Ernie Freeman

Last updated
Ernie Freeman
Birth nameErnest Aaron Freeman Jr.
Born(1922-08-16)16 August 1922
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
Died16 May 1981(1981-05-16) (aged 58)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Genres Pop, rhythm and blues, jazz, orchestral
Occupation(s) Pianist, arranger, bandleader
Instruments Piano, organ
Years active1935-1970s

Ernest Aaron Freeman (August 16, 1922 May 16, 1981) was an American pianist, organist, bandleader, and arranger. He was responsible for arranging many successful rhythm and blues and pop records from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Pianist musician who plays the piano

A pianist is an individual musician who plays the piano. Since most forms of Western music can make use of the piano, pianists have a wide repertoire and a wide variety of styles to choose from, among them traditional classical music, jazz, blues, and all sorts of popular music, including rock and roll. Most pianists can, to an extent, easily play other keyboard-related instruments such as the synthesizer, harpsichord, celesta, and the organ.

Organist musician who plays any type of organ

An organist is a musician who plays any type of organ. An organist may play solo organ works, play with an ensemble or orchestra, or accompany one or more singers or instrumental soloists. In addition, an organist may accompany congregational hymn-singing and play liturgical music.

Arrangement musical composition in altered form

In music, an arrangement is a musical reconceptualization of a previously composed work. It may differ from the original work by means of reharmonization, melodic paraphrasing, orchestration, or development of the formal structure. Arranging differs from orchestration in that the latter process is limited to the assignment of notes to instruments for performance by an orchestra, concert band, or other musical ensemble. Arranging "involves adding compositional techniques, such as new thematic material for introductions, transitions, or modulations, and endings... Arranging is the art of giving an existing melody musical variety".


Life and career

Freeman was born in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1935 he began playing in local Cleveland area nightclubs, and also formed a classical music trio for local social functions with his father and his sister Evelyn. Around 1939, he and Evelyn formed a new band, The Evelyn Freeman Swing Band, with fellow teenagers from Cleveland Central High School. Evelyn played piano, while Ernie played saxophone and also began writing arrangements for the band. The band began a regular engagement at the Circle Ballroom in Cleveland, and broadcast shows for WHK radio station. In 1942, most of the band, apart from Evelyn, joined the US Navy together, and became the first all-black Navy Band, called The Gobs of Swing with Ernie as its leader. [1]

Evelyn Freeman Roberts was an American musician, songwriter, arranger and educator. After an early career as a swing band and gospel choir leader, she and her husband Tommy Roberts established the Young Saints foundation for young performers in Los Angeles.

After leaving the Navy in 1945 Ernie entered the Cleveland Institute of Music, from which he graduated with a BA degree. In 1946 he moved with his family to Los Angeles, to attend the University of Southern California where he received his master's degree in music composition. In Los Angeles, he played in clubs, accompanying Dinah Washington and Dorothy Dandridge among others, as well as recording under his own name for the Mambo label. [2] After a spell as arranger for Woody Herman he joined the Ernie Fields Orchestra, playing the piano. Other members of the band included saxophonists Earl Bostic and Plas Johnson, guitarist René Hall, and drummer Earl Palmer. In 1951 Freeman also began playing with the Billy Hadnott Sextet, but left in 1954 to form his own combo with Johnson, Palmer and guitarist Irving Ashby. In 1955 they released their first record, "No No Baby" on the Middle-Tone label. They also recorded with a vocal group, the Voices, who included Bobby Byrd and Earl Nelson of the Hollywood Flames (later Bob & Earl). [1]

Cleveland Institute of Music

The Cleveland Institute of Music is an independent, international music conservatory located in the University Circle district of Cleveland, Ohio, United States. It is led by President Paul Hogle.

University of Southern California Private research university in Los Angeles, California, United States

The University of Southern California is a private research university in Los Angeles, California. Founded in 1880, it is the oldest private research university in California. For the 2018–19 academic year, there were 20,000 students enrolled in four-year undergraduate programs. USC also has 27,500 graduate and professional students in a number of different programs, including business, law, engineering, social work, occupational therapy, pharmacy, and medicine. It is the largest private employer in the city of Los Angeles, and generates $8 billion in economic impact on Los Angeles and California.

Dinah Washington American singer, songwriter, pianist

Dinah Washington was an American singer and pianist, who has been cited as "the most popular black female recording artist of the '50s". Primarily a jazz vocalist, she performed and recorded in a wide variety of styles including blues, R&B, and traditional pop music, and gave herself the title of "Queen of the Blues". She was a 1986 inductee of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

Freeman played on numerous early rock and R&B sessions in Los Angeles, California, in the 1950s, particularly on the Specialty, Modern, and Aladdin labels, as well as for white artists such as Duane Eddy and Bobby Vee. He played piano on the Platters' "The Great Pretender" in 1955, and began releasing a number of instrumental records of his own, at first on Cash Records. [2] These included "Jivin' Around" (#5 on the R&B chart in 1956). In 1956 the Ernie Freeman Combo and the Platters appeared in Paramount Pictures' Rock Around The Clock introduced by Alan Freed. In the same year he was signed by Imperial Records, where he released 29 singles and seven LPs over the next seven years. His first single for the label was "Lost Dreams", which reached #7 on the R&B chart. His cover version of Bill Justis' "Raunchy", his biggest solo success, reached #4 on the pop chart and #1 on the R&B chart in 1957. He returned to the charts in 1958, when his version of "Indian Love Call" reached #58 on the Billboard pop chart. [3]

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United Kingdom and in the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily on the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

Rhythm and blues, commonly abbreviated as R&B, is a genre of popular music that originated in African American communities in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed predominantly to urban African Americans, at a time when "urbane, rocking, jazz based music with a heavy, insistent beat" was becoming more popular. In the commercial rhythm and blues music typical of the 1950s through the 1970s, the bands usually consisted of piano, one or two guitars, bass, drums, one or more saxophones, and sometimes background vocalists. R&B lyrical themes often encapsulate the African-American experience of pain and the quest for freedom and joy, as well as triumphs and failures in terms of relationships, economics, and aspirations.

California State of the United States of America

California is a state in the Pacific Region of the United States. With 39.6 million residents, California is the most populous U.S. state and the third-largest by area. The state capital is Sacramento. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second- and fifth-most populous urban regions, with 18.7 million and 9.7 million residents respectively. Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second-most populous, after New York City. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and its largest county by area, San Bernardino County. The City and County of San Francisco is both the country's second-most densely populated major city after New York City and the fifth-most densely populated county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs.

Freeman performed for the famed Cavalcade of Jazz concert produced by Leon Hefflin Sr. held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on August 3, 1958. The other headliners were Little Willie John, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, and Bo Rhambo.  Sammy Davis Jr. was there to crown the winner of the Miss Cavalcade of Jazz beauty contest. The event featured the top four prominent disc jockey of Los Angeles. [4]

Leon Norman Hefflin, Sr. was an African-American producer, director, business owner, furniture manufacturer, and entrepreneur. Hefflin produced the first largest outdoor jazz entertainment event of its kind, the “Cavalcade of Jazz,” held at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, part of the Central Ave Jazz Scene and showcased over 125 artist over 15 years.

Shrine Auditorium large event venue in Los Angeles, California

The Shrine Auditorium is a landmark large-event venue in Los Angeles, California. It is also the headquarters of the Al Malaikah Temple, a division of the Shriners. It was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 1975.

Little Willie John American R&B singer

William Edward "Little Willie" John was an American R&B singer who performed in the 1950s and early 1960s. He is best known for his successes on the record charts, with songs such as "All Around the World" (1955), "Need Your Love So Bad" (1956), and "Fever" (1956). An important figure in R&B music of the 1950s, John was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

In 1958 the Ernie Fields Orchestra, including Freeman, became the house band for the newly formed Rendezvous record label. In 1961, with Palmer, Johnson, and René Hall, they began recording as B. Bumble and the Stingers, and Freeman played piano on their first hit, "Bumble Boogie" (but not their later hit, "Nut Rocker"). In the same year, Lew Bedell, the owner of Doré Records, suggested to him that he record a version of a Maxwell House advertising jingle. [5] The record, "Percolator (Twist)", was credited to Billy Joe & the Checkmates and rose to no.10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1962. [6] Freeman also performed with and arranged for the Routers and their parallel group the Marketts. [1]

Rendezvous Records record label

Rendezvous Records was an American record label, established in 1958 in Los Angeles, California. Its biggest successes were "In the Mood" with Ernie Fields along with "Bumble Boogie" (#21) and "Nut Rocker" (#23) recorded by members of its house band going under the name B. Bumble and the Stingers.

B. Bumble and the Stingers were an American instrumental ensemble in the early 1960s, who specialized in rock and roll arrangements of classical melodies. Their biggest hits were "Bumble Boogie", which reached number 21 in the US, and "Nut Rocker", which reached number 1 in the UK Singles Chart in 1962. The recordings were made by session musicians at Rendezvous Records in Los Angeles, but when they became successful a touring group was formed led by R. C. Gamble as "Billy Bumble".

"Nut Rocker" is an instrumental rock single recorded by American instrumental ensemble B. Bumble and the Stingers that reached number 23 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in March 1962 and went to number 1 in the UK Singles Chart in May 1962. It is a version of the march from Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker.

He continued a successful session career in the 1960s, arranging and appearing on material by Frank Sinatra ("That's Life", "Strangers in the Night"), Connie Francis ("Jealous Heart", "Addio, mi' amore"), Dean Martin ("Everybody Loves Somebody", "Somewhere There's a Someone"), Johnny Mathis, and Petula Clark ("This Is My Song", "For Love"), and becoming musical director with Reprise Records. From 1960 to 1969 he arranged virtually every session for Snuff Garrett at Liberty Records including artists Julie London, Bobby Vee, Johnny Burnette, Gene McDaniels, Timi Yuro, and Walter Brennan, as well as a series of over 25 instrumental albums with the title "The 50 Guitars of Tommy Garrett" that featured a who's who of Los Angeles session musicians, Tommy Tedesco, Laurindo Almeida, Howard Roberts, Bob Bain, and Barney Kessel, among many, many others. As a footnote, "National City" by the Joiner Arkansas Junior High School Band charted at 53 in May 1960 was made by a group of studio musicians led by Ernie Freeman. [7] Freeman also composed music for several films, including The Cool Ones (1967), The Double Man (1967), The Pink Jungle (1968), and Duffy (1968); and arranged Carol Burnett's 1972 Columbia Records album Carol Burnett Featuring If I Could Write a Song.

In 1970 he contributed string arrangements to Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water album before his retirement later in the decade. [1] In 1972, he had a single "Overture" released on the Oak Records label. [8] According to several sources, he suffered from alcoholism. [2] He died at his home in Los Angeles in 1981 from a heart attack and is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California. [1]


Freeman won Grammy awards for his arrangements of Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night" (1966) and Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (1970). [9]


Singles (as named performer)

YearSingle (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Chart PositionsAlbum
US Pop [3] US
1955"Jivin' Around"—Part 1
b/w Part 2
-5Jivin "O" Round
"The Shuck"
b/w "Our Love"
--Non-album tracks
1956"Lost Dreams"
b/w "Rockin' Around"
-7Jivin "O" Round
"Rainy Day"
b/w "Funny Face"
"Spring Fever"
b/w "Walking The Beat"
"A Touch Of The Blues"
b/w "Return To Me"
1957"Without A Love"
b/w "Night Life"
--Non-album tracks
"River Boat"
b/w "Swing It" (Non-album track)
--Twistin' Time
b/w "Beautiful Weekend"
b/w "Puddin'" (Non-album track)
1958"The Tuttle"
b/w "Leaps and Bounds"
--Non-album tracks
"Theme From Igor"
b/w "Shape Up"
"Indian Love Call"
b/w "Summer Serenade"
59-Dreaming With Freeman
"Rose Marie"
b/w "After Sunset" (from Dreaming With Freeman)
--Non-album tracks
b/w "Junior Jive"
"School Room Rock"
b/w "Blues After Hours"
1959"Live It Up"
b/w "Whispering Hope"
"Marshmallows, Popcorn and Soda Pop"
b/w "Honey"
--Twistin' Time
"A Summer Love"
b/w "Always With You"
--Non-album tracks
"One More Time Around"
b/w "Lost Dreams"
"Big River"
b/w "Night Sounds" (from Twistin' Time)
1960"Beautiful Obsession"
b/w "Tenderfoot"
Shown as "Sir Chauncey and His Exciting Strings"
"Rockin' Red Wing"
b/w "Dark Eyes"
b/w "Autumn and Eve"
"Theme from The Dark at the Top of the Stairs "
b/w "Come On Home" (from Raunchy)
70-The Dark At The Top Of The Stairs
b/w "Beyond Our Love"
Shown as "Sir Chauncey"
--Non-album tracks
"Hawaiian Eye"
b/w "Heartbreak Hotel"
1961"That's All"
b/w "Swamp Meeting"
"Warsaw Concerto"
b/w "Theme From Return To Peyton Place"
--Non-album tracks
"The Swingin' Preacher"
b/w "Conquest" (from Twistin' Time)
1962"The Twist"
b/w "Shine On Harvest Moon" (from The Stripper)
93-Twistin' Time
"What Am I Living For"
b/w "I Didn't Want To Do It"
--The Stripper
"The Stripper"
b/w "I Hear You Knocking" (Non-album track)
"The Freeloader"
b/w "Say It Isn't So" (from Ernie Freeman Plays Irving Berlin)
--Non-album tracks
"Half As Much"
b/w "I'm Sorry For You, My Friend"
--Soulful Sound Of Country Classics
1965"Raunchy '65"
b/w "Jivin' Around"
--Non-album tracks

Selected albums

As lead musician

  • Plays Irving Berlin (Imperial, 1956)
  • Jivin' O Round (Imperial, 1957)
  • Raunchy (Imperial, 1957)
  • Theme from The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (Imperial, 1960)
  • Twistin' Time (Imperial, 1962)
  • Limbo Dance Party (Liberty, 1962)
  • Ernie Freeman at the Organ (Liberty, 1963)
  • Hit Maker (ABC, 1967)


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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "A Little Bit Of Big-Band, Boogie-Woogie, Classical, Jazz, Pop, R&B & Rock - Ernie Freeman". Epinions. Archived from the original on 14 February 2012. Retrieved 18 January 2012.
  2. 1 2 3 Dik de Heer, Ernie Freeman, Black Cat Rockabilly. Retrieved 16 February 2013
  3. 1 2 Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 265. ISBN   0-89820-155-1.
  4. Guralnick, Peter. (2005). Dream boogie : the triumph of Sam Cooke (1st ed.). New York: Little, Brown. ISBN   0316377945. OCLC   57393650.
  5. Rob Finnis, Liner notes: The Dore Story Vol.1, 2011, reprinted at Retrieved 14 February 2013
  6. Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 58. ISBN   0-89820-155-1.
  7. "National City by the Joiner, Arkansas Junior High School Band #53 on Billboard Hot 100 in May 1960" . Retrieved 18 January 2012.
  8. 45cCat - Ernie Freeman - , USA
  9. "Tribute Planned For Ernie Freeman". Los Angeles Times . 7 May 1986.
  10. Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-1995. Record Research. p. 160.