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Subject: Archive: Ernie Fields, May 11, 1997


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Date Posted: Friday, May 11, 05:30:59pm

Bandleader and jazz trombonist Ernie Fields Sr. died Sunday. He was 92.

Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at the First Baptist Church North Tulsa, 1414 N. Greenwood Ave., under the direction of Jack's Funeral Home Chapel.

Fields was the elder statesman of the many jazz musicians to emerge from northeastern Oklahoma in the 1920s and 1930s. Born near Taft, he had no thought of making a musical career, though one of his brothers was a band instructor in Sand Springs. Fields attended the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where he decided to join the marching band.

He bought a used trombone for $6. The choice of instrument was accidental. "I needed an instrument -- any instrument," he said in an interview in 1987.

When he returned to the Tulsa area, he worked as an electrician, and began playing with a group of local musicians. The personnel changed as members took jobs with name bands that came through Tulsa, and Fields decided to take the band on the road in the early 1930s.

His career leading a touring regional band would reach into the 1960s.

"I was open to change," he said in an interview in the late 1970s.

The band was voted one of the top 10 of 1949 by a Pittsburgh newspaper.

Through the years, Fields employed such famous musicians as bassist Oscar Pettiford, trumpeter Howard McGhee, saxophonist Earl Bostic, bassist Roy Milton and vocalist Melvin Moore.

Many of those sidemen went on to join Fields in the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. He was one of the first group of musicians inducted when the hall opened in 1989.

The band regularly played the Apollo Theater in Harlem, and made many records.

In 1959, their recording of "In the Mood" produced a gold record.






State Sen. Maxine Horner, D- Tulsa, is one of the founders of the hall, and was a classmate in high school with Ernie Fields Jr.

"Mr. Fields was absolutely exciting. Just to be able to visit with him, and his remembrances -- all the early years, his travel and his music," she said.

"I remember his humor, and, I think, just the love and respect that everyone had for him. I can't remember a time that you would visit with him that wasn't a pleasant conversation."

In 1996, a fragile-looking but beaming Fields, surrounded by relatives and friends, watched and listened to a tribute held in his honor at the Greenwood Cultural Center.

Held in conjunction with the Juneteenth on Greenwood Festival, the tribute included a narrative of Fields' career, given by son Charles and daughter Carmen, followed by an evening of his music, featuring a hand- picked orchestra led by Ernie Fields Jr. The music began with the Fields version of "In the Mood," the big-band classic that became, in 1959, Fields' only Top Five pop song. It ended with some of the blues and R&B numbers, including his signature song "T-Town Blues," that were most identified with Fields.

In the booklet accompanying the festivities, Fields was quoted by writer Eddie Faye Gates: "I was so happy that people liked my band's music," he said. "I am proud that we were able to give the people the kind of music that they wanted. It was just wonderful to be rewarded for doing something that was so pleasurable for us to do."

Survivors include Fields' wife, Bernice, and their children, Charles, Carmen and Ernie Jr.

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"In the Mood"Ernie FieldsFriday, May 11, 05:31:50pm


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