I have lived in Chicago, Baltimore, Tulsa, New York and LA, mostly LA. I began to play the clarinet and saxophone in high school, took up the flute in 1960 and the oboe (at the instigation of Plas Johnson and Sheridon Stokes) in 1966. Composition came later.
In 1960 I moved to Tulsa and after a brief period with a band that made some pretty funny sounds, I joined the Ernie Fields Orchestra. Ernie's band had existed since the early 1930s, flirted with success briefly in the 1940s, and even won the Pittsburgh Courier poll in 1947 over the Ellington and Basie bands. (The Courier was then the most widely circulated African-American newspaper in the country.) By the late 1950s the band had shrunk to eight pieces and a remarkable singer, Ann Walls. In 1959 a former member of the band, René Hall, arranged a swing era tune, In The Mood, recorded it with Hollywood studio musicians, and released it under Ernie's name. The record became a hit and revitalized the band, if only briefly.
A lot of great musicians had worked for Ernie over the years, including Yusef Lateef, Teddy Edwards, Booker Ervin, Hal Singer, Paul Quinichette, Benny Powell, Earl Bostic, even King Kolax, whose name appears in the biographies of both Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. And there were great musicians in 1960, but only one, Billy Davenport, who later worked with Otis Rush and Paul Butterfield, whose name would be recognized today. Although I learned a lot about music during the time I spent with the band, the real education was in traveling throughout the midwest and southwest in segregated America. Six years after the Supreme Court ordered integration, there were still white only signs and towns where we were denied accommodations. I've written about that in the On The Road At 18 section of this web site.