Tad Hershorn: Norman Granz (Pt. 3) - JazzWax

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October 05, 2011


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mel house

Sinatra a racist? That's bunk!
Sinatra played a major role in clearing the way for Blacks to perform at the major venues in Vegas (and to stay in those hotels).
And when Sinatra performed with Ella, I don't think that was intimidation you saw on Frank's face;it was only admiration. Frank was just digging her singing.Who wouldn't?


Does Hershorn cover the Houston incident in his book? Ella doesn't look very happy in that picture, but the expression on Dizzy's face seems to be saying "just another day at the office."

Ed Leimbacher

Gotta give the Norman credit--he sure knew how to hold a grudge. Fascinating about Sinatra, but it was probably just two big-buck egos bumping their racks. Back in June of 2009, I blogged about the real need for a Granz biography (find my bio/essay at http://mrebks.blogspot.com/2009/06/granz-scheme-of-things.html ), so I am gung-ho for Hershon's shot at it. And big thanks to Marc for Granzing so much space to their fascinating interview!

Bruce Armstrong

Frank Sinatra was no racist. As an earlier writer mentioned, Frank was instrumental in gaining equality for black performers in Las Vegas. I remember reading in a bio of Nat King Cole that while he was appearing in Las Vegas at the Sands, he was told that he could not use the swimming pool. Sinatra changed all of that. And as for being intimidated by Ella, I doubt Sinatra was ever intimidated by anyone in the entertainment business. Like an earlier poster said, that expression was admiration for Ella. As for Granz, yes he did some admirable things socially and for jazz, and should be recognized for them. But as a person he comes off as your classic type "A" personality--to be avoided whenever possible. I am really looking forward to reading the book.

Jeff Sultanof

I'm sure that Tad mentions in the book that Granz could be a real pain in the ass in the recording studio as far as what his 'stars' would sing and perform. Who knows what went on in the studio when Ella and Frank were rehearsing, but I can imagine Norman getting his two cents in, pushing Ella a bit (which he did on numerous occasions), Sinatra observing that Norman was upsetting her, and just reacting. That was typical of Sinatra; he hated people he admired being pushed around, and he adored Ella.


A friend informs me that the Houston incident was in retaliation for Granz enforcing a no segregation policy at a concert. The vice squad burst into a dressing room and found Gillespie and Jacquet playing craps. They along with Ella, her assistant, and Granz were booked for gambling. They paid a fine, signed autographs and made it back to play the second show.

RIck M

Dittos to the insights already written about the Sinatra/Granz feud. It appears that Granz was possessive about Ella's career and could not deal when a heavier hitter than himself was making decisions about a Fitzgerald performance.

Crying racism, even in those days, seems to be a last tactic of egotistical scoundrels.

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of 55 More Songs," "Anatomy of a Song," "Rock Concert: An Oral History" and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax has won three Jazz Journalists Association awards.
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