[Dixielandjazz] Gene Sheldon
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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