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About The Artist
Lloyd Hastings Ellis was a native of Pensacola, Florida. He started his musical career in the 1930s, continued even during his service in the U.S. Navy. His guitar playing style was admired by fans and musicians alike. As a youngster, he was fascinated by the music by Django Reinhardt that he discovered on the 78rpm records.
According to the DVD documentary of his life, "I Just Wanted to Play", Lloyd first started entertaining audiences over radio station WCOA in his native Pensacola.
He started off on the acoustic guitar and took up the electric guitar in 1940 or so. The documentary notes that he was partial to the Gibson guitar models throughout his career. One was a Johnny Smith model that he purchased from Johnny Smith in 1
He played with a variety of groups during his career's journey.
In the late 1930s, Lloyd had a trio that was entertaining audiences in Mobile, Alabama. Another musician in that trio went on to some acclaim later in his career also - Tiny Moore. He also went on to play for Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.
During World War II, he played with George Liberace's band, "Music Under The Stars". That band entertained over 500,000 troops in the Pacific. After the war was over, he settled down in Los Angeles for a while and became active in studio and club work.
In 1947, he appears in Jimmie Davis' movie, "Louisiana" as part of the Sunshine Serenaders. One can see him playing his distinctive jazz guitar in a country music setting in the movie, complete with a cigarette dangling from his lips as his fingers did their magic on the guitar.
He also apparently did some songwriting while he was with Jimmie Davis. He is listed as co-writer on the tune, "You Won't Be Satisfied This Way." Jimmie recorded the tune on Decca 46066. The song was also recorded by legendary Bluegrass singer, Bill Monroe.
Deciding it was time to try a different scene, Lloyd moved to Las Vegas, Nevada and hooked up with the Red Norvo Trio that also included Monk Montgomery at the Tropican Hotel on the famed Strip for about three years. After leaving the trio, he found work as a member of various hotel house bands and backed such artists as Liza Minnelli, Ann-Margaret, Barbara McNair, Eydie Gorme, Mitzi Gaynor, Vic Damone, Steve Lawrence, Robert Goulet, Page Cavanaugh, Roger Williams, PHil Harris,, Don Rickles and Shecky Green.
He found time to record for the Capitol, Decca, Mercury, RCA, Carlton and Trey record labels. In 1955, Country and Western Jamboree magazine commented on one his Mercury releases, "Annie Laurie" b/w "Waltzing Guitars": "...This is an unusual version of the old favorite, Annie Laurie, with double guitars. The other is Ellis' own tune."
In doing our research, one site documenting some of the old musical eras notes Lloyd's connection to a group called The Four Deals that was based in Phoenix, Arizona. The group got attention by winning first place in a talent contest held by West Coast radio personality Peter Potter. That was enough for Capitol Records to sign the group. The members of the group were lead singer Lloyd Ellis, Benny Wilson, Glenn Brewton, and Travis Anderson. The song that got the contract was called "It's Too Late Now" (written by Lloyd Ellis) which is one side of their Capitol release (No. 1313). The other side is "There Ain't No Bears In The Forest".
In 1960, he recorded the album "So Tall, So Cool, So There" for the Trey record label (TLP 902).
in 1963, he recorded with Bill Cyrils as part of his quartet that did an album for a private label, Fairmont (LP 3830) called "Anytime..Anyplace" and included a line at the bottom, "Insured by Lloyds of Ellis". That group included Bill Cyrils on vibes, Lloyd Ellis on guitar and arrangements, Dan Shannon on the bass and Jimmy Kaye playing drums. It still shows up on eBay.
Around 1974, he was a member of Pete Fountain's Jazz Group where they played at the Hilton HOtel in New Orleans. During the fourteen years with Pete's group, they played at such venues as the National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan; Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Chautaugua Institute in Chautagua, New York; Saratoga, New York and the Blossom Music Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
In the mid-1980s, the group did a command performance at the White House for President Ronald Reagan when he hosted the President of Brazil. The band also played for Pope John Paul II during his visit to New Orleans.
Guitar Player magazine featured Lloyd in an article in their April 1989 issue. While we don't have a copy of that article, it is worth noting a quote from another stellar guitar player, B. B. King, about Lloyd's artistry. "Lloyd Ellis is something else, man. The things he does are unbelievable. Lloyd, Red Norvo and Monk Montgomery had a drumless trio, but Lloyd's rhythm playing was so full that you'd swear you heard a drummer in there, too."
The Mercury record label thought he country music audiences might be interested in his music in the 1965. They released an album (Mercury Wing MGW 12298) entitled, "Tommy Jackson and Lloyd Ellis: Guitar and Fiddle, Country Style". However sadly, the album does not feature them playing together, but rather, devotes one side to each of the two artists.
When Lloyd did finally 'retire' from Pete Fountain's group and moved back home to Pensacola, he noted, "I didn't retire, I just retired from Pete Fountain."
Lloyd did a couple of shows for PBS featuring the Lloyd Ellis Quartet. He also did some local PBS work in Pensacola for the Pensacola Jazz Society.
In Pensacola, audiences could often hear him at such venues as Phineas Phogg's and Marty's and other venues in the Seville Quarter of Pensacola.
Around 1994, cancer had begun to take its toll on Lloyd. At the same time, Lloyd found he had many friends that rallied to support him during those last months of his life. On a Sunday in March of 1994, a benefit was held at Phineas Phogg's to help defray some of the medical expenses Lloyd incurred. The benefit started at 2:30pm and lasted until some late hour in the morning. Friends such as Don Gumpert's Dixieland Saints, Holly Foy, Crosscurrent, Dave Shelander, the Bourbon Street Six, Ray Parker, Joe Occhipinti and many other Southeast musicians were to appear. The benefit was requesting a minimum donation of $5, but the author of the news article, Bill Campbell suggested that the donation should be at least $20. He noted, "Lloyd has given so much to us. Let's say "thanks".
A few weeks later, Jelly Rolls Jazz Club in downtown Fort Walton Beach, Florida hosted a jam session for Lloyd as well that started at 2:30pm. Don Gumpert noted in the April 1994 article that the March benefit was a "huge success" and they were expecting that over 25 musicians were to appear in Fort Walton Beach.
Lloyd succumbed to cancer on May 4, 1994. He left behind his wife, Frances Ellis and eight daughters and four sons.
Note: The DVD mentioned, "I Just Wanted to Play - The Musical Life of Lloyd Hastings Ellis" can be purchased for $20.00 plus $5.00 shipping and handling. For more details or questions, you may contact Kristina Weick via email firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at (850) 723-5619 to place an order. You will also find the DVD on eBay.
Credits & Sources