“Innuendo” (1949) Artie Shaw and Johnny Mandel

“Innuendo”

Composed and arranged by Johnny Mandel.

Recorded by Artie Shaw and His Orchestra for Thesaurus Transcription Service in late December, 1949 in New York.

Artie Shaw, clarinet, directing: Don Paladino, Vic Ford, Dale Pierce and Donald A. “Don” Fagerquist, trumpets; Fred Zito, Porky Cohen, Santo “Sonny” Russo, Bartolomeo “Bart” Varsalona, trombones; Herbert Bickford “Herbie” Steward and Frank Socolow, alto saxophones; Alvin G. “Al” Cohn and John H. “Zoot” Sims, tenor saxophones; Daniel Bernard “Danny” Bank, baritone saxophone; Gil Barrios, piano; James Elbert “Jimmy” Raney, guitar; Dick Niveson, bass; Irving “Irv” Kluger, drums.

The story:

Very recently, I was rereading Ava Gardner …The Secret Conversations, by Peter Evans and Ava Gardner. I enjoy reading the recollections of public figures from the past, not so much because I get a lot of historical facts from these memoirs (which I sometimes do, nevertheless), but because they very often point me in the direction of other, perhaps more authoritative historical information. Ms. Gardner’s relationship with Artie Shaw, which began in the summer of 1944, continued through 1945, and declined through 1946. They were married in Shaw’s Bedford Drive house on October 17, 1945, and divorced in late 1946. That marked the effective end of their relationship. I use the word “effective,” because they would have some interactions after that date. (Above left: Ava Gardner and Artie Shaw on their wedding day.)

My purpose in this post is not to cast aspersions on Artie Shaw in any way, but to try to understand and attempt to explain various episodes in his life so that we can have some context for the music that I am presenting with this post.

In the period Artie Shaw and Ava Gardner were together, with the exception of the time Shaw was touring with his band, which was roughly from late in 1944 until April of 1945, they resided, for the most part, in Shaw’s house on Bedford Drive in Beverly Hills. Although Ms. Gardner was involved in the Hollywood movie-making business at a rather minimal level during that time (her emergence as a major star would begin in 1946), she was not particularly interested in centering her existence in the Hollywood scene, though she was under contract to M-G-M at that time, and worked in films. She wanted to be with Shaw, and that included being with him for at least a part of the time he toured with his band.

The house at 906 North Bedford Drive in Beverly Hills. Shaw lived here with Ava Gardner from the summer of 1944 until he sold the house in mid-1946. In this house, Shaw hosted many literary soirees.

Shaw on the other hand had loved the atmosphere of Hollywood since long before his first real involvement with it in 1939, when he and his band were featured in the M-G-M film Dancing Co-ed. The following year, he centered all of his activities on the West Coast, and he and his band were featured in the Paramount film Second Chorus. After his service in the U.S. Navy in World War II, he returned to Hollywood, bought the house on Bedford Drive, and began to get involved in a number of non-musical activities that included people who were a part of making Hollywood films.

Although Shaw generally eschewed the friendship of actors (and musicians), he eagerly embraced the friendship of writers. His obsession with trying to become a writer stemmed back to 1930, when as a callow 20 year old, he wrote an essay for a contest, and won a trip to Hollywood doing it. That early experience proved to be intoxicating, indeed life-changing, for Shaw. From that point on, he, like many young Americans then, was powerfully attracted to the glamorous atmosphere of Hollywood, which was at the beginning of its golden age, that lasted from the 1930s through the 1940s. That early experience also caused him to believe that he was fundamentally a writer, not a musician. Consequently, he seemed to regard his great musical talent as merely a means to an end, that end being to make enough money so that he could be his real self, Artie Shaw the Writer.

I will not get into the complicated analysis that is necessary to untangle Shaw’s confusion about his talents as a writer. Suffice it to say, he was not even remotely as talented as a writer as he was as a musician and bandleader. Nevertheless, he relentlessly pursued writing from the early 1950s, basically for the rest of his life. (Shaw died in December of 2004.) As his efforts were increasingly directed toward writing, they were directed less toward making music, until he withdrew completely from music as a performer in the mid-1950s.

The writer Gene Lees, who admired Shaw as a musician, recognized his limitations as a writer. Nevertheless, in order to have a relationship with Shaw in the 1980s and into the 1990s, Lees kept his opinions about Shaw’s writing to himself, until after Shaw died. He noted however, little signs of Shaw’s own attitudes: “… (A)fter those 1954 (Gramercy Five) recordings, (the last ones where Shaw performed), he left music as a profession forever, which, on the promise of those recordings, is to our eternal loss. For a time he said he was a movie producer; I know of no film he ever produced. But mostly he said he was a writer.There was a sign by the doorbell of his house in Newbury Park (California, where Shaw lived for the last 30 years of his life). It said, ‘This is a writer’s house. Do not ring this bell.’ I suppose he could have had the bell disconnected, (to eliminate that particular distraction), but …” (1)  But that would not have been Shavian. He had to prove something (or attempt to prove something), and that little sign proved to him that he was a writer. (Above right: Artie Shaw in the early 1940s, posing at a typewriter.)

In addition to reading about other of the details of the Shaw-Gardner relationship from Ms. Gardner’s unique perspective, I was struck by Ava’s recollection of various events that were to have a great negative influence on Shaw’s life and career. These developments ultimately drove him out of the United States in the mid-1950s to, rather ironically, Spain, which was then in the iron grip of the fascist dictator Francisco Franco. (A further irony: Ava Gardner also spent most of the 1950s living in Spain, though she had little, if anything to do with Artie Shaw during that time. He was involved then with Hollywood film actress Evelyn Keyes, and Ava was involved with various Spanish matadors.)

Here is what caught my attention: In one of the many conversations Ms. Gardner had with Peter Evans, who would later weave those conversations into the book, she said, “He did a dreadful thing. He was called up before the Un-American Activities Committee…, and ratted on his friends. You just don’t do that.There was a writer who was very, very far left, but a wonderful man, Hy Kraft. He wrote the all-black Fox musical Stormy Weather, which starred my friend, Lena Horne. Hy was Artie’s best man at our wedding. That’s how close they were. It didn’t stop Artie from giving up Hy’s name to the Un-American Activities Committee. Can you believe that? His own best man! I still to this day don’t understand how he could have done that.” (2)

Artie Shaw testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee in New York on May 4, 1953. To his right is his attorney, Andrew D. Weinberger.

This statement by Ava Gardner reawakened in my memory the sad episode she referred to, Shaw being summoned to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), in May of 1953. Over the decades from 1953 to his death more than fifty years later, Shaw generally deflected any questions about this painful matter with a few well-practiced stories. To my knowledge, he never got into the actual details of what happened, at least not publicly. I resolved to do just that. Fortunately, I was able to access and read his entire public testimony from May 4, 1953 before the House Un-American Activities Committee. (*) It appears that Shaw did also speak with various HUAC members off-the-record at a recess of his public testimony.

I must comment at this point that as a lawyer for the past 45 years, and as someone who has studied U.S. Constitutional law and history extensively, I find what was going on in the House Un-American Activities Committee in the late 1940s and early 1950s to be abhorrent to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which specifically prohibits “abridging freedom of speech,” and “the right of people to peaceably assemble.” It is really constitutionally irrelevant whom Artie Shaw met with, or talked with, or what he said. He had the constitutional right to do those things. For him to have been summoned by a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives to explain what he was doing when he was exercising his rights as a U.S. citizen under the First Amendment was reprehensible and repugnant to U.S. Constitutional principles, as I understand them.

Nevertheless, he had through the late 1940s and into the 1950s been the victim of a subtle and occasionally not so subtle media campaign of innuendo, suggesting that he was either a Communist, or a Communist sympathizer. He was, for example, called “the Communist-loving clarinetist” by gossip-mongering columnist Lee Mortimer in The New York Mirror.(3) He was also listed in the Communist-policing vigilante booklet “Red Channels,” which was published in 1950.(4) Finally, he was subpoenaed to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee in April of 1953. That brought the matter to a head. Shaw had the choice of either refusing to testify, and being held in contempt of Congress (as some people had, for exercising their Constitutional rights under the Fifth Amendment), and being further pilloried in the press; or to testify, and try to explain whatever he would be asked about. He chose the latter course. Shaw was a public man who depended on the public to keep him in business as a popular musician, and he was being vilified in the court of public opinion. He concluded that he had to explain what had happened to the HUAC, as disgusting as that was to him, to at least try to “clear” his name, even though he had done nothing that violated any law. It was truly a bizarre and pernicious situation. (Below left: an example of the fear-mongering that was used in the early 1950s to whip-up anti-Communist hysteria.)

The essence of Shaw’s testimony, which was televised, is that in probably early 1946, he was asked to attend an informal gathering at a home “in Laurel Canyon (Los Angeles) that was set off the road on a hill.”  Although the totality of Shaw’s testimony, which took a couple of hours, and runs to more than 31 pages of single-spaced typescript, is rather jumbled, that is not necessarily his fault. A number of different people were questioning him, sometimes simultaneously. As best I can determine, the man who recruited (or attempted to recruit) Shaw was a Communist, but Shaw did not know him or his name. He consented to meet this man because he was curious about Communism. The man asked Shaw to sign a form of some sort, because that was required before Shaw could gain entry to the gathering. Shaw testified that he objected to signing anything, but the man insisted. Shaw signed the paper using a fictitious name, and told the man he was doing so. The man said that would be OK.

As a related thread to this story, Shaw had prior to meeting this man, become a member of the executive council of a group called Hollywood Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions (HICCASP). This group’s apparent purpose, according to Shaw’s testimony, was to “behave organizedly and concertedly in the direction of perpetuating OPA (Office of Price Administration) and – how do I say it ? Promulgating the effort of statewide FEPC (Fair Employment Practices Committee), which seemed to me at that time perfectly normal and perfectly justifiable procedure. I wasn’t too happy about the idea of carrying it out under those circumstances, rather than at the open meeting (of HICCASP) but, at any rate, that is what they told me— it was more easily done this way.”  By “carrying it out under those circumstances,” Shaw was referring to him being urged to attend the first informal gathering he referred to. It is not clear what Shaw meant when he said “it was more easily done this way.” Below in italics are excerpts from Shaw’s testimony.

This picture of Shaw testifying was cropped and splashed across the pages of newspapers across the country, usually with a caption that suggested that Shaw was sobbing while he was testifying. That was not true. He said the bright television lights were irritating his eyes.

“Mr. Shaw: Anyway, I went to that (first) meeting. That meeting concerned itself primarily with a discussion as to how the executive council (of HICCASP)— the hundred people of the executive council – could best be moved in regard to establishing an FEPC – fair employment practices and an extension of the OPA, or in order to carry on the OPA. It concerned itself with that and seemed to me rather harmless at the time. It was a question – I didn’t like too much the idea, and I raised this objection several times during the evening, and was kind of put down as a rather naive person who didn’t understand these matters. One of the questions I raised was, if this was what we were after, “why don’t we do it in the executive council (of HICCASP), because that is where we are talking about working within the executive council – why don’t we do that?” (Shaw testified in the U.S. Courthouse in Foley Square, Manhattan, shown below left.)

But, this issue was, as I said, a related thread, but not necessarily the main reason why Shaw was asked to attended the gathering.The main reason was to attempt to recruit him into the Communist Party, as Shaw plainly admitted when he again recalled in his testimony meeting the nameless man in his office, and what followed:

“He came into my office and we sat down and talked. He then told me he knew various people on the executive council of the HICCASP who had told him that they thought I might be recruited as a member of the Communist Party, that I might be willing to become a member of the Communist Party. I told him at that time it had never been my intention — it had never been any intention of mine to become a member of the Communist Party; I wasn’t clearly acquainted with the objectives of it, and I thought I was doing about all I could as an individual in the Hollywood Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences, and Professions. The issue at that time in HICCASP was concerned with state wide fair – FEPC — the fair-employment practice thing, and the extension of the OPA program, which was then in debate as to whether it would continue or not.”

Mr. Shaw. I understood it was not a Communist Party meeting so much as it was a meeting of people, some of whom were and some of whom were not Communists, in an attempt to get those who weren’t to join and become Communists.

Mr. Clardy (one of the HUAC members). Well, at any rate, it was your understanding that the meeting was being conducted by people who were trying to proselyte persons into the party? Mr. Shaw.That’s right. Exactly. 

Mr. Clardy. So that it was your definite understanding that the meeting was being conducted by the members of the party, Mr. Shaw. That’s right, sir. Mr. Clardy (continuing). In an effort to get others to become members? Mr. Shaw. That is right. Mr. Clardy. That is your understanding? Mr. Shaw. That’s right. Mr. Clardy. Then, wouldn’t you agree with counsel— it was a Communist Party meeting, even though some of you there were merely pilgrims along the road and they were trying to persuade you to join ?

Mr. Shaw. I suppose you could put it that way. I would hate to say it was a Communist Party meeting because that usually means Communists— I mean a group of people, all of whom are members. Mr. Clardy. Well, that is probably a conclusion, but all the facts would lead in one direction, wouldn’t they? Mr. Shaw. Certainly. I would not hesitate to say the meeting was conducted by — purely for members of the party.

After attending this first meeting, Shaw also attended two other meetings. The second meeting was taken up with subjects that were different from the one Shaw stated he was interested in, that being fair employment practices in California. The third meeting concerned the following issue:

Mr. Shaw. On this one, the HICCASP was redrafting its charter, and one of the purposes – one of the purposes of the redrafting of the charter was to contain a statement that the Hollywood Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions was against communism in any form whatsoever. This was recommended by one of the members of the executive council and was passed on as a resolution – I mean, was not passed on — was put to vote. Certain members of the HICCASP council were against this resolution; others were for it. The thing was pretty well split down the middle. The basis of it was that some of them felt since we were not primarily an organization concerned with what they called red baiting we should not have that in there; others said we should come out very clearly against communism. So, the thing was a pretty hot issue for a while. On the third meeting of this same kind of group I went to that was the issue, and it was pretty well determined at that time all of those present at that meeting who were members of the executive council, or members of HICCASP, whether of the council or in the rank and file, should vote against the issue of the HICCASP coming out against communism.

Shortly after this, the HICCASP executive council met in Beverly Hills.That meeting took place on July 2, 1946. The “pretty hot issue” was put to a vote. On the side of adopting the anti-Communist resolution were, among others actors, Ronald Reagan and Olivia de Havilland. On the other side were screenwriters, including among others, John Howard Lawson and Dalton Trumbo, …and Artie Shaw. (4) Both Reagan and de Havilland later made reference to an impassioned speech given by Shaw wherein he “offered to recite the USSR constitution from memory, yelling that it was a lot more democratic than that of the United States.”(5) Exactly what Shaw said about this has never been verified. Apparently, the resolution failed to pass, and Reagan and de Havilland resigned from HICCASP (which soon disbanded), which Reagan in his ghost-written memoirs, referred to snidely as “pronounced like the cough of a dying man.”(6) Artie Shaw was totally within his constitutional rights doing what he did at that meeting. But he made enemies in doing so, and they would not pass up any opportunity to cause him grief in the future.

The music:

It is unclear how Johnny Mandel (1925 – ) made his initial musical connection with Artie Shaw. In the autumn of 1949, Mandel was not quite 24 years old. Although he had received a solid musical foundation as a result of studies in various music schools, the experience and connections he made in the world of swing during the late 1940s post-swing years, along with his musical talent, were what brought him into contact with people who probably introduced him to Shaw. In addition to arranging, Mandel also played trumpet, trombone and bass trumpet with various swing and jazz groups through the second half of the 1940s and into the 1950s. (At right: Johnny Mandel and Shaw in 1949.)

Although Artie Shaw had acquired a reputation as a musical searcher as early as 1936 because of his unusual approach to dance music then using a small jazz band with a string quartet, his musical explorations during the time of his greatest popularity, roughly 1938 to 1946 were rather limited. That changed starting in 1947 when be began to study European concert music seriously. 1949 was the year when Shaw’s musical experiments reached their height. In that year, his involvement with long-form, European concert music reached its apogee. He was featured playing “classical” music with various orchestras and chamber groups. His attempt to present this kind of music at a jazz venue, Bop City in Manhattan, in April of that year, started off badly, but was better received as that engagement proceeded.

Later in the spring of 1949, Shaw recorded a marvelous early LP for Columbia, which captured a number of his performances of short concert pieces from works of various Twentieth Century composers. Also included were a couple of specially commissioned works, and two of rather strange arrangements/performances of great examples of American Popular song. This album, being made as it was by Artie Shaw, sold a small number of copies on the strength of Shaw’s name alone. But audiences who were conditioned by Shaw’s music in the swing idiom, were largely confused and disappointed by the music they heard on this record, which definitely was not swing. This judgment of the commercial marketplace was not yet clear to Shaw or anyone else when he began planning to organize a big jazz-oriented band in the late summer of 1949. So Shaw continued playing some “classical” music, both with this new band and apart from it through the end of 1949.

Artie Shaw and his band at the Blue Note in Chicago in November of 1949. L-R: front: Shaw; Herbie Steward, Frank Socolow, Tony Ragusa, Al Cohn. Danny Bank sat to Cohn’s left, but was cut out of this cropped photo. Back: Irv Kluger, Don Fagerquist, Fred Zito,  Don Paladino, Porky Cohen, Dale Pierce, Sonny Russo, Vic Ford, Angelo Callea.

Artie Shaw’s 1949 big band was in no way a “classical” orchestra. It was, rather, a versatile jazz orchestra that would play a fairly broad repertoire of Shaw’s greatest hits, which all Shaw audiences demanded, other pop-oriented dance music, which not surprisingly, dancers who came to ballroom venues demanded, and a smattering of newly composed jazz works that reflected the bebop influence that was in the air, at least among jazz fans, in the late 1940s. It was with this last group of compositions that Shaw would primarily conduct his musical experiments.(6A) According to one account, “(T)he clarinetist, …was courted by a group of young idealistic promoters and managers who were convinced that with Shaw as leader, (some of) the best players, composers and arrangers  would rush to the colours, and almost certainly gather a devoted public. Shaw was persuaded, and with writers like Johnny Mandel, John Carisi, Gene Roland, and Tadd Dameron …on board, an all-star band took shape.” (7)

Shaw was never a bopper himself. He undoubtedly realized that he didn’t have to be an orthodox bopper to take from that idiom the things he needed to further develop his jazz playing, which was already quite distinctive, especially in the area of harmony. And that is what he did. Insofar as this band was concerned, that is pretty much the orientation it had as well. (At left: Artie Shaw in the early 1950s.)

Johnny Mandel’s “Innuendo” opens with an introductory “modern” dissonant blast of brass, which is followed by the tune’s main eight-bar theme, a catchy melody played at first by the unison saxophones, and then by attractively harmonized saxophones. This format is essentially repeated, then the secondary theme/bridge, which is carried by the open brass, is played at first against the reeds, and then an octave higher against a denser harmonic background consisting of trombones and reeds. The first chorus is completed by a recapitulation of the primary theme.

Shaw then steps out with a fine improvisation that shows his awareness of the larger harmonic palette that was being used then by younger bop-influenced jazz musicians. Artie sounds very comfortable in this “new” harmonic territory. Rhythmically, his playing is as flowing and swinging as it had been since 1938. That in no way means it was dated. Rather, it was as timeless rhythmically in 1949 as it was in 1938, and indeed as it is when heard today. Drummer Irv Kluger, whose playing Shaw liked, provided a very tasty boppish (in places) background for Shaw’s high-flying solo.

Incidentally, I think that Artie found this “new” jazz context particularly stimulating and liberating after confining his playing largely to the “classical” idiom for the previous couple of years.

Tenor saxophonist Al Cohn follows, with a much lighter sound than he would have in later years, demonstrating his early admiration for the playing of Lester Young. Curiously, Kluger goes into 2/4 meter basically using his high-hat cymbals behind Cohn, which to my ears creates push-pull rhythmic tension behind this solo, as opposed to the gliding swing of his playing behind Shaw. Nevertheless, Cohn swings away quite effectively. Trombonist Sonny Russo follows with a robust, big-toned jazz solo that is very much of its time. Pianist Gil Barrios enters the solo spotlight next playing a fine, swinging jazz solo.

After this string of solos, we hear the entire band playing in differing blends of instruments as drummer Kluger plays fills here and there to keep the rhythmic momentum going. There follows a recap of the brass-led bridge that was played in the first chorus, which serves to re-orient the listener, and leads into the finale, which is a reprise of the first chorus main saxophone theme, played this time with Shaw’s agile clarinet in the lead, and a happy-sounding coda.

This composition and arrangement clearly shows that young Johnny Mandel was a talented musician having enormous promise in 1949. That promise has been fully realized in the decades since, far beyond the worlds of swing and jazz.

The story continues:

Artie Shaw’s testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, a most ironic name in view of how relentlessly and maliciously that committee violated the U.S. Constitution, also touched on a rather inconsequential meeting he attended to investigate Marxist theory, which he dismissed as a waste of time as it centered on “international policies.” More relevant to the HUAC “investigators,” were the various organizations Shaw lent his name to through the 1940s that, unbeknownst to him, were in some way affiliated with the Communist Party.

Mr. Shaw. As I say, some general secretary or chairman will come to me— “ Would you please lend your name to this?” I get this all the time. My mail is filled with such requests — anything from a nonethereal symphony on up or down. I mean, I get these all the time. Some seem rather worthy causes, and it is very hard sometimes to turn them down, when someone comes to me to put my name on something to defend some guy who is being persecuted or having a hard time. It may turn out to have been a mistake. I have now learned it is better to be sure, but at that time I thought well, even if I make two mistakes, I would rather do one good thing than not do anything at all.

Mr. Jackson (another HUAC member). Don’t you have a professional clearing house for organizations which are approved for benefits?  Mr. Shaw. Unfortunately… Mr. JACKSON (continuing). Any thing of that sort? Mr. Shaw (continuing). There is no such thing. I had this discussion with a man not long ago, when he asked me how I could have been naive enough to join the congress — the World Peace Congress – put my name on that. I said to him, “Do you know of any other peace congress I can join ? I want peace.” He says, “That is the Communist-inspired one.”  I said, “Get me a Republican Party-inspired one and I’ll join that. I don ‘t care which one”  (At this point there was laughter and applause in the room.) Mr. VELDE (the chairman of the HUAC committee at the time). The committee must have order. Mr. Shaw. That wasn’t meant …Mr. VELDE (continuing) …in the hearings, and we will countenance no further demonstrations, favorable or unfavorable. Mr. Shaw. I wasn’t bidding for any applause, I assure you. Mr. VELDE. I am sure you weren’t Mr. Shaw.

In addition to trying to make Shaw admit to some wrongdoing or Communist affiliation or activity, the committee was most interested in him “naming names,” which is at the heart of Ava Gardner’s recollection. Here is Shaw’s testimony about Hy Kraft:

Mr. TAVENNER (legal counsel for HUAC). Did Hy Kraft attend any of these meetings? Mr. Shaw. Never. He was never at any of these meetings; but I would have suspected him of being a Communist, although I didn’t know he was a Communist. Mr. CLARDY. You say you would have suspected him of being a Communist? Mr. Shaw. I would have suspected him of being one, because there were — I felt – Communists in the meetings. I mean, I felt – I was there as a member of the executive council of HICCASP, because he came to ask me to be a member — become a member of the Communist Party, attend these meetings and become a member. So, I assume there were others there who were.

It appears that Hy Kraft had previously been “outed” as a Communist to the HUAC, so this statement by Shaw cannot be construed as him naming Kraft’s name in the sense of revealing new information to the committee. However, Shaw had previously testified that he and Kraft had worked together on a movie script that was shopped around Hollywood in 1946 as a vehicle for Frank Sinatra, whose Hollywood movie career was then starting. He and Kraft had a disagreement over whatever business arrangement they had, and Shaw felt aggrieved about that. This somewhat gratuitous discussion by Shaw of Mr. Kraft’s relationship with the Communist Party may have been a bit of “getting even,” something Shaw was known to do if he felt he had been wronged by someone.

Finally, what remains unknown is whether Shaw actually named names in a private discussion with HUAC members that was conducted off the record and outside of public view and hearing during a “recess.” This “recess” took place at 12:00 noon, and lasted for ten minutes. Here is how Shaw’s biographer reported that: “Someone much later quizzed Art: Had the congressmen then asked him to name names? ‘Oh yeah,’ he said. ‘I was given the names! Yeah: ‘Here are the people,’ who’d been there, who they wanted. I said, ‘I can’t tell you about those, I don’t know them.”  But then, again seemingly gratuitously, he added: ‘I can tell you about Dalton Trumbo.’  Everybody knew about Dalton Trumbo. John Howard Lawson, Jack Lawson; we all knew him. And Ring Lardner, Jr.” (8) 

Presumably, Shaw thought he was doing no harm by naming the names of people who had already been outed, held in contempt of Congress, incarcerated, and blacklisted. But many in the Hollywood film community thought that his performance before the HUAC needlessly kicked people who were already down and hurting simply because they had exercised their First Amendment free speech rights. When Shaw visited Hollywood a year after his appearance before HUAC, his reception there by people who had been kindred spirits with him in 1946 was frigid. And he certainly had no desire to seek out the company of Hollywood people like Ronald Reagan and Olivia de Havilland, with whom he had differed so passionately in 1946. He was deeply hurt by the shunning he felt he was getting then. Shaw’s enthrallment with Hollywood ended in the summer of 1954. He then tried New York. The same thing happened.

This should not be confused with Shaw’s ability to continue working after his HUAC appearance. He was not blacklisted and he continued to work. But there was within him a rising resentment that he had been caught in a web of anti-Communist hysteria, something he deeply deplored, and yet was being vilified by people whose attitudes regarding this were the same as his.

Artie Shaw’s disgust was so profound as a result of all of this that he left the United States in late 1955 and went to Europe to live for five years. This marked his final departure from music as a performer, and the beginning of his fifty-year post music “retirement.” Shaw did many things in his retirement, including write. It seems however that his writing throughout those decades was more of a self-contained exercise in psychoanalysis than anything else.

The recording presented in this post was digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.

Notes:

(1) Jazzletter, June 2004, by Gene Lees, page 7. NOTE: The date of this publication appears to be erroneous. Artie Shaw died on December 30, 2004, and this Jazzletter refers to that date. I must conclude that Gene Lees wrote this article after the date of Artie Shaw’s death, not before.

(2) Ava Gardner …The Secret Conversations, by Ava Gardner and Peter Evans, (2013), 205.

(3) Three Chords for Beauty’s Sake …The Life of Artie Shaw, (2010), by Tom Nolan, 243. Hereafter Nolan.

(4) From History.com, this day in history, June 22, 1950: “The Red Scare of the 1940s and 1950s famously ended the careers of numerous film-industry professionals and forced others to avoid blacklisting by repudiating their political beliefs and “naming names” of suspected Communist sympathizers to the House Committee on Un-Activities (HUAC). But Hollywood actors, directors and screenwriters were not the only victims of the Cold War anti-Communist purges in the entertainment industry. Prominent figures in the music industry were also targeted, including Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Lena Horne, Pete Seeger and Artie Shaw, all of whom were named publicly as suspected Communist sympathizers on this day in 1950, in the infamous publication Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television.

Red Channels was a tract issued by the right-wing journal Counterattack, the self-described “Newsletter of Facts to Combat Communism.” By 1950, Joseph McCarthy and the HUAC had already been at work for several years, and figures like singer Paul Robeson and the so-called Hollywood Ten had already been blacklisted, but Red Channels sought to go further, exposing what it called a widespread Communist effort to achieve “domination of American broadcasting and telecasting, preparatory to the day when…[the] Party will assume control of this nation as the result of a final upheaval and civil war.” Some even believe that the men responsible for Red Channels—including several former members of the FBI—were given illegal access to the confidential files of HUAC in preparing their report, which exposed 151 names in the entertainment industry to public scrutiny and the threat of blacklisting.”

John Howard Lawson and Dalton Trumbo were successful Hollywood screenwriters. Both Lawson and Trumbo were Communists; both refused to testify before HUAC, were found to be in contempt of Congress as a result, and were incarcerated, then blacklisted in Hollywood upon their release from prison. This prevented them from working. This all happened before Shaw was subpoenaed, and he was well aware of it.

(5) Nolan, 221. Shaw admitted to: “…discuss(ing) these questions on FEPC, as I have discussed them, openly and quite loudly at the executive council session of HICCASP” in his testimony before HUAC.

(6) Ibid.

(6A) It was reported in Time magazine on September 26, 1949 that Shaw played Ravel’s “Piece en Forme de Habanera” with his big band at Boston’s Symphony Ballroom. There was polite applause after which some one in the audience of dancers cried out: “Artie, you stink.”

(7) Liner notes to the Hep CD The Artistry of Artie Shaw, (2004) by Alastair Robertson, 4. Shaw’s 1949 band was “all-star” only in retrospect. At the time, most of the young musicians in this band were unknown to general swing and/or bop audiences. Later, a number of them made reputations as jazz soloists.

(8) Nolan, 276-277.

Links:

(*) Here is a link to a pdf file of Shaw’s public testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee on May 4, 1953:

Shaw testimony

Here are links to what Artie Shaw did best – make music:

From the 1950s:

https://swingandbeyond.com/2019/02/09/my-funny-valentine-1954-artie-shaw/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2017/03/24/bewitched-bothered-and-bewildered-1956-ella-fitzgerald-and-1954-artie-shaw/

From the 1940s:

https://swingandbeyond.com/2017/10/21/star-dust-1940-artie-shaw/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2018/02/24/these-foolish-things-1945-artie-shaw/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2019/01/25/just-kiddin-around-1941-artie-shaw/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2018/05/05/blues-in-the-night-1941-artie-shaw-and-hot-lips-page/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2016/10/11/reads-and-re-reads-the-protean-mr-gershwin/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2017/01/10/lets-walk-1945-artie-shaw/

From the 1930s:

https://swingandbeyond.com/2016/09/05/begin-the-beguine-1938-artie-shaw/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2017/03/03/vilia-1939-artie-shaw/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2017/09/04/buddy-rich-at-100-1939-with-artie-shaw-traffic-jam-shoot-the-rhythm-to-me-john-boy-and-carioca/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2018/08/04/jeepers-creepers-1938-artie-shaw-and-tony-pastor/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2018/10/13/the-chant-1939-artie-shaw-and-klezmer-music/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2019/06/13/i-surrender-dear-1937-and-1939-artie-shaw/

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2 Comments

  1. I don’t know whether Artie Shaw was a great writer or even a good writer. Along with Benny Goodman and Buddy De Franco He was one of the greatest jazz clarinet players. No one can argue with that. Yet he gave up the clarinet and turned his attention to writing. It reminds me of Michael Jordan one of the greatest basketball players giving it up for a time to play baseball.

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