Carmen Fields: Big Band, Legacy and the Colors of Ernie Fields’ Jazz
Carmen Fields in Conversation with Bonnie Johnson, "Big Band, Legacy and the Colors of Ernie Fields’ Jazz"
Reading and Book Signing of Going Back to T-Town by Carmen Fields
Thursday, September 28, 2023 at 7:00pm
Books available for sale in the shop or purchase here.
Going Back to T-Town: The Ernie Fields Territory Big Band
There was a time when countless young people in the Midwest, South, and Southwest went to dances and stage shows to hear a territory band play. Territory bands traveled from town to town, performing jazz and swing music, and Tulsa- based musician Ernie Fields (1904–97) led one of the best. In Going Back to T-Town, Ernie’s daughter, Carmen Fields, tells a story of success, disappointment, and perseverance extending from the early jazz era to the 1960s. This is an enlightening account of how this talented musician and businessman navigated the hurdles of racial segregation during the Jim Crow era.
Because few territory bands made recordings, their contributions to the development of jazz music are often overlooked. Fortunately, Ernie Fields not only recorded music but also loved telling stories. He shared his “tales from the road” with his daughter, a well-known Boston journalist, and his son, Ernie Fields Jr., who has carried on his legacy as a successful musician and music contractor. As much as possible, Carmen Fields tells her father’s story in his own voice: how he weathered the ups and downs of the music industry and maintained his optimism even while he faced entrenched racial prejudice and threats of violence.
After traveling with his band all over the United States, Fields eventually caught the attention of renowned music producer John Hammond. In 1939, Hammond arranged for recording sessions and bookings that included performances in the famed Apollo Theater in New York. Ernie finally scored a top-ten hit in 1959 with his rock-and-roll rendition of “In the Mood.” At a time when most other territory bands had faded, the Ernie Fields Orchestra continued to perform.
A devoted husband and family man, Ernie Fields also respected and appreciated his fellow musicians. The book includes a “Roll Call” of his organization’s members, based on notes he kept about them. Going Back to T-Town is a priceless source of information for historians of American popular music and African American history.
Read more about Ernie Fields: https://theokeagle.com/2023/08/04/ernie-fields-sr-jazz-icon-trailblazer-tulsa-loyalist/
A fixture in the greater Boston journalism community for over 30 years, Carmen Fields has broad experience in both print and broadcast journalism; journalism education and corporate and non-profit media relations. Additionally, Fields is a SAG-AFTRA affiliated actor and voice- over artist. The Tulsa, OK, native earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Lincoln University (MO) and a master’s degree in broadcast journalism from Boston University. Other achievements include Harvard University’s Nieman Fellowship and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Salem State University.
Bonnie Johnson is an innovative design thinker, radio personality and public speaker. She is producer and on-air host of Colors of Jazz, a weekly program streaming live online at the NPR affiliate station 90.5 WICN. In addition to positioning herself in media as a jazz presenter, Bonnie is a content creator, podcast producer and data engineer. Bonnie delivers STEM leadership, and seeks to find pathways for collaboration through the lens of music and social justice.