Going Back to T-Town
The Ernie Fields Territory Big Band
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
240 Pages | 6 x 9 | 37 b&w illus.
Because few territory bands made recordings, their contributions to the development of jazz music are often overlooked. Fortunately, Ernie Fields not only recorded music but also loved telling stories. He shared his “tales from the road” with his daughter, a well-known Boston journalist, and his son, Ernie Fields Jr., who has carried on his legacy as a successful musician and music contractor. As much as possible, Carmen Fields tells her father’s story in his own voice: how he weathered the ups and downs of the music industry and maintained his optimism even while he faced entrenched racial prejudice and threats of violence.
After traveling with his band all over the United States, Fields eventually caught the attention of renowned music producer John Hammond. In 1939, Hammond arranged for recording sessions and bookings that included performances in the famed Apollo Theater in New York. Ernie finally scored a top-ten hit in 1959 with his rock-and-roll rendition of “In the Mood.” At a time when most other territory bands had faded, the Ernie Fields Orchestra continued to perform.
A devoted husband and family man, Ernie Fields also respected and appreciated his fellow musicians. The book includes a “Roll Call” of his organization’s members, based on notes he kept about them. Going Back to T-Town is a priceless source of information for historians of American popular music and African American history.
“This perceptive book is an insightful account, appealing to the aficionado and scholar alike, of the career and musical journey of bandleader Ernie Fields.”—Todd Wright, Professor and Director of Jazz Studies, Hayes School of Music, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina
“In piecing together her father’s musical journey, Carmen Fields highlights an important untold story, but also paints a fuller picture of the strength that emanated from the much talked about Tulsa, Oklahoma, of twentieth-century America.”—Wil Haygood, author of Colorization: One Hundred Years of Black Films in a White World