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Red Nichols & His Five Pennies

(1929 Vitaphone Short)


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Ernest Loring "Red" Nichols
(May 8th 1905 - June 28th 1965)


This 1929 Vitaphone short features cornetist Red Nichols and his "Five Pennies" a band whose members include Tommy Thunen trumpet, Pee Wee Russell clarinet, Egon Petri piano, and Eddie Condon tenor guitar & vocals.

Song List:

1 "Ida"
2 "Whispering"
3 "Nobody's Sweetheart Now"
4 "Who Cares?"
5 "China Boy"

Originally from Ogden, Utah, Ernest Loring 'Red' Nichols was born the son of a college music professor on May 8th 1905. Ernest became enamored with jazz influenced by the earlier recordings of the "Original Dixieland Jazz Band" and later those of Bix Beiderbecke.

Known as Red for his bright rusty crop of hair Nichols relocated to the Midwest and joined The "Syncopating Seven" during the early 1920's.

When the group disbanded he became a member of the "Johnny Johnson Orchestra" with whom he first arrived in New York in 1923.

There, teaming up with trombonist Miff Mole, his ability to read music and formidable horn skills got him plenty of session work.

Nichols would go on to produce recordings with a strong emphasis on collective improvisation that represent some of the most progressive jazz of the 1920's.

With the onset of the Great Depression Red Nichols maintained employment playing in show bands and pit orchestras and moving to California would also lead the "Bob Hope Orchestra" for a time.

After forming another version of his "Five Pennies" band the trumpeter had new found success in the 1950's beginning with little club dates and culminating with bookings at the Zebra Room of San Francisco's Palace Hotel.

In June 1965 Red Nichols and the band traveled to Las Vegas for a standing engagement at the Mint Hotel.

After only a few days on the morning of June 28th 1965, Red awakened in his hotel room to severe chest pains and died of a heart attack before an ambulance could arrive.

The "Five Pennies" took to the stage without Red Nichols for the first time that evening with a spotlight shining down on his empty chair.

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