I just got home from an assignment, this evening’s event was an awards dinner and silent auction for Gwen’s Girls, and it was held at the University of Pittsburgh’s William Pitt Union. You will read more about the event in the weeks to come.
On my way out of the ballroom, some items in a glass enclosed display case caught my eye. Upon a closer look, I realized it was the Erroll Garner display that I had heard about last year. I noticed other people rushing past just as I was a few minutes ago. I asked some of them to please stop and soak in this exhibit with me. They too seemed to be glad that they stopped and looked.
You may remember the name of the story when I spoke about this acquisition, the title was “Play Misty For Me.” When it was announced that the University of Pittsburgh had acquired this display, I was not sure where it was located. I’m so glad that I noticed it because now I can share it with you. I took some pictures with my phone so I would not forget all of the things I wanted to tell you about the exhibit. It includes script books from the “Perry Como Show,” “The Flip Wilson Show” and the “Gary Moore Show.” These are not typical scripts, but hardbound leather scripts. There are posters from his performances, a few of them are from other countries and there is an enlarged replica of a 32-cent postage stamp with his picture. There are awards, letters and even a copy of a telegram where Garner is asking for someone to help him with his mother’s medical bills. I was attracted to the cufflinks and the tie clips, and there is a shirt and tie fresh from the cleaners.
The best part of my brief look at the exhibit was showing it to a friend. Her nickname is Misty and she took quite a few pictures so she could show her dad. Her dad gave her that nickname.
Garner’s longtime agent, manager and a civil-rights advocate, the late Martha Glaser, assembled the display. The collection is an exceptionally complete record of a major mid-20th-century musical career and of both, Garner and Glaser’s roles in removing racial barriers in the music industry and asserting artists’ rights. Garner, born in Pittsburgh on June 15, 1921, began playing piano when he was 3 years old. By age 7, he was performing on KDKA Radio with a group called the Kan-D-Kids. He attended Westinghouse High School and moved to New York City in 1944. Ten years later, he recorded his best-known composition, “Misty,” a lush ballad that was recorded by hundreds of instrumentalists and vocalists over the years, and became the signature song of Johnny Mathis. Garner died of lung cancer in 1977 at age 55 and is buried at Homewood Cemetery.
So New Pittsburgh Courier readers, squeeze a visit to Oakland to the William Pitt Union into your future. I found it well worth the time.
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