Duke Ellington broke in Charlotte? No way, Mr. Zappa

“On 28 June 1969 the Mothers [of Invention] played the Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina, as part of the Charlotte Jazz Festival. .. [Frank] Zappa claimed that ‘before we went on, I saw Duke Ellington begging — pleading — for a ten-dollar advance. It was really depressing.’ After the show Zappa told the band: ‘That’s it, we’re breaking the band up.’ According to Zappa, if Duke Ellington had to beg some assistant for $10, what was he, Zappa, doing with a 10-piece band, trying to play rock ‘n’ roll? But there is something wrong with this story.

“In 1969 Duke Ellington was 70 and feted wherever he went….Ellington famously ate little but caviar and steak, and on a tour of India he had his filet mignon flow in from the States. It seems extremely unlikely that he was begging for $10, as Zappa claimed in ‘The Real Frank Zappa.’….”

— From “Zappa” by Barry Miles (2004)

Zappa apparently used the Ellington fabrication to justify his decision to disband the original Mothers, whose final performance would be less than two months later.

Did you know Ellington’s father was born in Lincolnton?


Durham put him ‘In a Sentimental Mood’

“We had played a big dance in a tobacco warehouse, and afterwards a friend of mine, an executive in the North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company [treasurer Edward Merrick], threw a party for us [at the N.C. Mutual Building in Durham].

“I was playing piano when another one of our friends had some trouble with two chicks. To pacify them, I composed this there and then, with one chick standing on each side of the piano.”

— Duke Ellington, as quoted by Stanley Dance in his liner notes to “The Ellington Era, 1927-1940, Vol. 2″

According to jazzstandards.com, ” ‘In a Sentimental Mood’ enjoyed a wave of popularity in the 1930s…. [It] was the theme song for no less than nine radio shows.”

Pictured: celluloid watch fob with image of N.C. Mutual Building.