Jazz:West Records by James A. Harrod - Read Online
Jazz:West Records
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A history of the Jazz:West label established by Herb Kimmel in 1954. Jazz artists recorded by Kimmel include: Jack Sheldon, Walter Norris, Zoot Sims, Jane Fielding, Kenny Drew, Joe Maini, Paul Chambers, John Coltrane, James Clay, Julius Wechter, and Art Pepper. Additional chapters examine Art Pepper's continuing recording career from July 1956 through April 1957 including Pepper's recordings on Tampa, Pacific Jazz, Intro, and Omegatape. The book includes a previously unpublished interview with Art and Laurie Pepper by Will Thornbury where Pepper discusses his recordings from this period.
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Preface

The genesis of this history of Herb Kimmel and his Jazz:West label can be traced back to an e-mail that the author received in November of 2001. I established an internet discussion group in 1993 entitled Jazz West Coast and soon over three hundred fans of West Coast jazz from around the globe were members and contributors. Reissues of classic jazz albums from the 1950s began with the introduction of compact disc technology in the 1980s and all of the major record companies embarked on programs to reissue their major holdings on CD. Japanese producers were especially keen on reissuing rare recordings from West Coast labels like Pacific Jazz, Contemporary, and Fantasy. Discussions on the list would frequently inquire the whereabouts of the producers associated with some of these labels. One of my posts to the group asked if anyone knew what had become of Herb Kimmel, the founder of Jazz:West records, which produced ten LPs during its short life span.

I was delighted and totally taken by surprise when I received an e-mail from an hdkimmel at a southwestbell address on November 6, 2001:

Dear Jim,

I ran across your e-mail address while searching around for stuff about Jazz:West records. I was Jazz:West’s founder and A&R director during almost all of its existence (I gave it up when I completed my PhD and took an academic job as an experimental psychologist). I can probably answer some of your questions about the years 1953-57, and you appear to have access to info about new releases of some of my old productions. The only one that I have seen is The Return of Art Pepper, and I just stumbled on that one at Tower in Hollywood a few years ago (I recognized Claxton’s cover photo, which was also used for the re-released CD). Recently I ordered another newly re-mastered CD of John Coltrane playing the blues, including the great track he played on my Paul Chambers album (Chambers’ Music / A Jazz Delegation from the East). I haven’t received it yet. Now, I see from your info that Kenny Drew’s Talkin’ & Walkin’ has been released on CD. Where can I buy that? I’d appreciate any help you can give on that front.

As I said, any questions.

Herb Kimmel

I took Herb at his word, and over the next several years we regularly exchanged e-mails as I put forth questions regarding the recording sessions for Jazz:West and his background as poet, short story author, superior court bailiff, sheriff’s deputy, songwriter, and record producer. This history is dedicated to the memory of his achievement as a pioneering producer of straight-ahead jazz on the West Coast that gave many unrecognized and unrecorded jazz musicians their first albums as leaders.

Introduction

Most independent record label founders shared a common experience — they heard musicians who were making wonderful music that disappeared the moment it was created. The music was not being captured or recorded for others to appreciate beyond the club or other venue where the musicians were performing. Some of these founders were already in the music business as record storeowners. They had knowledge of what music was available and what music their customer base was seeking.

Ross Russell was one of these record storeowners, the Tempo Music Shop in Hollywood. He heard Charlie Parker and instantly knew that this music had to be recorded so that other jazz fans could discover Parker’s innovations. Russell founded Dial Records and helped launch the bebop revolution.

Jules, Saul, and Joe Bihari were also in the music business in south central Los Angeles where they operated a chain of juke boxes in clubs, cafes, and other establishments. Their success was dependent on being able to keep the jukeboxes stocked with music that stimulated plays by customers. When they found their access to new music restricted by the major record companies, they decided to found their own record label, and Modern Music was born. They were also fortunate in that Los Angeles at that time was teeming with jazz and R&B musicians who were not being recorded or recognized by the major record companies. Modern Music was later modified to Modern Records on their labels with the addition of Hollywood below the word ‘Records.’

Eddie and Leo Mesner owned the Philharmonic Music Shop that was located in the Philharmonic Auditorium Building at the corner of 5th and Olive Streets in downtown Los Angeles, across from Pershing Square. Their location provided ample exposure to patrons attending concerts at the Philharmonic Auditorium, like Norman Granz who originated his Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts there. The Mesners might have been in the same predicament as the Bihari brothers regarding the availability of records from the major record companies and decided to form their own label, Philo Recordings. Their first release, a 78 rpm single, P101, featured Illinois Jacquet and His All Stars playing Flying Home, a tune that had been a jazz hit with Lionel Hampton’s band. The label portrayed a magic lamp that emitted smoke spelling out the Philo name.

The Mesners were contacted by lawyers representing the Philco Corporation who advised that their name could be confused with the large corporation’s name and, rather than fight a lawsuit, the Mesners changed the name of their record label to Aladdin Recordings, and retained the lamp in their label logo design with the lamp smoke spelling out the Aladdin name.

Later on, the label was modernized with Aladdin’s lamp positioned centrally over a solid bar that often noted the music genre. Aladdin continued to record and release jazz artists, but their greatest successes were in the rhythm and blues field, referred to as Race Records in the Billboard charts.

Lester Koenig launched Good Time Jazz Records to capture the revival of New Orleans traditional jazz on the West Coast, and later, in the early 1950s, founded Contemporary Records to record the blossoming of modern jazz spearheaded by Howard Rumsey and his all-star groups at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach.

Around the same time in Hollywood, Dick Bock, who had been the A&R head of Discovery Records, another independent label, formed Pacific Jazz Records along with drum shop owner Roy Harte to capture the modern jazz sounds of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet. Mulligan, along with Chet Baker, was attracting a large following at the Haig, a small nightclub on Kenmore Avenue across from the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard.

Contemporary and Pacific Jazz would become two of the major independent jazz labels to emerge on the West Coast in the 1950s in southern California. A similar phenomenon occurred around the same time in San Francisco when recordings by the Dave Brubeck Trio would encourage the Weiss brothers, Sol and Max, to establish Fantasy Records.

Harry Babasin settled on the West Coast in the late 1940s after attending North Texas State College with fellow musicians Jimmy Giuffre, Herb Ellis, and Gene Roland. A bassist who also doubled on cello, Babasin had played with Gene Krupa, Boyd Raeburn, Charlie Barnet, and Benny Goodman. Babasin witnessed firsthand the growth of independent labels and felt that many of his musician friends were not being recognized and recorded by the major or independent labels. In 1954 he founded Nocturne Records along with the co-founder of Pacific Jazz Records, Roy Harte. The first release by Nocturne sought to launch the dwindling career of Tommy Traynor. When that failed to draw any attention, Babasin launched the Jazz in Hollywood series and released eight 10-inch LPs featuring Herbie Harper, Bud Shank, Bob Enevoldsen, Conley Graves, Earl Hines, and Virgil Gonsalvez, as well as himself. The under-capitalized label did not survive and was acquired by Liberty Records. Liberty continued to release Nocturne masters as well as several unreleased Nocturne recordings on the Liberty label.

Herb Kimmel added his name to this list of independent record producers when he established Outpost Records and the Jazz:West label in the summer of 1954. It was during this time that Kimmel made the resolve to record some of the jazz artists in Hollywood that he was hearing but who were not being given recording contracts or the opportunity to achieve recognition as leaders in their own right. He was also looking for musicians who were playing a more gutsy jazz without the classical forms that were becoming the vogue in West Coast jazz. Kimmel’s first release featured Jack Sheldon fronting a quartet with Walter Norris.

The success of that release led to a second release, adding Zoot Sims to form a quintet. These initial releases were 10-inch LPs, the standard format in 1954. Record companies began to adopt the 12-inch LP format in the mid-1950s, and Kimmel’s third release on his Jazz:West label in the 12-inch LP format featured Jane Fielding, who had impressed William Claxton when he heard her singing in a nightclub in Beverly Hills.

The fourth release on Jazz:West featured Kenny Drew and Joe Maini in a quartet. Kenny Drew and Joe Maini were tapped again for Kimmel’s fifth release on Jazz:West, which again featured Jane Fielding, backed by a quintet that included tenor saxophonist Ted Efantis, who had discovered Jane Fielding when she began singing in clubs in Miami. Kimmel wanted his initial Jack Sheldon albums to compete in the 12-inch LP format, and his sixth release on Jazz:West combined the quartet and quintet sessions on a 12-inch LP release.

The seventh release on Jazz:West featured Paul Chambers and John Coltrane under Chambers’s leadership. Chambers and Coltrane, along with Philly Joe Jones, were in Los Angeles during their first West Coast appearance at Jazz City in the Miles Davis Quintet. The album would provide one of the first opportunities for Coltrane to be heard apart from the Davis quintet. Although Kimmel’s eighth release on Jazz:West named Lawrence Marable as leader, the focus of the album was on the young tenor saxophone discovery, James Clay, with the able support of Jimmy Bond on bass and Sonny Clark on piano.

Kimmel’s ninth release for the label was not released immediately as he had some doubts regarding the music. He played the tape masters for Dave Brubeck, who encouraged Kimmel to proceed with its release. The album introduced Julius Wechter to the jazz world. A second Wechter album was recorded for release after Kimmel ceased activity for the Mesners’s Aladdin enterprise, but it never progressed beyond the test pressing stage. Julius Wechter left his mark on the music world when he founded the Baja Marimba Band on the A&M label. Herb Kimmel’s final production for Jazz:West, regarded by many as his finest, featured Art Pepper backed by Jack Sheldon, Russ Freeman, Leroy Vinnegar, and Shelly Manne.

This history also covers Pepper’s recordings for the Tampa label, his recording activity for other labels, and his recordings on Intro Records, the revived Aladdin imprint that the Mesners used for productions by Don Clark, who was appointed the A&R director after Kimmel’s departure. Details regarding Art Pepper’s recordings as leader and sideman from July 1956 through April 1957 are covered as well as data from the original AFM contracts, giving details of personnel, recording dates, and locations.

Concluding chapters include a remembrance of jazz authority Will Thornbury by Kirk Silsbee, Michael C Ford’s poem in tribute to Will Thornbury, and Will Thornbury’s January 1980 interview with Art Pepper and Laurie Pepper. The interview traces Pepper’s early career and his recordings for Jazz:West, Intro, and Omegatape.

Introductory chapters examine Herb Kimmel’s other associations with jazz in Los Angeles, including employment as a sheriff deputy at the Wayside Honor Rancho during the period that Gene Roland and Gerry Mulligan were inmates; author and contributor to Theme magazine; author, contributor, and consultant on William Claxton’s photography portfolio, Jazz West Coast; and his friendship with William Claxton, who would assume duties as art director for Jazz:West, taking photographs at recording sessions, and designing the labels and album covers for all Jazz:West productions.

In addition to writing the liner notes for most of his releases on Jazz:West, Kimmel was a published poet and short story author with two short stories published in the avant-garde Paris journal, Points.

After earning his Doctor of Philosophy in Experimental Psychology from the University of Southern California in 1958, Herb Kimmel accepted a position in the Psychology Department at the University of Florida; a loss for the jazz world and a gain for the field of Experimental Psychology.

1

Brownsville to Gainesville

Herbert David Kimmel was born in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, New York, on May 22, 1927, the son of Max and Lillian (Neuwirth) Kimmel. The family finances were limited, and the crash of the stock market in 1929 with the onset of the Depression exacerbated conditions for the Kimmel household. Young Herb worked at a variety of odd jobs from an early age to supplement the family income.

The Kimmels would escape to the Catskill Mountains for relief from the brutal heat of Brooklyn summers and could only afford a kochaleyn, a sparse one-room cabin with an icebox and stove. Max Kimmel abandoned his family in the summer of 1937 during their stay in the Catskills. With their furniture in storage and no place to stay, Herb along with his mother and sister had to hitch a ride back to Brooklyn where they relied on the kindness of relatives to get by until Lillian found a job. This experience placed Herb at the head of the family and magnified the need for him to work and provide income for the family. The family was so strapped that they had to rely on social services, called Home Relief at the time. Herb would wear his home-relief jacket when he went to pick up food for the family at the distribution center.

While in junior high, Herb learned that the two high schools that bordered where he lived in Brownsville were Thomas Jefferson High School on Pennsylvania Avenue, and Samuel J. Tilden High School at Tilden Avenue and East 58th Street. The address where he was living with his mother at Sterling Place and Howard Avenue placed him within the Thomas Jefferson district. Herb learned through friends that Jefferson students, largely from East New York, tended to be a rough and tumble lot, and he did not want to attend Jefferson. Fortunately some relatives lived in the Tilden district, and Herb registered with Tilden, giving his relatives’s address as his home. Herb graduated from junior high school, P.S. 210, in Brooklyn in January of 1941.

Herb worked full time after leaving junior high for several months before starting high school in the fall of 1941. He met Lenny Nichol at Tilden High. Lenny, who also faked his address in order to attend Tilden, was a self-taught piano player who impressed Herb when he performed Honky Tonk Train and Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie on the high school auditorium piano after-school when only the two of them were present. Both had after-school jobs in Manhattan and would catch the Lexington Avenue Express at the Utica Station to take them into the city. They would always move to the front car where they were usually the only passengers, and they could scat songs, whistle, and stomp their own jazz productions. Lenny could imitate Muggsy Spanier’s muted cornet solo on Peg O’ My Heart.

Herb’s love of jazz was born during these subway rides with Nichol. He would exit the subway at the Union Square stop to go to his after-school job at Pearlman’s Wholesale Stationery Store on 18th Street and 5th Avenue. He held a variety of other jobs in the city before and after graduating from high school in January of 1944, an academic fast track that he would repeat in college, obtaining his BA in three years using the G.I. Bill. After his graduation, Herb took night courses at the City College of New York while working for the Post Office at 8th Street and 33rd Avenue. He pushed a hand truck in the garment district, squeezed snaps on children’s hats in Chelsea, delivered cables and radiograms for Mackay Radio, and worked for the New York Brass and Copper Company on Lafayette Street from September of 1944 until December when he enlisted in the navy.

Rather than be drafted, Herb decided to join the navy and was sworn in on December 20, 1944, at the Naval Combat Aircrew office on Pine Street in New York. On Lenny’s recommendation, Herb and his cousin, Harriet Neuwirth, went to Nick’s in the village the night of January 1, 1945, to hear Muggsy play, a going-away celebration before he entered service in the navy. This was the first real live jazz that Kimmel heard, an experience that cemented a lifelong love of jazz. Herb recalled that Lennie’s imitation of Muggsy Spanier’s muted cornet solo on Peg O’ My Heart was accurate as he listened to Spanier perform the number at Nick’s.

The following day, January 2, 1945, Herb reported to the navy desk in Pennsylvania Station where he received instructions and travel documents to report to boot camp in Memphis, Tennessee. Herb’s unit was Company 28 Platoon 3 NATTC (Naval Air Technical Training Center) in Memphis.

After boot camp Herb was transferred to the Aviation Machinist Mate School in Norman, Oklahoma, for twenty-one weeks. He completed training and received a certificate on August 11, 1945 — MM Class 38-a-45 Aviation Machinist Mate School, NATTC, Norman, Oklahoma.

Herb was next transferred to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for training to operate the catapult and arresting gear, a four-week course. He was awarded a certificate on October 26, 1945, for Completion of Catapult and Arresting Gear Training School (for operation and maintenance of Mark 4 Arresting Gear).

WWII ended with the surrender of the armed forces of Japan to the Allied Powers in August of 1945. Herb’s orders to report to Bremerton, Washington, for transfer to a Pacific command were rescinded, and he received an honorable discharge from the navy on November 23, 1945.

Herb moved with his mother to Tampa, Florida, in the early part of 1946. The family had relatives in the Tampa and Plant City area, and Herb decided to continue his education at the University of Florida in Gainesville on the G. I. Bill. He enrolled at UF in the first semester of 1946 and received his AA degree in February of 1947.

Herb returned to New York during the summer of 1947 and took courses at CCNY. Herb’s navy service provided G. I. Bill assistance for three and a half years, and when he returned to Gainesville in the fall of 1947, he managed a course load that secured his BA degree from the University of Florida in June of 1948.

A chance meeting on the train trip back to New York resulted in a summer job at the Hotel Belmont, West Harwich-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, allowing Herb to set aside money to attend NYU in the fall to pursue his MA degree. Herb Kimmel befriended several artist and literary friends during that summer on Cape Cod and later in life would submit a poem, the mud slingers, that was accepted for publication by Vincent Ferrini’s little magazine, Four Winds, but the magazine failed before the poem appeared in print.

Returning to New York, Herb enrolled at NYU while working full time at The Merck Institute in New Jersey. Herb was enrolled at NYU for the first and second semesters of 1948 and 1949. He interrupted his studies in December of 1949 when he decided to follow a woman he was involved with to the West Coast.

2

New York to Los Angeles

Herb joined the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity while attending the University of Florida, and the non-sectarian creed of that fraternity was crucial in forming his outlook on life and his political persuasion. Soon after arriving in Los Angeles in December of 1949, Herb attended a left wing political rally where he met Iwan Serrurier. Serrurier was charmed by the confident and well-spoken Kimmel, and they struck up a friendship. When Herb told Iwan that he was seeking an accommodation that was cheaper than the budget hotel where he was staying, Serrurier offered Herb a room in his Moviola Building at 1442 Beechwood Drive, between Sunset and Santa Monica, surrounded by Columbia Studios. The room was spartan with a private bath, separate entrance, and a private parking spot but it suited Herb perfectly, and Serrurier refused Herb’s offer to pay for this accommodation. Serrurier invented the Moviola machine in 1924, which allowed film editors to view film stock while editing, and the building around the corner from Gower Gulch rented workspace and Moviola machines to independent editors who could not afford to purchase the equipment outright. Herb and Iwan remained close friends and kept in touch. They both opposed Nixon’s senatorial bid, the Eisenhower-Nixon presidential candidacy, the Marshall Plan, the support for the Greek Colonels against the Greek revolutionaries, and the beginning of the Cold War.

Herb’s lady friend, whom he followed to the West Coast, left California, but Herb liked Los Angeles and focused once more on completing his education. He set about finding employment. The 1950 census was under way, and Herb was hired to follow up problem respondents to the census. A photo from the Los Angeles Mirror depicts Herb questioning a man regarding the census. When that work ended, Herb found work at the Queen of Angels Hospital as an attendant in the physician’s parking lot. His tenure as a parking lot attendant ended when the nuns at Queen of Angels saw Herb playing tennis with some of the young nurses at the hospital.

In the summer of 1950, Herb noticed an announcement in the Los Angeles Times that deputy sheriff jobs were available, and that applications for permanent positions were being accepted at the Civil Service Commission. Applicants had to be in sound physical health, weigh between 150 and 239 pounds, be between five feet nine inches and six feet seven inches tall, and they must have a valid driver’s license and a birth certificate. Herb applied and was hired almost immediately. His first position as a deputy sheriff was as a bailiff in the Los Angeles Superior Court. Some of the more sensational trials that Herb worked included Sabu’s (The Elephant Boy actor) paternity trial and John Wayne’s divorce trial from Esperanza Baur.

Herb was transferred to the Wayside Honor Rancho in the Saugus / Castaic area at the beginning of 1951. Deputies stationed at the Wayside Honor Rancho were given private quarters, and all of their meals were provided. Herb’s first assignment was the midnight to 8:00 a.m. shift, and he used his spare time while staying at the Wayside Honor Rancho to pursue writing short stories and poems. Deputies worked six days straight and then had two days off. Herb would usually return to his accommodation at the Moviola building on his days off, and enjoy the energetic nightlife of Los Angeles where the jazz scene was vibrant with new players and clubs.

The Wayside Honor Rancho was established by Sheriff Eugene Biscailuz in 1937 as a radical alternative to treating inmates. The following article, written by Captain Ambrose Stewart, Commanding Officer, Wayside Honor Rancho, appeared in the February 1956 edition of the Los Angeles County Employees Magazine.

"Today, this modern correctional institution is situated in the center of a 2900-acre rancho, located 42 miles northwest of Los Angeles Civic Center. It now houses over 1,300 inmates with a paid personnel of 176 employees. Three degrees of security are maintained; Minimum Security of 750 honor-type inmates who work in agriculture, maintenance and other activities requiring a minimum of supervision; a Segregated Minimum Security of 350 — inmates in this segregated compound are heroin addicts or peddlers. They are kept isolated from the other inmates in [order to] minimize the possibility of recruiting new narcotic prospects upon release. A dormitory and two cell-blocks hold 200 men in Maximum Security. These inmates are not considered proper custodial risks for Minimum Security-type incarceration. A new wing will be built as an addition to this present unit. This enlargement will raise the total Maximum Security capacity of Wayside Rancho to 600 men.

Here again Sheriff Biscailuz is pioneering in the design of a Maximum Security Jail. Planned by a special Jail Planning Committee under the immediate direction of Undersheriff Peter Pitchess and Chief M. F. Nuremberg, the new unit will consist of 12 dormitories, each housing 50 men.

It is the Sheriff’s opinion that while steel bars and clanging steel doors retard rehabilitation, security must not be sacrificed. This new unit will be one of country’s most escape-proof prisons. Approximately 650 acres produce alfalfa, permanent pasture, vegetables, fruit and grain. A 40-acre truck garden produces, in season, all the vegetables needed by Wayside Honor Rancho and Mira Loma. The fruit orchard produces peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums and figs. Two hundred and fifty acres of alfalfa is grown and used for both green feed and for hay. Two hundred acres of permanent pasture is used for feeding the 225 beef cattle and over 200 dairy cows. Grain is planted in areas that cannot be irrigated.

Wayside’s very modern hog ranch, with approximately 700 head of hogs, is reputed to be the cleanest such installation in California.

An inmate-operated dairy supplies all the milk for Wayside Honor Rancho, Mira Loma, the County Jail, Biscailuz Center, Warm Springs Camp, Acton Camp, Probation Camp #4, and Terminal Island facility. Its dairy herd, according to the University of California, has less mastitis, a disease of the udder, than any dairy herd in the State - a record of which the Sheriff is justly proud.

A prize beef herd supplies beef for the County Jail, Mira Loma and Wayside Honor Rancho. Slaughtering is by contract in San Fernando.

Approximately 200 head of sheep help to keep the weeds down along the roads and fences and provide wool for sale and meat for the table.

Nine water wells pump water for domestic and irrigation purposes into three 800,000 gallon reservoirs. Irrigation by overhead sprinklers saves water and is very efficient.

Eight craftsmen from the Mechanical Department provide supervision to attend to the maintenance of the buildings and most of the equipment. Agricultural equipment is maintained and operated by inmates under supervision of Sheriff’s employees.

One of the principal services provided the Sheriff’s Department by the maintenance crews is the refinishing of furniture for the entire Department, which results in considerable saving for the taxpayer.

Six dormitories provide private rooms for 71 employees who live on the property. Eight residences are rented to employee families.

The bakery supplies Wayside Honor Rancho, the County Jail, Mira Loma, Terminal Island, Biscailuz Center, Warm Springs Camp, Acton Camp, and Probation Camp #4 with bread and sweet rolls. Over sixty thousand loaves of bread are baked each month using paid supervision and inmate crews.

For inmates, an athletic program provides equipment for softball, basketball, handball, football, volleyball, weight lifting, boxing, horseshoes, ping pong, and other activities.

A Hobby and Handicraft program, under the direction of the Care and Treatment section, Sheriff’s Department, is supplied with both power and hand tools for making articles of wood, leather, metal and plastics. A Rehabilitation Work Shop Manager designs and supervises the construction of various occupational therapy items, which are donated to hospitals and charity groups to aid in the rehabilitation of their patients. Toys are repaired and painted for the County Loan Division of the Probation Department.

Hobbycraft items made by the inmates in their spare time are sold to visitors, and the profits credited to the inmate’s account. This provides him with funds for necessary toilet articles, tobacco, and stationery and for money when he is released. Inmates receive no pay for their assigned work.

Movies once each week are provided, and a projection-type television supplies the inmates with all televised sporting events and other items of interest.

An excellent Chapel and a full-time Chaplain provide for the spiritual needs of the inmates. All denominations are represented. Services are held every day or evening in the week by outside church groups.

Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are held once each week with outside leadership, and all meetings are well attended.

The Library, which is a branch of the Los Angeles County Library, has the largest circulation per capita served by any library in the County. Approximately one-third of the books drawn are non-fiction and range from astronomy to How-to-do-it books on home repairs. A full-time Librarian and a Bookmobile Librarian are employed by the Library Department.

The royalty from 31 oil wells drilled by the Texas Company helps keep the tax rate down by providing approximately 3/4 of a million dollars per year to the County General Fund. This money is used to buy and maintain our system of parks and playgrounds.

County employees are welcome to visit Wayside Honor Rancho by appointment and see how Sheriff Biscailuz is rebuilding men who may be your neighbor."¹

3

Life at Wayside

The Wayside Honor Rancho figures prominently in the history of Jazz:West in two ways: first as Herb Kimmel’s employment as a deputy sheriff at the facility, and second as he encountered inmates from the jazz world that he would interact with at the rancho and in the outside world once they were released. Drug use among jazz musicians was common at the time, and many musicians spent time at the farm as it was referred to when they ran afoul of the law and were sentenced to jail time.

Herb’s initial employment at the rancho on the midnight to 8:00 a.m. shift did not allow much interaction with other deputies, but he got to know another deputy, Frank Art Vacio, and found they shared common interests and outlooks on life. Herb requested a leave of absence in the summer / fall of 1951 so that he could return to New York to complete requirements for his MA degree at NYU. Prior to his departure for New York, Art and Herb took a vacation to Mexico in Herb’s DeSoto convertible, an experience that would result in a short story, Octopus for Dinner, and Herb’s first music composition, How I Like The Mambo.²

When Herb returned to the Wayside Honor Rancho, he was able to secure the 6:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. shift that involved front gate duty from 6:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., then reading prisoner mail until 10:00 a.m. followed by routine supervision of inmates as they went about their daily assignments. One day Herb was humming a pastiche of melodies that he heard in Mexico when an inmate inquired about what he was humming.

I went to Mexico for a month-long vacation and got interested in the increasingly popular mambo – especially when presented in a jazz-like format. One of the inmates at the honor farm, Gene Roland (trumpeter with Kenton, arranger of Tampico, the big hit with June Christy and, later, Cool Eyes) heard me singing, humming or whatever and asked me what the tune was. After thinking about it, I told him it was a tune of my own creation. He blew me away by instantly writing out a lead sheet of the tune with the appropriate chords. He asked me if I ‘created’ any other tunes. I sang or hummed a few others, and he was very motivated to try to exploit my naive and potentially commercial musical sensibility (professional musicians think that untrained lay people can create tunes that have commercial potential, even more commercial than their own creations). We ended up collaborating on several tunes. I even went around Hollywood plugging them (I sang a few of them to Patty Andrews and I gave the music of the mambo to Stan Kenton. Roland was in jail during this period, but we continued our relationship after he was released). Indeed, he introduced me to Gerry Mulligan, who then came under my supervision at the honor farm.³

Herb expanded on the background of their collaboration in another e-mail message.

…Gene wrote the arrangement for Kenton’s Tampico, with June Christy singing. Thus it seemed logical that his Mexican arrangement style was suitable for my tune Que me Gusta Mambo (How I Like The Mambo). I wrote lyrics in both languages. Stan Kenton was interested in doing the tune but not as a vocal. Gene advised me to try elsewhere (he hoped we could make money with the tune and a singer). I took it to Patty Andrews and was shocked to learn that she couldn’t sight read the tune from the lead sheet. So I had to perform the tune for her – I sang it in her room at the Ambassador Hotel with two others listening. She took the lead sheet and showed it to her manager and her sisters. But they didn’t follow up and it died. I should have told Kenton to do it as an instrumental.

Herb and Art Vacio collaborated on other tunes with Roland, as noted in another e-mail to the author.

Another tune that Gene Roland and I wrote was called I’ll Still Love You. I was at his apartment in Hollywood one night working on the song, and Gerry Mulligan was there, sitting across the room on a couch, absolutely stoned. We took a break, and he went over to the piano and started playing the tune we had been working on faster, as a Hawaiian tune. On the spot we re-wrote the tune with new lyrics, calling it Just A Little Minute." I almost succeeded in getting the Andrews sisters to do that one. The tune actually stole its first line from the old theme song for the daytime soap called Myrt & Marge. My mother used to listen to that show on the radio every day. Also the first line of the Gershwin tune Love Is Here To Stay. Also the first line of the slow movement of Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony. Everybody plagiarized that tune."

Kimmel worked part time from August of 1951 until June of 1952 at the William S. Hart Union High School in Saugus as a school psychometrician, as noted in an e-mail to the author.

"I also was employed some evenings as School Psychologist at the William S. Hart Union High School in Saugus, the work consisting of counseling and other self-created psychological activities at the honor farm, e.g., trying to develop a classification test for all inmates.

The honor farm library was run by a civilian employee of the L.A. County library system, with the assistance of a medium security inmate. During 1952-53, the librarian’s helper was Will MacFarland, serving a one-year sentence for possession of heroin. Will had been employed as a newsreader and sometime deejay at a Hollywood radio station at the time he was arrested in Hollywood. His father had been a Republican US Senator from Kansas (I found out later that he had a bunch of ‘Landon for President’ buttons) who went to L.A. to be a movie actor. Will won the Chicago young poet’s award in 1950 (approx). He was very bright and very talented."

The library at the Wayside Honor Rancho acquired another helper when the Hollywood producer, Walter Wanger, arrived in June of 1952. Wanger was given preferential treatment, and spent a lot of time in the barracks office on the phone talking to his associates in Hollywood. Herb recalled Wanger’s stay at the Wayside Honor Rancho in an e-mail to the author.

"Walter Wanger, the movie producer, was out at the farm when I worked there. He had shot a Hollywood agent (Jennings Lang) who was having an affair