[Dixielandjazz] A Tribute to KO Eckland

will connelly 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
Will Connelly
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.

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