Following my post yesterday on Dave Lambert's music, I asked his daughter Dee if she would send along some recollections about her dad so we'd have a finer understanding of this famed singer was when he wasn't in front of a mike. [Pictured above, from bottom, Dave Lambert, Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross by Ted Williams/CTSImages.com] Here's Dee's email...
"My dad was a man’s man and a great father. He could take an axe into the woods and build a lean-to. He would stand in the stream next to our campsite at New York's Bear Mountain State Park and pile rocks and twigs to build a dam so we could have a deep swimming hole. He made great stew and coffee. He was a master carpenter and cabinet builder. He once built a row boat in our fifth floor walk-up tenement kitchen on Cornelia Street in Manhattan for a little boy he knew in upstate New York.
"When there was no singing or songwriting work, or not enough work to bring home the bacon, he worked as a carpenter or painter. As a little girl, I would go with him on carpentry jobs to 'assist.' When I wanted ballet lessons, he got a job sanding and finishing the floor of Edith Stephen’s dance studio in exchange for my lessons. When wanted to take singing lessons, he sent me to the Brill Building, where I studied with blues-singer-turned-vocal-coach Mabel Horsey. He took me to the Brill Building to sell my first song that we wrote together—Cookin’ in the Hall—and I cashed my check at Charlie’s Tavern.
"Dad often took me with him during the day when my mom went to work in an office and I was not yet in school. I did 'kindergarten' in recording studios, rehearsal halls, the Union Floor at Roseland Dance City, and Charlie’s Tavern. When he got one of his first big royalty checks from Lambert, Hendricks & Ross recordings, he bought all the important women in his life a top-of-the-line Electrolux vacuum cleaner (there were about five of us).
"Dad would tease the little old Italian lady who was the janitor of our building by running up to her while she was sweeping the stairs. He'd take hands to his heart and make like Caruso, singing Oh Solo Mio. She would blush and swat at him with her broom. It was their routine. [Photo above, from left, Dave Lambert, John Simmons, Chubby Jackson, George Handy and Dizzy Gillespie by William P. Gottlieb, ca. July 1947]
"Dad was an avid photographer, and once he could afford it he had a Nikon F always loaded and at his side. He set up a darkroom on the porcelained tin cover on the bathtub in our apartment and taught me to process black-and-white film. His toys were a long Flexible Flyer sled, snorkel and fins and a collection of flutes, a penny whistle and a kazoo. When I asked him if I should be a singer, dad said 'You should be whatever you want to be, but when you know what that is, be it all the time. If you want to be a dancer, dance all the time; if you want to be a singer, sing all the time.' [Pictured above, from left, Dave Lambert, Annie Ross and Jon Hendricks by Ted Williams/CTSImages.com]
"Dad sang all the time. When he walked down the street, he would scat or 'ch-ch-ch' rhythms. He never went up or the five-flight tenement stairs to our apartment one step at a time. He remembered phone numbers not by the number but by what part of do-re-mi the number represented. Consequently, everybody’s phone number was a seven-note tune. He was a daredevil diver. When we went to Leroy Street pool, he would go off the high board in a jack knife dive. He read the Sunday New York Times in a couple of hours. He had close to 100% retention of everything he read, and he was a speed reader. [Photo above of Dave Lambert, courtesy of Bill Crow]
"Dad's words of wisdom: 'When sick, drink lots of water and think kind thoughts,' 'When you talk about somebody who has hurt you, you give them power over your life,' 'If you don’t have anything good to say about someone, don’t say anything at all,' 'If your friends won’t pay to see you, who will?” And he always signed off on phone calls or in letters with 'Happy Days.' ” [Photo above, from left, Al Cohn, Brew Moore, Dave Lambert, Gus Grant, Ray Turner and Chuck Wayne shaking hands on a recording deal with Progressive Records, ca. 1949, courtesy of Bill Crow]
—Dee Lambert on her father, Dave Lambert,
July 24, 2014