Ernie's Story (Part 4 of 5)
After three years touring with Ray Charles' Band, life on the road was beginning to take it's toll on the newlywed Ellys. When Ernie left for the first leg of the three year tour, his wife Portia was still in school, they were young and without the responsibility of raising children. When the Elly's oldest daughter was born, Ernie didn't see her until after she was about two weeks old. After laying eyes on his newborn child he knew he didn't want to go back on the road.
In the early 1970's when Elly decided to stay at home and perform local gigs, he ran into the prominent trumpet player Wallace Davenport. Mr. Davenport offered him a job playing traditional New Orleans jazz. Although reluctant at first, Elly wanted to keep playing modern styles of music, his admiration for Mr. Davenport led him to accept the gig. This would be the first time Elly played traditional New Orleans jazz professionally.
After spending some time with Mr. Davenport's band, Elly began subbing for Bob French in the Storyville Jazz Band, a famed ensemble that included Ellis Marsalis on piano, George French on bass, Bob French on drums, and Teddy Riley on trumpet. When Bob left the band, Ernie joined full-time. "We used to play all kinds of different music, you know. We'd play rhythm and blues, country and western, traditional, you know, shake your booty [music]." “We’d be playing at Crazy Shirley’s [on Bourbon Street] and we used to walk over by the Preservation Hall and take a little peek. That’s when they used to keep the shutters open. I heard Louis Barbarin, Cie Frazier, all the old-timers.” Elly noted that the biggest influence on his playing at the time was from Bob French and Freddie Coleman. “I listened to them more than anybody else.”
You can catch Mr. Elly performing at Preservation Hall every Thursday at 8, 9 & 10 PM with The Preservation Hall All-Stars, Fridays at 6 PM with The Preservation Hall Legacy Band and Saturdays at 6 PM with The Joint Chiefs of Jazz.