The “Man Who Pastorized Swing”

A few weeks ago, Elizabeth pointed out a few unidentified jazz photographs and asked me if I could write up a post on them to see who they might be. One photograph, seen here, ended up being easily identified: it is big band leader Tony Pastor (1907-1969), “The Man Who Pastorized Swing.”

Tony Pastor performing at UNC, May 16 or 17, 1941

The background was the giveaway. On the upper left are the bottom of the numbers “941,” and on the right are an “R” and the rounded edge of another letter. A quick check through the UNC yearbook Yackety Yack revealed the bands who played at UNC dances for that year. That tidbit and some name “Googling” matched the face in the Morton photograph with the face of Pastor in other portraits on the Web for the easy ID.

Pastor’s band was the headline act for the Spring 1941 Junior and Senior dances on Friday and Saturday, 16-17 May 1941. Pastor’s troupe performed four dance sets, and the 5:00-5:25 dance was broadcast “coast-to-coast” over the NBC radio network via WPTF in Raleigh. As far as we can tell, this is the only surviving negative of Pastor’s performances at Chapel Hill. Pastor also performed three gigs at the Carolina Theater in Durham that Thursday at 3:00, 7:00, and 9:30. The tickets for the matinee shows were 28 cents, while the evening show cost 44 cents.

The drummer in the background of Morton’s photograph is either Johnny Morris or Morrison (I’ve see both in print but I think it’s Morris). One of Pastor’s signature tunes was “Paradiddle Joe,” which featured the drummer. YouTube has a  version with Henry “Riggs” Guidotti on the kit. Not pictured is Eugenie Baird, who joined Pastor’s band just two weeks before coming to Durham and Chapel Hill.

How did the students rate Pastor? Well, the Daily Tar Heel wrote a review on 1 June 1941 of the bands who came to campus for dances. They decided that Pastor, “even to those addicted to Paradiddle Joe and Let’s Do It, was disappointing. By Saturday night his blasting, commercial arrangements were grating on everybody near enough to the bandstand to hear him.”

3 thoughts on “The “Man Who Pastorized Swing”

  1. Stephen, nice detective work on the ‘941’ and ‘R’! I was reading somewhere the other day (sorry, no citation) that we are much more able to identify letters from their top halves than from their bottom halves.

  2. From the 1930s to the early 1950s, Big Bands were extremely popular – on recordings, on radio, in the fashionable hotels, and in the movies…feature length and shorts. Long before music videos, there were Vitaphone music shorts, in which movie audiences could see the top bands they knew from radio and records. Also, in the early days of television, many local stations used these shorts to make the switch-over from radio recordings to “video recordings.” One of these Vitaphone recordings features Tony Pastor from 1947.

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0665088/

  3. I know this an old post,but:
    The drummer’s name was indeed Johnny Morris(not Morrison).
    He was my great uncle,died in 1979. I’m always looking for photos,info,mp3 about him,which is how I found this site. Thanks for posting the photo!

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