[Dixielandjazz] A Tribute to KO Eckland

Robert Ringwald rsr at ringwald.com
Fri Oct 30 22:52:27 PDT 2009

Wonderful tribute Will.  I also knew KO, for probably some 40 years.  He was one of the funniest persons I have ever met.  


--Bob Ringwald

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "will connelly" <willconnelly at bellsouth.net>
To: "Bob Ringwald" <rsr at ringwald.com>
Cc: "Dixieland Jazz Mailing List" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Friday, October 30, 2009 3:34 PM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] A Tribute to KO Eckland

> 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
> Kindly,
> Will
> A Tribute to
> by
> 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 
> epics.
>    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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