In the late fifties and early sixties Downbeat magazine ran a column entitled “Out Of My Head” written by George Crater. It was an often hilarious perspective on the jazz scene and had a huge impact on a couple of teenagers who had just discovered Jazz but were stranded in the antipodes.

I haven’t been able to find out a lot about George (pseudonym for Ed Sherman) except that he was a jazz disk jockey on WNCN, a New York radio station. He invented “Wind-up Dolls”, a comic device that flourished in the early sixties (eg “You wind up the John Birch doll and it moves to the right, then it moves to the right again”). When the young iconoclasts, such as Ornette Coleman, appeared on the scene around 1960 George was definitely out of his comfort zone (“You wind up the Ornette Coleman doll and it forgets the changes”) and I suspect his heart always belonged to Bop.

Amongst his creations was a group of musicians with names such as Prez Glick, Quincy Cohn, Thelonius Crasner, Miles Cosnat and Gimp Lymphly. In my memory the bandleader was usually the legendary saxophonist, Zoot Finster. George’s reviews of Finster’s records and his interviews with the musicians are the stuff of comedy legend (or they were in 1962).

So this blog’s title is an affectionate nod to a now obscure comedy talent who unwittingly helped me through my formative years. Let me hasten to add that I do not expect to split sides with my humorous output; I’ll leave that to George. These are merely the ruminations of an old curmudgeon. Think of them as an occasional J&B and muenster cheese.

19 Responses to “About”

  1. Art Rosch Says:

    God, George Crater has been a lifelong influence on me, my writing, my music…
    everything. When I googled today and found
    your site it hit me on the noggin, shee-it,
    there’s still some funny hiptsters around.

    Check out some of the excerpts of a jazz/
    coming of age novel at http://www.blogofascination.blogspot.com. the adventures of, okay, Zoot Prestige.

    More later. Going to see if there’s anything else here on the gurgle.

    best

    Art Rosch

  2. julie jankowski Says:

    Thanks for the kinds words….Ed Sherman was my father. He died in 1965 when I was about 7 and I do not remember alot about him….but always enjoy hearing stories.

    1. Linda Cooper Says:

      Hi Julie,
      A few hours ago I was telling a friend about your dad’s great sense of humor and his columns in Downbeat. Afterward I decided to check the net and am happy to have found this site.
      My ex-husband Bernie was one of his best friends and shortly after he died we held a benefit memorial at the Village Gate.
      Just wanted to say hello. Hope you are well.
      All the best,
      Linda Cooper

  3. george crater Says:

    for over two decades i have been broadcasting as george crater on my traveling show “MUGGLES GRAMOPHONE”

  4. Jack Warner Says:

    I read Out of My Head religiously when I was a kid. I remember the Zoot Finster band featuring legendary drummer Sticks Berklee. And the Les McCann wind-up doll, “wind it up and he builds a church.”. Thanks for bringing back the memories.

  5. artrosch Says:

    Sticks Berklee! I forgot him! I slavered over my issues of Downbeat, waiting for GC’s goofy wit. One might call this an extended conversation. We now have four-ish George Crater fans. Or relatives. I highly recommend the work of Art Rosch (that is me but I am allowed to do this because I say so) and his blog Write Out Of My Head, http://www.artrosch.com. If you scan the topics cloud you’ll see references to jazz and excerpts from a novel. One excerpt is about the day Coltrane died
    and how the Zoot Prestige Trio responded as they drove to a gig at University of Kansas. http://bit.ly/qKMiex

  6. blockholder Says:

    I remember vaguely his New Year predictions (one was that Sonny Stitt would add another t to his name) and a short story about the dog that played jazz (tenor sax – he was a Hawkins man – His owner was a Prez devotee).

  7. artrosch Says:

    I wish we could find copies of those columns. Perhaps I’ll ask Downbeat.
    Do they still exist? Julie? Anything in the family archives? I imagine the GC columns would today read somewhat quaintly and amuse only this small number of acolytes. If I did a Google l would enter search terms like “Jewish Jazz Humor”, er…no…I don’t think I”ll get many hits that way. I would still love to read the originals. I don’t remember the dog that played jazz but my dogs
    sing New Thing jazz with the greatest of the old madmen.

  8. Tom King Says:

    Ah, happy memories. I suspect he did the captions to photographs too, such as the very old photograph of a pianist looking balefully at the camera “Allright, so I’m not Hank Jones.”
    Some years ago in NYC I came across a Riverside LP in a nice little record/book shop opposite Academy Records, and it was $20. Since our $NZ bought only about 53 cents at the time it was a bit steep, but the kind proprietor let me have it for $10 since I was the only bloke apart from him who had ever heard of George Crater/Ed Sherman.
    A lovely record, and best wishes to Julie. I hope his legacy to you is as treasured as it is to readers of his column.

  9. julie jankowski Says:

    Thank you for all your kind words and wishes. I also have a copy of my Dad’s album. I was also able to get a copy of “memos from purgartory” by Harlan Ellison. The book is dedicated to my father and has some nice things to say about him. I do have some copies of DownBeat….not many. He was a talented man and wish I was old enough to remember more. Thanks.

  10. zoot Says:

    Wow, I disappear for too long and see what happens. We have a nascent George Crater appreciation society.
    Firstly my apologies, particularly to Julie, for not responding earlier.
    Secondly, I have a friend (the other half of that “couple of teenagers”) who has held on to all sorts of stuff over the years. We suspect he has a stash of old Downbeats somewhere and should he find them I’ll do my best to scan George’s columns from them.


  11. Murray Jennings Says:

    September 18, 2013 at 5:16pm
    I’m 73 years old, I live in the world’s most isolated capital city, Perth Western Australia. I can’t forget the thrill of opening each edition of Downbeat in the late 50s and 1960s, always turning first to ‘Out of My Head’ for a laugh.
    Then buying the Riverside LP on mail order…My favoutite track was the one about the T-shirt: “Eight Fifteen Dash-F, it’s about the T-shirt! You know the one!”
    Ed Sherman / George Crater was a one-off. Unique, in the true sense of the word.

  12. Tom King Says:

    Wonderful stuff, Murray. I am in an only slightly less isolated city, Christchurch, New Zealand, but in March 2002 I found the Riverside LP in a little book/record shop in NYC, “Out of My Head. I have had it made into a CD-R; do you want a copy?
    Cheers,
    Tom King.

    1. zoot Says:

      Hi Tom

      Do you mind if I pass your email address on to Murray so you two can correspond privately?

      It’s been quite gratifying to find that George Crater is still remembered, he certainly had an influence on my life.

      For a couple of reasons I prefer to hide behind my alias.

      Regards zoot

      ________________________________

      1. Murray Jennings Says:

        Thanks, Zoot. Best wishes Murray

  13. Tom King Says:

    Thanks too to you, Zoot.
    Cheers,
    Tom.

  14. artrosch Says:

    Thought I should check in here again to say hello. My autobiographical novel features a saxophonist named Zoot Prestige and contains much of Ed Sherman’s influence. You are invited to drop in on Write Out Of My Head any time. I was sixteen when I waited for each issue of Down Beat and each column by George Crater.
    Best
    Art Rosch


  15. WOW! so excited about this! I am going to post this to my page. You see whoever is reading this, I am Nancy’s ( who is Ed’s daughter) childhood best friend. We have a long history. I remember Ed’s wife and mother-in law telling me stories about Ed. This is really a blast from the past. This is the only information I had ever seen. Whoever posted this Thanks and GOD bless you. This made me so happy.
    Past. and present, Maureen Fornabaio Mazza

  16. jeffgollin Says:

    My favorite Crater bit involved being arrested for tearing the label off a cushion (under penalty of law). Highlight of his first night in stir was lying on the bottom bunk in his prison cell only to hear the guy in the top bunk ask in an effeminate voice: “Do you dig violence.”

    That plus the Miles Davis windup doll (“You wind it up and it turns its back on the audience”).

    I wish the Riverside people (or whomever now owns the rights) would reissue “Out of my Head” (sporadically available in vinyl) in downloadable digital format for all of us to enjoy.

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