[Dixielandjazz] Gene Sheldon

Don Ingle dingle at nomadinter.net
Mon Jan 1 11:18:33 PST 2007

Re: Gene Sheldon.

Gene and my dad were good friends and shared something in common besides 
music and comedy. They both were private aircraft pilots. They were also 
friends from the many times that Gene was an act that shared a bill with 
the Ted Weems Orch. in which dad played from 1931 to 1941. Dad was 
featured with the Weems as much for his comedic skills as his sax, and 
he and Gene just naturally found common ground and hung out together 
between sets and and ondays off.
Dad had taken up flying when he was 15 and got his license when he was 
16 -- a long story there - and continued to fly for many years, racking 
up many thousands of hours of logged time. He and a friend owned a small 
Ryan that they kept at Sky Harbor Airfield north of Chciago, and dad 
took Gene up for many rides at various times.
One day Gene called dad up and said, Hey Red, Come out to the air field 
and see my new plane." So dad went thee and saw a new Piper all shiny 
and gassed up and  Gene said, "Let me take you up for a change." So dad 
and Gene took off and flew around the countryside and enjoyed the trip.  
Then dad said, "I didn't realize that you had taken up flying Gene." 
Gene replied, very dead pan, "Yeah, I had so much fun flying with you 
that I took lessons and bought the plane."
He paused and said,"... and you know what -- I'm going to solo next week.!"
Dad said that Gene hadn't yet gotten his final solo check for his 
license, and had only flown with those who had their ticket, and dad had 
his for a long time.
The last time dad and Gene got together was when Gene started playing in 
the Disney Zorro series.
Many of Gene's bits of business were copied in part or whole by others, 
notably Freddie Morgan.
Dad always said that of all the fine banjo players he had worked with, 
including Perry Botkin, ther "Red" Roundtree, Joe Wolverton, and Dick 
"Icky" Morgan, Gene was an artist on his instrument beyond just 
strumming and doing schtick. He could play in a nearly symphonic style 
with great taste -- and then rip it loose with the best.
He was also one of the finest pantomimists of our time, and dad "stole" 
a fewof his tricks at the time when dad worked with Spike Jones.

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