Albert Edwin “Eddie” Condon (November 16, 1905 – August 4, 1973) was an American jazz banjoist, guitarist, and bandleader. A leading figure in Chicago jazz, he also played piano and sang.
Condon was born in Goodland, Indiana, the son of John and Margaret (née McGraw) Condon. He grew up in Momence, Illinois, and Chicago Heights, Illinois, where he attended St. Agnes and Bloom High School. After playing ukulele, he switched to banjo and was a professional musician by 1921.
When he was 15 years old, he received his first union card in Waterloo, Iowa.
He was based in Chicago for most of the 1920s, and played with such jazz notables as Bix Beiderbecke, Jack Teagarden, and Frank Teschemacher. He and Red McKenzie formed the Chicago Rhythm Kings in 1925. While in Chicago, Condon and other white musicians would go to Lincoln Gardens to watch and learn from King Oliver and his band. They later would frequent the Sunset Café to see Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five for the same reasons.
In 1928, Condon moved to New York City. He frequently arranged jazz sessions for various record labels, sometimes playing with the artists he brought to the recording studios, including Louis Armstrong and Thomas Fats Waller. He organised racially integrated recording sessions—when these were still rare—with Waller, Armstrong and Henry ‘Red’ Allen. He played with the band of Red Nichols for a time. Later, from 1938 he had a long association with Milt Gabler’s Commodore Records.
A handful of records were issued under his own name: a July 28, 1928 two-song session was recorded for OKeh, but only issued in England. On October 30, 1928, an OKeh was issued as “Eddie Condon and his Footwarmers”, featuring Jack Teagarden. A further session on February 8, 1929 yielded a record issued under the name “Eddie Hot Shots” and issued on Victor’s hot dance series. In 1933, a further two sessions were recorded for Brunswick consisting of 6 recordings, only 2 of which were released in the US. From 1938 on, Condon recorded for Commodore and one session for Decca.
From the late 1930s on he was a regular at the Manhattan jazz club Nick’s. The sophisticated variation on Dixieland music which Condon and his colleagues created there came to be nicknamed “Nicksieland.” By this time, his regular circle of musical associates included Wild Bill Davison, Bobby Hackett, George Brunies, Edmond Hall, and Pee Wee Russell. In 1939, he appeared with “Bobby Hacket and Band” in the Warner Brothers & Vitaphone film musical short-subject, On the Air.
Condon did a series of jazz radio broadcasts, Eddie Condon’s Jazz Concerts, from New York’s Town Hall during 1944–45 which were nationally popular. These recordings survive, and have been issued on the Jazzology label.
From 1945 through 1967 he ran his own New York jazz club, Eddie Condon’s, first located on West 3rd Street in Greenwich Village, then 52nd Street near Sixth Avenue, on the present site of the CBS headquarters building; then later, on the south side of East 56th Street, east of Second Avenue. In the 1950s Condon recorded a sequence of classic albums for Columbia Records. The musicians involved in these albums, and at Condon’s club, included Wild Bill Davison, Bobby Hackett (cornet), Billy Butterfield (trumpet), Edmond Hall, Peanuts Hucko, Pee Wee Russell, Bob Wilber (clarinet), Cutty Cutshall, Lou McGarity, George Brunies (trombone), Bud Freeman (tenor sax), Gene Schroeder, Dick Cary, Ralph Sutton (piano), Bob Casey, Walter Page, Jack Lesberg, Al Hall (bass), George Wettling, Buzzy Drootin, Cliff Leeman (drums).
Condon toured Britain in 1957 with a band including Wild Bill Davison, Cutty Cutshall, Gene Schroeder and George Wettling. His last tour was in 1964, when he took a band to Australia and Japan. Condon’s men, on that tour, were top mainstream jazz musicians: Buck Clayton (trumpet), Pee Wee Russell (clarinet), Vic Dickenson (trombone), Bud Freeman (tenor sax), Dick Cary (piano and alto horn), Jack Lesberg (bass), Cliff Leeman (drums), Jimmy Rushing (vocals). Billy Banks, a vocalist who had recorded with Condon and Pee Wee Russell in 1932, and had lived in obscurity in Japan for many years, turned up at one of the 1964 concerts: Pee Wee asked him “have you got any more gigs?”.
In 1948, Condon’s autobiography We Called It Music was published. Eddie Condon’s Treasury of Jazz (1956) was a collection of articles co-edited by Condon and Richard Gehman.
A latter-day collaborator, clarinetist Kenny Davern, described a Condon gig: “It was always a thrill to get a call from Eddie and with a gig involved even more so. I remember eating beforehand with Bernie (Previn, trumpet) and Lou (McGarity, trombone) and everyone being in good spirits. There was a buzz on, we’d all had a taste and there was a great feel to the music.”
Condon toured and appeared at jazz festivals until 1971.
Condon married fashion copywriter Phyllis Smith in 1942. They had two daughters, Maggie and Liza.
On August 4, 1973, Condon died of a bone disease at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, New York. He was 67. His funeral was held at Frank E. Campbell Chapel in Manhattan. He was survived by his wife and two daughters. (wikipedia)
Although a tribute to the music of the legendary cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, the ten selections on this 1955 LP are really jam sessions with no attempt to recreate Beiderbecke’s recordings or solos. Condon’s band on this occasion features Wild Bill Davison or Bobby Hackett on cornet, trombonist Cutty Cutshall, Dick Cary on alto horn, clarinetist Edmond Hall and a fine rhythm section. Highlights include “At the Jazz Band Ball,” “I’ll Be a Friend with Pleasure,” “Fidgety Feet” and “Royal Garden Blues.” (by Scott Yanow)
Bixieland is the very best Dixieland album ever made. The liner notes refer to Pete Pesci on cornet, but it was not Pete, it was Bobby Hackett. Hackett was under contract to Capital so he could not appear on a Columbia release. So Condon made up the tale that it was Pesci, the night manager, on cornet. Bixieland is classic New Your Dixieland, a close cousin to the Chicago style. Those who prefer Bix should listen closely to Hackett on Singing the Blues. Wild Bill Davison does his usual growly stuff superbly, particularly on Old Man River. Ed Hall is so melodic on clarinet.
Every song is a major treat — including the unusual Duff Campbell’s Revenge, a tune written (apparently) by Turk Murphy, but never performed by the Condon mob until this album. Cutty Cutshall is great on trombone on this one. My favorite though is From Monday On. (by Robert Ritter)
Dick Carey (alto horn)
Eddie Condon (guitar)
Cutty Cutshall (trombone)
Wild Bill Davison (cornet)
Edmund Hall (clarinet)
Walter Page (bass)
Pete Pesci (trumpet)
Gene Schroeder (piano)
George Wettling (drums)
Alternate front+backcover from Netherland:
01. At The Jazz Band Ball (LaRocca/Shields) 4.47
02. Ol’ Man River (Hammerstein II/Kern) 3.31
03. I’ll Be A Friend With Pleasure (Pinkard) 2.50
04. Singin’ The Blues (Robinson/Conrad) 4.20
05. Fidgety Feet (LaRocca/Shields) 5.12
06. From Monday On (Barris/Crosby) 4.11
07. I’m Comin’ Virginia (Heywood) 2.57
08. Royal Garden Blues (C.Williams/S.Williams) 5.05
09. Louisiana (Johnson/Schafer/Razaf) 3.12
10. Jazz Me Blues (Delaney) 3.44