Once the Elkhart Jazz Festival board “got into gear,” it decided where to have it (downtown!) with a free venue as well as several (five) “paid” venues in a downtown motel and a couple more at a city park nearby. The fest attracted close to 5000 people in ’88. Today, we have well-over 20,000 attendees. The largest crowd every year occurs at two free venues.
At my urging, the board also decided to honor Eddie Condon, who was born a Hoosier in Goodland on the west border of the state. Eddie’s stay was a short one. The family moved to Illinois where he spent most of his youth before going to Chicago where he made a big contribution to the development of Chicago jazz.
Don Boyer, who first introduced me to jazz, found out about Goodland’s location and we gathered a few Condon items for the museum. When we arrived there, we couldn’t find anyone who knew Eddie and the museum had nothing related to him. Don and I left some pictures, some recordings, and a brief written history of Eddie.
The video is one of a extensive collection of festival videos captured by the late Bob Byler. Enjoy the Bob and Ruth Byler Archival Jazz Videos on Youtube.
Eddie passed at an early age in 1973 after a fine career working with his Condon bands. Wild Bill Davison played a lot with Eddie so we brought Bill into our planning. He suggested several and we used all of them at one time or another.
Bill also told me Eddie’s wife was still alive in ’88 so we made two awardings: one to Bill who promised to “award” it to her…and he did. The award is prized by anyone who receives it: the Sagamore on the Wabash, awarded by the Indiana governor or his representative.
A lot of folks had never heard of Eddie Condon but by the July Sunday when the fest ended, most knew a lot! I heard several Condon stories the musicians told the audiences. One story Bill Davison shared related to Eddie introducing Bill at the club to a gorgeous movie star who shortly after the introduction became Ann Davison.