Jack Ellsworth, Long Island’s Big Band Man

Jack Ellsworth, born Ellsworth Shiebler, won acclaim and a loyal following over a 60-plus year career in broadcasting on stations from WHIM to WALK and WLIM. Just as importantly, he won the respect and support of some of the biggest names of the Big Band era. Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby (to name a few) toasted Jack’s efforts to keep the music and style of the 1930s and 40s alive.

On this episode, Susan and Elissa Shiebler (Jack’s daughter and granddaughter, respectively) relate the story of Jack’s life from his early days in Brooklyn to his work as a Marine war correspondent through his glory days at WALK-FM and WLIM. Fueled by his personal connections to top-name performers and a legendary record collection, Jack’s “Memories in Melody” show enthralled audiences of all ages.

Jack Ellsworth
WALK radio ad from the Long Island Advance, Jan 25, 1962.

Beyond stories of stars such as Dick Powell and Frank Sinatra, Susan and Elissa also reveal how strongly the legacy of Jack and his wife Dot guides the family today. Grandson Matt Taylor has taken on the mantle of host, along with his own career as a performer, bringing that Big Band sound to a new age. They are now on 103.9 FM (WRCN) and LongIslandNewsRadio.com Sunday mornings 7 – 9 am.

Further Research

Save

Save

Save

Behind the Camera with Thom Hoffman

Shinnecock DVD case
Shinnecock (2013). Photo courtesy of Thom Hoffman

When something piques Thom Hoffman’s interest, he starts asking questions. Then he tries to work out the answers through film. The result has been an eclectic mix of documentaries (three to date) that share some common traits: his desire to educate and his love of Long Island history.

Brother Cinema Poster copy
Brother, Can You Spare a Dollar? (2012).Photo courtesy of Thom Hoffman

On today’s interview you’ll hear how Thom got his start working with Ray Adell on the “About Long Island” radio series and then expanded into documentaries. His first film featured the story of Brooklyn doo-wop stalwart Lenny Cocco and the Chimes. Next came his comparison of the Great Depression and the Great Recession. His latest, Shinnecock, explores the long history of the Shinnecock Nation in Southampton.

Still In The Mood  DVD cover copy
Still in the Mood for Love (2010). Photo courtesy of Thom Hoffman

We also ask Thom about the challenges of producing and distributing documentaries on Long Island. How do you get them to a wider audience? How do you get the quality of production needed? His answers echo many of the things we’ve heard in our discussions with others involved in documentary filmmaking on Long Island.

On that note, if you’re interested in screening any of his movies or helping find a home for the “About Long Island” archive, you can contact Thom at hof565 [at] optonline.net

Further Research

Sayville Musical Workshop

Tove Hasselriis Abrams was there at the beginning, four-and-a-half years old and watching her mother Karen perform in H.M.S. Pinafore at the old Sayville High School on Greene Avenue. That first group of performers went on to found the Sayville Musical Workshop.  Tove soon joined in, starring as Gretel in Humperdinck’s opera of Hansel and Gretel. After a break for college and work, she returned to catch the eye of and marry Steve Abrams, the Workshop’s pianist.

One of the first community theaters in the country, the Sayville Musical Workshop produced musicals, dramas, and operettas until 1985. There’s a lot of theater lore in this interview, including the major impact Rodgers and Hammerstein had on community theater , Troy Donohue and Brian Dennehy’s time with the Workshop, and the role of community theaters in the post-World War II era.

Tove Abrams
Tove Abrams. (Photo courtesy of Tove Abrams)

Further Research

The Home Grown String Band

Welcome to the lives and times of The Home Grown String Band.  Rick and Georgianne Jackofsky have been performing old time traditional music with their daughters Erica and Annalee since 1997. In this interview you’ll hear how they got their start along with tales from the road as well as a  leisurely tour through the intertwining histories of old-time music, bluegrass, radio and television. The talk leads from  Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs to the Carter Family, Andy Griffith, and why there’s so little Long Island-specific music history.

The Homegrown String Band

Further Research