[Dixielandjazz] A Tribute to KO Eckland
willconnelly at bellsouth.net
Fri Oct 30 15:34:46 PDT 2009
Dear Listmates. . .
I wasn't able to attend the Memorial for K.O. Eckland at the Pismo Beach
Jubilee-by-the-Sea last Sunday. I had written a tribute to my old pal
for presentation at the affair which never got heard with so many great
bands waiiting in line to play their musical salutes to one their best.
Rather than leave it in the beer suds on on the cutting room floor, I
thought I'd share it here, where I know KO had many other good friends
A Tribute to
KENNETH O. ECKLAND
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
I very much regret that I am not here with you today to join this
celebration of KO's exciting life and the legacy of good stuff he left
behind. Since I last attended a Jubilee with you Pismoleons I am much
shorter than I used to be because my legs have been chopped off. I have
not yet learned how to roller skate between venues on stumps, and my
transcontinental mobility is even worsely limited.
But no matter. I am with you in spirit, and I am very glad to ring
the bell for one of the most remarkable, bright and good guys ever to
scoop a clam from the shores of Lake Pismo. That's what KO called that
wet thing off to the west.
I first met KO in the mid-50's when he was playing solo at an
unremembered gin mill down in Orange County. He had permitted a few
hangers-on on to unlimber their horns and sit in. He was the first of
only two piano players to lead me back to the correct melody after I
finished 16 bars of a 32 bar solo and veered off into the bridge of a
completely different tune. Ya gotta love a player who does that without
snarling or laughing hysterically, and that was the first of many
things about KO that earned my high esteem for him.
But KO was a lot more than a great trad jazz pianist, famed for
artistry with the Disney-rooted Firehouse Five Plus Two. He composed
some terrific tunes, including Natural Gas, a by-no-means aromatic
accolade to Phil Crunley's Natural Gas Jazz Band, and Sundown Mama,
a poignant tribute to Turk Murphy and the San Francisco's Dawn Club.
And every one of you Pismoids owe a debt of gratitude to KO for the
Basin Street Regulars and the 33rd First Annual Jubilee By the Sea
you're enjoying this weekend, both of which were his creations. Oh, he
had help, of course, but the spark and fire that led to this
organization and its achievements were from KO's fertile mind.
He once wrote to me that a thought had crossed his mind, and it was
a short trek. Balderdash! That was the mind that created issue after
hilarious issue of OFFBEAT, under his stewardship the most consistantly
funny newsletter issued by any jazz club in the country. He also wrote
two books on West Coast iazz and illustrated a book by his friend
Richard Bach, author of Jonathon Livingston Seagull.
KO was generous as well as bright . In 1980, I started the Hot Jazz
and Alligator Gumbo Society - HAGS, the j being silent like the p in
pswimming -in Fort Lauderdale, HAGS was operationally patterned after
the clubs in California like the Southern Cal Hot Jazz Society. In 1990,
with about 700 members, $10,000 in the treasury, and with three Pismo
Jubilees under my belt, I decided it was time to do a jubilee on my side
of the country.
I called KO. And he guided me over the rocks and shoals of putting
one of these events together. Among the sixteen bands I fielded were two
from California - Bob Finch's Chicago Six and, yes, by God, the Pismo
Experimental Jazz Band, with KO at the helm. KO brought with him
bassoonist Cal Abbott, trumpet whiz Wally Holmes, "Fast Eddie" Erickson
on banjo, Ira Westley on bass and Bob Vincent at the tubs. You
Californians imprssed the hell out of people who did't know Yerba Buena
meant 'good yerba'. I wiped out the club treasury - which KO had warned
me could happen on a maiden voyage like this - but we had a jubilee in
Fort Lauderdale that fans and musicians alike ranked as one of the best
they'd ever been to. When the dust settled, I appreciated KO's shared
genius even more - and concurred totally with his view that those who
contend that money can't buy happiness are idiots!
You are all familiar with KO's talents as a writer and cartoonist,
the latter evident in BSR's beach-ball balancing Official Seal. Two
images you probably haven't seen are the trombone-wielding alligator
that he did for our HAGS logo and the guy with a "eureka" visage on his
puss, a flickering candle above his head and the caption "Pre Edison
Idea" As a birthday gift, KO once sent me a small, properly labelled
glassine envelope filled with toenail parings. Many of you will probably
remember his instruction to bring your own ants to a BSR picnic.
A dimension of KO Eckland - he spelled it E - C - K - L ampersand -
with which jazz people may not be aware is his involvement in aviation.
A bombardier in WWII, KO was later to own a 1920's vintage biplane and
flew in flowing silk scarf and goggled helmet for Talmantz Aviation.
That company is famed for its aerial work, including classic combat
dogfights with Spads, Fokkers and other First WW aircraft in Hollywood
But KO's legacy in aviation rivals his contributions in the jazz
milleaul He founded, and was curator of, the internationally acclaimed
Aerofiles Museum, an online compilation of descriptions, technical and
performance specifications and photographs of thousands of civil and
military aircraft since the beginnings of the age of flight. The
archives include data on engines, notable events and people.
You will by now know that KO and I were friends and, I think, mutual
admirers. Being pilots, musicians and active advocates of Our Kind of
Music cemented the bond between us. IN later years, after his move to
Paradise Valley - which he described as a suburb of WalMart - KO toiled
to conceal the wounds he had suffered from so-called friends here in
Pismo and Sacramento who abandoned him when things got tough. He might
have turned the other cheek but said it was hard to do while wearing
both a belt and suspenders.
Yes, KO Eckland was my friend, and I miss him, his wry smile and his
Meerschaum filled with Balkan Sobranie. Who could not treasure a man
whose business card offered Norden bombsight repair and declared him to
be a dealer in rare platitudes? Were I with you now, I would rise on my
haunches to hoist a tankard of the best in commemoration of this
marvelous guy, and I'd urge you to join me.
Thanks for your tine.
More information about the Dixielandjazz