Monday, June 6, 2011
Ozzie Bailey Too
Six months ago I posted a brief piece titled "Ozzie Strays," an introduction of sorts to Ozzie Bailey, a littleknown vocalist who sang with Duke Ellington and His Orchestra around 1957-58. Ozzie performed on Duke's 1957 television special A Drum Is a Woman as well as the accompanying long-play record. He toured with the band around then, appearing overseas and at Newport with Duke in 1958 (his feature was a French/English version of "Autumn Leaves" arranged by Billy Strayhorn), and slightly later Ozzie also recorded some songs, demos maybe, for a Strayhorn project.
Then he seems to have vanished from the Jazz scene. My post asked the basic questions--who was this guy? what became of him?--and I asked for additional information from anyone who happened to read the piece and could help. Time went by and then two weeks ago, a man named "Art Serating" submitted the comment I am about to reproduce. I've sent a couple of emails to Mr. Serating's odd return address, but no further communiques have been forthcoming. So I offer his emailed comment now without having verified any of it...
I met Ozzie in New York in 1971. He and I worked together as sales clerks in the record department in the Doubleday Bookshop on Fifth Avenue & 53rd Street. He was extremely shy and spoke very little about his experiences with Duke Ellington but other employees already knew of his incredible talent. We played music in the store all day and he frequently sang along to everyone's delight. His favorite lunch was a Smithfield Burger from the hamburger shop down the block.
I never saw him lose his cool. He was a real gentleman. Ozzie had a great musical memory and he would always help customers find what they were looking for. Famous New York entertainers frequently visited Ozzie at the store and we were all impressed with his circle of friends. Ozzie passed on some years ago but his beautiful voice goes on forever.
From band vocalist to bookstore clerk just a decade later. In the unanswered emails I asked Serating if any of Ozzie's Ellington reminiscences could be shared... what celebrity friends visited him at the store... when precisely he had died... and so on. But no response.
So the world may know more about Ozzie Bailey now--or not--but the mystery surrounding his curious life continues...