I also told the NPR the following story - unfortunately they didn’t see fit to use it, but I think that friends of mine (and the late Dick Ables) will find it fascinating:
Dick Ables was a fascinating character I used to work with back in the old days at Stash Records. He was about 85 when he died in 1997, and he was, without a doubt, one of the most interesting people I ever met in the music business. Dick had been in the show business all his life.
I knew he had been band boy / road manager / music librarian for Charlie Barnet’s orchestra back in the swing era, and in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, was road manager for Erroll Garner; he still did odd jobs for Martha Glaser when I knew him. He also still worked with Bucky Pizzarelli (all the Pizzarellis, in fact), and Louis Bellson (he was his contractor) and others, in addition to Bernie Brightman of Stash Records.
Dick had known everybody in the music business - there are all kinds of stories I could tell - and I never knew him to exaggerate. There only were two points about which I never knew whether to believe him. First, he always said that he had been a musician, and that he played with Isham Jones. For the most part, Isham Jones led a very famous band, and everyone who played with him was well-documented; however, there were at least one or two of his groups that were less known than the others - so anything was possible. Dick could have actually played in one of Isham Jones’s lesser known groups.
The other point was regarding Dick’s father. Dick always that he had been in vaudeville and that he was a whistler - that in itself was believable, there must have been thousands of professional whistlers on the boards around the time that Dick was born, in the years before World War One. However, Dick always insisted that it was his father who taught Al Jolson to whistle, which Jolson did most famously, of course, in THE JAZZ SINGER.
So this was a story I never knew whether to believe - until I happened to be going through some CDRs sent to me by the famous collector-historian Barry Hansen (aka “Doctor Demento”). He had sent me a big stash of tracks by Billy Murray, perhaps the leading popular singer and recording artist of the pre-WW1 era. While I was listening, I did an image search on google on “Billy Murray” and I was looking through a bunch of vintage Victor 78 labels. And there it was: on one of the Billy Murray 78s, it said, underneath the name of the singer, “whistling solo by Edward Ables.” That had to be Dick’s Dad! I don’t know if that proves he had anything to do with Al Jolson, but there was Dick’s father on a record from around the time that Dick was born.
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