April 22: Remembering Irving Ashby
Guitarist Irving Ashby died on April 22, 1987, in Perris, CA, just a few miles south of San Bernardino, a town mentioned in a tune Ashby played countless times.
Irving Ashby was born in Somerville December 29, 1920 and started with the guitar at age 9. He either did or did not study at the New England Conservatory; some biographies have him attending, while others say he was granted a scholarship but declined it. He was, however, working with pianist Eddie Watson and bassist Ed Plunkett in a trio at Alpini’s in Boston in 1939-40, and that’s where Lionel Hampton heard and hired him. Ashby and Ray Perry went on the Hampton band together in 1940.
Ashby stayed with Hampton until late 1942, when he moved to Los Angeles. He worked in a wartime defense plant and kept his hand in studio work, for example playing in a few of the musical numbers in the 1943 film, Stormy Weather. He also wrote a column, “Guitar & Guitarists,” for Down Beat. After the war he became very active on the LA scene, working with Gerald Wilson, Wardell Gray, Lester Young, and others, as well as Jazz at the Philharmonic.
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