[Dixielandjazz] Vernon Alley - Obit

Stan Brager sbrager at socal.rr.com
Tue Oct 12 09:51:34 PDT 2004

When I was a teen growing up in the San Fernando Valley, I discovered jazz
via an obscure radio station which featured jazz shows by Joey Adams and
Vernon Alley. Vernon show was called appropriately Vernon's Alley. All I
remember about these 2 shows was that they piqued my interest in jazz and
that Adams theme song was Duke Ellington's band playing the Billy Strayhorn
tune "Smada".

I didn't find out that Alley played bass until I read the credits on an old
Lionel Hampton side "Flying Home" - the one with the late Illinois Jacquet
on tenor.

Here's the Vernon Alley obit from the Los Angeles Times:

Vernon Alley, 89; Jazz Bassist in San Francisco

>From Associated Press

Vernon Alley, the bassist who played with his generation's greatest
musicians and was considered San Francisco's most distinguished jazz artist,
has died. He was 89.

Alley, a longtime San Franciscan, died Sunday after a long illness.

Musicians say Alley could have become one of the biggest names in jazz.
Instead he chose to spend his career in his native San Francisco, where he
attended junior high school with Joe DiMaggio. Jazz vocalist Jon Hendricks
once called Alley "the dean of San Francisco jazz."

Alley was born in 1915 in Winnemucca, Nev. Not long after his birth, Alley
and his parents moved to San Francisco, where he was a high school track and
football star. Alley's interest in jazz started when his parents took him to
see jazz pioneer Jelly Roll Morton perform.

Alley began his career playing clubs in San Francisco's Fillmore district
before World War II and started his own band, the Vernon Alley Trio, in
1939. In 1940, Alley went to New York and joined the Lionel Hampton band,
and two years later he moved to the Count Basie Orchestra, reaching the
pinnacle of the jazz world at age 27.

But Alley left the Basie band after several months to return to San
Francisco, where he stayed the rest of his life. He became a fixture on the
city's nightclub scene, worked on television and radio and served as musical
director of the Blackhawk, the city's top jazz club.

During his career, Alley played with jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, Nat
King Cole, Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Ella

As chairman of San Francisco's black musicians union, Alley fought to break
down racial barriers and advocated the integration of the city's jazz clubs.
After the black and white unions merged, he served as chapter president for
many years. In 1974, he became the first black man to become a member of the
exclusive Bohemian Club.

Alley was hospitalized with a stroke in August 2002 and spent the rest of
his life in a residential care program. He is survived by his brother Eddie,
94, and a longtime companion, Lorna deRuyter.

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