home state for a time then went to Lexington, Kentucky where he played with the Original Kentucky Night Hawks. Around this time he learned to fly planes. In 1926 he was with Bud Rice and toured New England. He then worked the remainder of 1926 and the beginning of 1927 with Whitey Kaufman's Original Pennsylvanians. For a short time he played trombone with Hal Kemp and by July 1928 he traveled to France with George Carhart's band. It is reported that he had an early brush with the law when he cheated a tourist out of his travelers checks and was forced to leave the band and flee France.[6]

When returning in the United States in 1929 he again joined Hal Kemp's band this time playing trumpet. From 1929 to 1930 Purvis recored with Kemp, Smith Ballew, Ted Wallace, Rube Bloom, the California Ramblers, Roy Wilson's Georgia Crackers, and the Carolina Club Orchestra. On December 17, 1929 Purvis led his own recording groups using Hal Kemp's rhythm section to produce Copyin' Louis, and Mental Strain at Dawn.[7]

The 1930's

In 1930, Purvis led a couple of racially mixed recording sessions including the likes of J.C. Higginbotham, and Adrian Rollini.[8] One of these sessions was organized by Adrian Rollini and OKeh A & R man, Bob Stephens.[9] After leaving Hal Kemps' employ for good Purvis found work with the California Ramblers. He also worked with the Dorsey Brothers and played fourth trumpet with Fletcher Henderson.[10]

From 1931 to 1932 he played with a few radio orchestras and work with Fred Waring. In 1933 he toured the South with Charlie Barnet. He even talked his way into a job with the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra playing The Carnival of Venice. During this time he also worked in Texas as a pilot perhaps smuggling illegal goods out of Mexico.[11]

He moved to California and was successful with radio broadcasting work.[12] In Los Angeles, Purvis worked for the George Stall Orchestra as a writer and even worked for Warner Brothers arranging. He composed Legends of Haiti for a one hundred and ten piece orchestra. Afterwards he found work in San Francisco as a chef.[13]

At the end of 1935 he joined Frank Froeba's Swing Band in New York.[14] These 1935 recordings with Froeba were the end of Purvis' recording career.[15] [16] He played a couple of weeks with Joe Haymes' orchestra and then disappears from history for a couple of years. It is speculated that he worked as a ships cook on a freighter at the time.[17]

He was arrested in Texas in June 1937, while working as a cook, for his involvement in a robbery in El Paso, Texas. He was tried and convicted and sentenced to jail time in Huntsville Prison.[18] While in prison he directed the Rhythmic Swingsters, the prison band and also played piano with them. The band regularly broadcast on radio station WBAP in 1938.[19] [20]

Later life

In August of 1940, Purvis was conditionally pardoned from prison, but he quickly broke his parole and was sent back to prison for six more years.[21] Some sources claim he did this deliberately because he missed the prison band.[22]

On September 30, 1946 Purvis was was released from prison one last time.[23] He had a wild reputation and is said to have set hotel rooms on fire.[24] He seldom stuck with one band for very long and was known to hit the streets as a busker. From this time onward he worked at non-musical careers which included working as a chef, an aviator in Florida, a carpenter, an radio repair-man in San Franscisco.[25] At sometime in his checkered life he was also a mercenary in South America.[26]

Purvis is suppose to have killed himself in San Francisco, California on March 30, 1962, however stories persist that a man who looked like Jack Purvis showed up at a band date by cornetist Jack Goodwin and the two men had a long talk about his life on two occasions in 1968.[27] [28]

References

  1. The Classic Jazz, Backbeat Books, Scott Yanow, 2001
  2. Rhythm on Record; who's Who and register of recorded Dance Music, 1906/1936, Melody Maker Ltd., Hilton R. Schleman, 1936, page 201
  3. 1930's Jazz - The Small Combos, Columbia Jazz Masterpieces CD booklet, Michael Brooks, pages 3 and 1987
  4. Lost Chords: White Musicians and Their Contribution to Jazz, 1915 to 1945, Richard M. Sudhalter, Oxford University Press, 1999, page 471
  5. The Classic Jazz, Backbeat Books, Scott Yanow, 2001
  6. The Classic Jazz, Backbeat Books, Scott Yanow, 2001
  7. The Classic Jazz, Backbeat Books, Scott Yanow, 2001
  8. The Classic Jazz, Backbeat Books, Scott Yanow, 2001
  9. 1930's Jazz - The Small Combos, Columbia Jazz Masterpieces CD booklet, Michael Brooks, pages 3 and 1987
  10. The Classic Jazz, Backbeat Books, Scott Yanow, 2001
  11. The Classic Jazz, Backbeat Books, Scott Yanow, 2001
  12. Rhythm on Record; who's Who and register of recorded Dance Music, 1906/1936, Melody Maker Ltd., Hilton Schleman, 1936, page 201
  13. The Classic Jazz, Backbeat Books, Scott Yanow, 2001
  14. Rhythm on Record; who's Who and register of recorded Dance Music, 1906/1936, Melody Maker Ltd., Hilton R. Schleman, 1936, page 201
  15. The Classic Jazz, Backbeat Books, Scott Yanow, 2001
  16. 1930's Jazz - The Small Combos, Columbia Jazz Masterpieces CD booklet, Michael Brooks, pages 3 and 1987
  17. The Classic Jazz, Backbeat Books, Scott Yanow, 2001
  18. 1930's Jazz - The Small Combos, Columbia Jazz Masterpieces CD booklet, Michael Brooks, pages 3 and 1987
  19. Black Beauty, White Heat:A Pictural History of Classic Jazz, Frank Driggs & Harris Lewine, Da Capo Press, New York, 1995, page 103
  20. The Classic Jazz, Backbeat Books, Scott Yanow, 2001
  21. The Classic Jazz, Backbeat Books, Scott Yanow, 2001
  22. 1930's Jazz - The Small Combos, Columbia Jazz Masterpieces CD booklet, Michael Brooks, pages 3 and 1987
  23. The Classic Jazz, Backbeat Books, Scott Yanow, 2001
  24. Black Beauty, White Heat:A Pictural History of Classic Jazz, Frank Driggs & Harris Lewine, Da Capo Press, New York, 1995, page 103
  25. The Classic Jazz, Backbeat Books, Scott Yanow, 2001
  26. Black Beauty, White Heat:A Pictural History of Classic Jazz, Frank Driggs & Harris Lewine, Da Capo Press, New York, 1995, page 103
  27. The Classic Jazz, Backbeat Books, Scott Yanow, 2001
  28. Lost Chords: White Musicians and Their Contribution to Jazz, 1915 to 1945, Richard M. Sudhalter, Oxford University Press, 1999, pages 470 & 471

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