The Ellington band toured India in 1963 ..and their sound was heard by thousands of Indians..Among them a young guitarist in Madras (now Chennai).. In this video, Carlton tells the story of how he met Ellington.
The Ellington band arrived in India on September 21, 1963..After concerts in New Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore, the band arrived in Madras on Saturday 6th, October . On Sunday , the 7th ,the played at the Music Academy Auditorium, Madras. Ellington however was not with the band, he had taken ill in New Delhi, and stayed there recovering, while the band continued its tour.. So who was it who spoke to Carlton ? Billy Strayhorn ? or Harry Carney , the official deputy band leader ? (Strayhorn filled the Duke’s spot at the piano) ..Our opinion is that it was probably Carney, who as deputy, would have the authority to allow Carlton to sit in on the rehearsal.
We dont know for sure, but in Carlton’s memory ..it was the Duke..and so it shall be for the purposes of this story !
The Indian Express, Madras , October 1963, accurately reported “ELLINGTONIANS STORM MADRAS” …and here is the review and some details of the band’s schedule
It turns out that , after we spoke to a reliable eyewitness to the events , that Carlton’s story is largely accurate, even without the Duke..who ever it was that spoke with him arranged for Berklee Guitar instruction series to be sent to Carlton, and they arrived in the mail for many years..As for Carlton, this is what he had to say about the Jazz instruction from Berklee, 1963 :
“It was mostly boring stuff, just repetitive exercises , theory, scales in different positions, diatonic harmony and stuff like that…I didn’t like it.. I just went back and listened to my records..Charlie Christian !!”
The Duke rejoined the Band on October 11, 1963 , in Bombay and played a concerts at Shanmukhananda Auditorium (see Incredible Ellington) and then went to the last concert in India, at the Grand Hotel, in Calcutta.
Just another Ellington Story..this time , without the Duke !
Ashwin Panemangelore responds:
Carlton’s story about the Ellington visit made me dig into my hard disk and get these scans of the autographs Sarita collected when,as a college girl she worked as an usher at the Bangalore concert
Note Sam Woodyard puts ‘Drums’ in a bracket below his signature You dont get such humble folks anymore”