RIP: Dave Pell, Jazz Musician 1925 – 2017


Veteran jazz musician and record producer Dave Pell has died at the age of 92, according to his Facebook page.

Here are excerpts of an interview I did in 2007. (The full interview is at

Dave Pell on Lenny Bruce:

Well I was lucky, very lucky. I was there for five years and Lenny was there for almost the same amount of time. It was one of greatest moments of my life. He was quite a man. Incredibly funny, loving, kind, sweet… all the things that nobody ever knew about him. Nobody took the time to know about him. He was really a lovely guy, a lovely man, a funny man. We had a guy named Jack Sheldon in the band. Sheldon was the phenom of our time. A very funny cat. He and Lenny were dear friends. They used to do crazy things together.

On Mickey Cohen:

Gene Norman (the nightclub owner) … says: “You have a home here… Stay as long as you wish.” It was the time where Mickey Cohen used to hang out at the club. He used to have his boys there. They were dear men. As big as gangsters as there ever were. He loved Lenny. He was their favorite of all.

On Johnny Mathis:

Johnny Mathis was doing seven or eight shows a night. People were around the block. Gene Norman had signed Johnny Mathis 10 months before he had a hit. He comes up with all his hits in one short time…. He was working for $350 a week… around the block crowds are waiting to get in. We would do a fast 20-minute or 30-minute show and the next one would start. They’d empty the house and do another one.

On Lenny Bruce’s infamous appearance on Los Angeles television’s legendary “Rocket to Stardom,” a showcase for amateur performers sponsored by car dealer H.J. Caruso, who was indicted on charges of forgery and grand theft in June 1957:

The funniest thing. Lenny Bruce and Jack Sheldon decided to go on the amateur hour…. Do an Al Jolson song. Something was all set up and they’d play it and wear black makeup. They did the show… it was a car dealer that had the show … I wish I could remember. On Sunday morning… Jack and Lenny were going to be on and we were all set up to watch it.

They got on. They didn’t do the show they auditioned with. It got a little dirty and funnier and funnier and Lenny is yelling “Caruso is a thief!” “He doesn’t give good deals on cars!” They couldn’t get him off soon enough. They said, “This isn’t the way they auditioned.” They finally figured out it was Lenny Bruce.

I never got over that one. Funniest thing that ever happened with the band. Every night, Lenny was a magnificent mind. If he took off, we had Mort Sahl. He would do a half-hour on Lenny Bruce. And they put him in jail and he’d try to behave. He got put in jail 50 times because they were trying to clean up the nightclub circuit.


About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1957, 2017, Mickey Cohen, Music, Nightclubs, Obituaries and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to RIP: Dave Pell, Jazz Musician 1925 – 2017

  1. Kirk Silsbee says:

    H. J. Caruso is innocent!


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