Herb Ellis, 1921 – 2010
First inspired by the sound of George Barnes on guitar, Ellis took up the instrument as a child. He attended North Texas State where he met clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre, and began a jazz movement there which has since placed the school in the upper echelon of jazz education. Glen Gray’s orchestra gave Ellis entree into the big time. He later formed a trio ,The Soft Winds, modeled on the great Nat King Cole group. They scored a major hit with the song “Detour Ahead.”
In 1952 Ellis entered the Oscar Petersen Trio and stayed five years. His work with Petersen is considered some of his finest. With Barney Kessel, Charlie Byrd, and Tal Farlow, he was a founding member of the band The Great Guitars. He recorded extensively with Ella Fitzgerald and a host of other jazz greats. His tasteful, subdued style can be heard on the Columbia album GUITAR and Verve’s SOFTLY BUT WITH THAT FEELING.
Photograph by Roger Kallins. Courtesy of Patricia Darlington.