All the time I was growing up, my father, “Billy,” was the music arranger for the Ed Sullivan Show. (He also did the Jackie Gleason Show and the Tony Awards.) When he died in 1972 at 58, when I was only 17, I had never seen him play in an orchestra as he had early in his career. In 2008, YouTube was pretty new and I started exploring. I quickly found a video from 1936 of “Russ Morgan and His Orchestra,” a well known band of that time. I knew my father had played in this band for a year or two in that era. The first time I played the video, I spotted a young clarinet/saxophone player in front of the bass drum. He sure looked like my father, only a much skinnier, younger version than I had known. I kept thinking… “not possible…” “it’s too good to be true.” Then watch what happens around 4:20 into this film. That’s the point I knew it was indeed my Dad at age 22! I immediately called my brother in Florida and sister in Massachusetts. We were all out of our minds with excitement.
In 2012, having set up search parameters on eBay for a group photo of Russ Morgan and his Orchestra, I instead got a hit on an original print of the movie from which the video had been made. Except this movie was over ten minutes in length, twice the content of that first video. This is that film. To take it even further, in digitizing the film for use on YouTube, I was able to make stills that captured a moment I never saw in person… my father playing in an orchestra. YouTube and eBay… believe it or not… places you can find family history!