One of the highlights for the Ernie Fields Orchestra was in 1959 when they had an international hit with an R&B version of Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” credited to the Ernie Fields Orchestra, which reached number 4 on the Billboard Charts. The track also peaked at number 13 in the UK Singles Chart. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.
Charted at #54 on Billboard Hot 100 in February 1960. Ernie had a #4 hit on the Hot 100 during the previous year with an updating of the Glenn Miller hit “In the Mood”, so he tried again with another Miller smash (Glenn had charted at #1 with “Chattanooga Choo Choo” in 1941). Following this, he would have one more Billboard chart entry with an updating of “The Charleston” (#47 in June 1961). Other chartings of “Choo Choo” over the years: #36 Hot 100 for Floyd Cramer in January 1962 (#9 Adult Contemporary), #45 Hot 100 for Harpers Bizarre in November 1967 (#1 Adult Contemporary) and #32 Hot 100 for Tuxedo Junction in April 1978 (#18 Adult Contemporary, #5 Dance).
Original Billboard review: “Fields and crew can have strong follow-ups to “In the Mood”. Top side, the old Glenn Miller classic, is revived in a bright rockin’ tempo.”
Written by Harry Warren & Mack Gordon.
The switch to instrumental rock n roll came early in 1958, when Rene Hall sold the master of “Annie’s Rock” (produced in L.A. with drummer Earl Palmer and saxophonist Jackie Kelso) to the reactivated Jamie label in Philadelphia, crediting the disc to his old boss, Ernie Fields. Rene Hall, Earl Palmer and sax player Plas Johnson had almost daily contact in the L.A. studios. Combined with their shared Louisiana roots, this created a strong bond between the three Afro-Americans and towards the end of 1958 they decided to pool their talents in a production company called Record Masters. In 1959 they offered a rock n roll arrangement of “Christopher Columbus” by Rene Hall to the new Rendezvous label in Los Angeles. Rendezvous was interested, but needed a B-side. It was Earl Palmer who suggested “In the Mood”, the old Glenn Miller favourite. Soon their beaty new interpretation of the standard was upgraded to A-side status. Hall, Palmer and Johnson had yet to attribute the record to any particular artist, knowing they wouldn’t be available for any kind of promotion or touring, due to their studio commitments. After negotiations, Ernie Fields was called up to “work” the record, with credits going to “Ernie Field’s Orchestra” (sic). The gamble paid off and with the support of Dick Clark, the single hit # 4 on the pop charts by the end of 1959 (also # 13 in the UK). When I first heard “In the Mood” on Radio Luxembourg, it immediately knocked me out and when I compiled my personal Top 100 of 1959 at the end of the year, it occupied the number one position.
The follow-up, again from the Glenn Miller songbook, was “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, which went to # 54. Its flip, “Workin’ Out”, written by Hall, Johnson and Palmer, was one of the few tracks that actually featured Ernie Fields on trombone. There followed an LP release in 1960 (also called “In the Mood”), a combination of big band standards, covers of recent hits and two originals, “The Boot” and the fabulous “Knocked Out”, from the pen of John Marascalco. The arrangements were split equally between Johnson, Hall and Palmer. My copy (I have the UK pressing on London HA 2263) has been played so often that I was overjoyed when Ace reissued the album on CD in 1996, along with 13 other tracks. However, the fact that the first 23 seconds of “Honky Tonk” were missing was a real bummer, though Ace rectified the situation somewhat in 1997 with the full version on “Teen Beat, Vol. 4” (a Various artists compilation of instrumental R&R).
The third Rendezvous single, “Begin the Beguine”/”Things Ain’t What They Used To Be”, lacked the heavy backbeat and excitement of the two previous 45s and was not released in the UK. Instead, UK London chose to lift two tracks off the LP, “Raunchy” and “My Prayer” (London HL 9227). In the USA, eight more Rendezvous singles would follow after “Begin the Beguine”, but only “The Charleston” (# 47 in 1961) managed to enter the charts. By 1962, Rendezvous Records was concentrating more on singles by B. Bumble and the Stingers, a studio band comprising some of the same session men as those on the Ernie Fields recordings.
After the demise of Rendezvous in 1963, the Ernie Fields Orchestra – still with Hall, Palmer and Johnson as its nucleus – switched to the Capitol label. Three four-track sessions were held in 1963-64, under the supervision of David Axelrod, but only two singles were released, “St. Louis Blues”/”Lilies of the Field” and “Swanee River”/”Chloe”. Compared to the Rendezvous recordings, they sound rather tame, almost middle-of-the-road. The unissued Capitol tracks finally saw the light on an Ace CD in 1998, minus “Surfin’ With Soul”, the tapes of which could not be found. New sounds invaded the US in 1964 and Hall, Johnson and Palmer soon abandoned the project.
Ernie Fields himself retired from the road in the late 1960s, but his son, Ernie Fields, Jr., carried on the tradition and continued in his father’s footsteps as a bandleader, producer, and talent agent. Fields lived to be 92.
More info :
At present there is no satisfactory discography of Ernie Fields on the Internet.
– The Ernie Fields Orchestra, In the Mood (Ace 540, 1996). 23 Rendezvous tracks plus the Jamie single. Now deleted, but copies can still be found.
– The CD “The Piltdown Men Ride Again” (Ace 681, 1998) includes 15 tracks by the Piltdown Men and 11 Capitol recordings by the Ernie Fields Orchestra. Both CD’s are expertly annotated by Stuart Colman.
– There is also a 1997 CD on Collectables (with 16 Rendezvous tracks), which includes the rare “Fallin'”, with a vocal by Ann Walls.
Acknowledgements : Stuart Colman, Wayne Jancik, Eric LeBlanc.