Brick Fleagle

Born August 22, 1906, Brick Fleagle would have been 99 years old today. Before beginning research on Luther Henderson’s biography, I knew of Fleagle only as Luther’s friend and chief copyist. I didn’t know that he started out playing banjo, then switched to guitar and worked with trumpeter Rex Stewart. I didn’t know that he was also an arranger who penned charts for Stewart, Chick Webb, Jimmie Lunceford, Fletcher Henderson, and Duke Ellington. I haven’t yet documented when Luther and Fleagle first met. I have read that Fleagle did a lot of music copying for Ellington, but was that in the 1930s, the 1940s, or possible even later? Did Luther ever go to hear Fleagle’s group at the Arcadia Ballroom in the mid 30s? Did Fleagle hear about the kid who won an amatuer contest at The Apollo Theater in 1934? Fresh out of Julliard in 1944, Luther was working for Ellington — was Fleagle already on Duke’s payroll then? Did Luther hear the tracks arranged and recorded in 1945 by Fleagle and his Orchestra for H.R.S.? [These can be heard on Mosaic’s reissue of The Complete H.R.S. Sessions and include The Fried Piper, When The Mice Are Away, Double Doghouse, among others.] Did Luther read the July 30, 1945 review, “Brick’s Boys Go Riding,” in Time magazine? All I know so far is that Luther and Fleagle worked closely together for many years, and that when Fleagle died, he left his belongings to Luther, who, in turn, later donated the wonderful collection to The Peabody Institute. I expect to learn more about that later today when I interview David Alan Bunn who was a protege of Luther. Mr. Bunn, who is a conductor, composer, arranger, and pianist for Broadway, recordings, and television, is also the founder of the Jazz Studies Department for the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. Oh yeah, there’s also a great story about Luther visiting Fleagle in the hospital and bringing a voodoo woman with a live chicken for sacrifice…you’ll have to read the book when it comes out.