Episode 18: Ella Fitzgerald

Once again, you asked and we answered! This week we discuss the other winner in our guaranteed content poll- the inimitable Ella Fitzgerald!

From a rough start on the streets of Harlem, to the Apollo stage, smokey clubs,years on the road  and in recording studios Ella led the  world through the trends and wild ride that was the musical scene during most of the last century. So much has been written about her life, her voice, her contribution to the history of music- it was hard to pick and choose what we were going to discuss. But pick we did!

Ella Jane Fitzgerald’s beginnings were the most humble-  born April 25, 1917 in Newport News,Virginia to William and Tempie Fitzgerald. Of course we talk about her parents, her move to New York, what life was like for a young girl at the time. We talk about her rough beginnings, her family and the fork in the road last minute decision that changed her life. We discuss her loves, losses and her slow  steady and forever upward rise to super star status.

With husband, Ray Brown

It’s a remarkable story of a remarkable woman and at every turn we were afraid that we were sounding cliche–but we couldn’t help it: Ella Fitzgerald rocked past the conventional path that she could so easily have fallen into. She  followed her dreams, always learning and always working to perfect her gifts.

There are so many times in her life that her story weaves into other topics—other people, other musicians,  different styles of music, other stories of the progression of segregation, the history of New York City…the list goes on. We thought we would devote these shownotes to a collage of  sorts: Ella images, sounds of the times, and some ways we can think of that might start you on a journey of discovery via the life of this woman.

Time Travel With The History Chicks

To get a clearer undestanding of the times that Ella was born into, here is a good place to start: We adore NPR

And we are very fond of PBS and Ken Burns, as well…click to learn more about the history of Jazz, and to get hooked up with Jazz a Film by Ken Burns.

You know who else we also adore (in a purely respectful way, we assure you)? The Bowery Boys. Ella’s history intertwines with several of their podcasts, and blog entries. For instance,  Episode #15 Tom and Greg talk about The Apollo Theater, including a chat about the history of Harlem.

Ella got her start at the Apollo Theater. There is so much history surrounding the building- someone could make an entire podcast series about the Apollo. (Apollo Chicks? No…) Here is information on the Apollo today. Click on over and start down a really exciting path..see what happened to Ella when she did? The Apollo Theater

We need you to play this. Close your eyes, and imagine the scene at the Savoy Ballroom, and it’s just before closing time. Everyone has been dancing for hours, exhausted and exhilarated…

…and the battle of the bands is ON! This is Duke Ellington’s “Trombone Buster.”



Just a little peek of the dancing that took place at the Savoy Ballroom ( which sadly, is no more)

Her first big hit landed her on the silver screen with Abbott and Costello in , Ride ’em Cowboy!



This from 1961, she must have carried those Savoy Ballroom memories with her forever!


Ella and Ol’ Blue Eyes…one of many times they appeared together:


Scat isn’t for everyone, but if you want to see her scat like no other…this is from 1969..6 minutes, full-on scat:



From 1974…We are just getting quite fan girly over here…but check this one out!


Really, we could keep embedding videos all day…but , can’t. This is from 1992, four years before her death. Oooweeee, she still had it!



We know that you like your books! If Beckett’s recommended nerdtacular tome appealed to you, here it is:

First Lady of Song: Ella Fitzgerald by, Geoffry Mark Fidelman

A  little lighter reading but still an excellent biography:

Ella Fitzgerald, A complete biography by Stewart Nicholson

And for some great information in a young adult format ( no shame in reading young adult as an adult,either!)

Ella Fitzgerald: Up Close by Tanya Lee Stone

Based on all the information we gleaned for this podcast, this was one honestly kind woman. EllaFitzgerald.com will give you lots of Ella-tacular information and links- biography, pictures, discography..and a link to this, but we are going to give it to you again so you don’t have to look. The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation

Ok, you’re right! We have to end with Ella…and Count Basie!  We didn’t take your advice, and we are sorry, Ella, but we had to talk about you when you are gone!


music courtesy of Music Alley