David Ross: Bass Hit

Bass player David Ross has lived the consummate L.A. story. His mother, Peggy Lloyd, was the daughter of silent film star Harold Lloyd. And Ross’ father, Bart Ross, produced some of the earliest variety, talk, and game shows in Los Angeles, including “The Wink Martindale Dance Party,” “The Oscar Levant Show,” and “Beat the Genius.”

David Ross was first mentored in his guitar playing by renowned guitarist and Capitol Records producer Jack Marshall (father of producer/director Frank Marshall and the composer of the theme song for “The Munsters”), and more recently, by the legendary Plas Johnson – of “The Pink Panther” fame – with whom Ross had an opportunity to share the stage with soon after he began playing the bass at age 58. 

Ross launched The Jazz Salon, a series of concerts at Los Angeles venues, in 2014. The series, which showcases both renowned and up-and-coming local jazz artists, enjoyed great popularity until its last in-person performance at the Los Angeles Athletic Club in early 2020. Currently, Ross is working to bring The Jazz Salon to the realm of live streaming performance in order to accommodate the new online concert environment in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, he has recently presented, “Jazz on the Bay,” a series of in-person, outdoor concerts in Long Beach.

Making Life Swing enjoyed a conversation with Ross as he mused on growing up in Hollywood, finding the perfect instrument, and the future of enjoying live jazz performance in the comfort and safety of one’s own living room.

What was it like growing up in the 1950s in Hollywood?

My mom’s dad was a silent screen star in the 1920s, Harold Lloyd. She grew up in a very glamorous, Hollywood celebrity world. Then, she married my dad when she was 23. He was in the advertising business at that time. They had a big fancy wedding at the Lloyd estate and were divorced within about five years. 

I’ve got a copy of the divorce papers and the reason for the divorce was “allergies.” In the 1950s, there was still a kind of accepted censorship of anything personal – that was as deep as you were required to go to satisfy the judge. I guess it would be called irreconcilable differences [now]. 

My mom then married an actor, Bob Patten, divorced him, married him again, and had a child, my half-brother. Then they divorced. They were divorced for the second time probably around the time I was 14, or so. She was a single mom from then on, and [worked as] an extra and a stand-in. So, we’d have people like Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick showing up at the house.

Before they got divorced, my dad got out of advertising and then into this newly launched world of television. One of his earliest shows was “The Oscar Levant Show.” 

Early television was an adventure, and there weren’t the crews that there are now, because there really wasn’t an established way of doing everything. My dad was producing. He had a partner, and my mom was the jack-of-all-trades, kind of a production assistant.

My mom told me a story about when he had Jayne Mansfield as a guest, and she came [wearing] a really low-cut cashmere sweater, and my mom wouldn’t let her go on. It was buttoned down the front, so my mother wouldn’t let her go on until she took the sweater off, turned it around, and buttoned it up the back. That’s how she did the show the first time. The second time Jayne came back, my mom wasn’t there, and she was wearing one of those really low-cut dresses. She would wear a bra – I guess typical of the time for bombshell actresses – where her breasts were like two battleships going straight out, and barely contained by this dress.

This was Oscar Levant’s last show, because in the middle of the interview – he had asked her a question and she was responding… Oscar Levant was about five-foot-five and gnomish-looking, started leaning forward, getting closer and closer to her cleavage until finally he fell into [it] and pretended as if he was stuck there, flailing his arms. 

It was a live TV show, so the local broadcaster, which I think was KTTV, went off the air with Oscar lost in Jayne Mansfield’s cleavage, and that was the end of “The Oscar Levant Show.”

What were some of the other programs that your father created that were focused on music?

[My dad] did a musical show called “Musical Chairs,” which was like the kids’ game but with adults playing it. They had a live band and Johnny Mercer was the musical director. Another staff person on the show was Jack Marshall. Jack and my dad remained good friends. My dad was a pianist. He wasn’t a hardcore jazz pianist but kind of a popular music pianist and Jack was a great guitar player and a great arranger.

I was learning guitar when I was 12 or 13. Jack would come to the house and whenever he was there, he was so sweet and would ask me how my guitar playing was doing … have me drag my guitar out and then he’d give me a lesson. He was one of those adults [when I was] a young kid, that kind of treated you as an adult. He was just a great person.

Bobby Troup was involved in the music, and Howard Roberts might have been in the band. And then my dad became aware of teenagers as a source of discretionary spending that might be interesting to advertisers.

My dad had two partners at the time, Al Burton and Frank Danzig. He was looking for a [teenagers’] show, and a dee-jay, who had recently located to L.A. from Tennessee was brought to his attention, a guy named Wink Martindale, who had a really early teenage dance show in Tennessee. So, my dad hired Wink to host “The Wink Martindale Dance Party.” 

My dad would take me down to Pacific Ocean Park, down in Santa Monica, where they would tape the show on Saturday evenings. I was probably 12 or 13, and I’d get to meet whoever was on the show that night. They had all of the teen heartthrobs, like Frankie Avalon, Bobby Darin, and James Darren, and the boy groups. They even had the Three Stooges on, so I got to meet Moe and Curly. It was rock and roll, it was really fun.

My dad segued from the dance party show [to] an hour-long weekly show, I think it was called “Hollywood a Go-Go.” Then they launched a really mercenary business called the Teen-Age Fair, which was a marketplace where teenagers would go. All of the sellers to teenagers, whether they were manufacturers like the big car companies or make-up lines, or they were involved in music … wanted to get their hands into teenagers’ wallets.

The first year was at Pacific Ocean Park. The second year was at what was then called Pickwick Recreation Center in Burbank – we’re talking 1961, 1962. By the third year, they were at the Palladium in Hollywood, and they did the Palladium for five years in a row. That was during Easter vacation, and they had the Miss Teen USA Pageant, and wall-to-wall bands.

Were these shows the predecessors to “American Bandstand”?

They weren’t predecessors. Actually, “American Bandstand” started before “Hollywood-a-Go-Go.” (1952) “Hollywood-a-Go-Go” was similar to a show called, “Shindig” and “Hullabaloo.” Sam Riddle had something called, “Ninth Street West,” and “American Bandstand” was a half-hour afternoon show. And then they expanded to prime time, hour-long shows, and that’s what “Hollywood-a-Go-Go” was. 

All those teenage heartthrobs like Frankie Avalon, they were really products of promoters. They weren’t singer-songwriters that promoted themselves. They were picked, groomed, and musicians were hired to play. They sang, they had hits, and a band was hastily put together to tour with them.

All of this was run by old-time music promoters, and the Teenage Fair and all these TV shows were part of that world. Everything was pretty square and reflected an older era before the British Invasion. [Music] was a consumer product. The Beatles were the first Grammy winners who wrote their own songs. Before the Beatles, there was no such thing as a singer-songwriter. 

As a member of your father’s targeted teenage audience, how these experiences compel you to pursue music?

By the time I was 12-years-old I had band jobs – I was actually drumming. It was a guitar player and I, we were hired to play at a private party. He and I are still very close, he has the [Global Village] music show on KPFK, John Schneider. John went on to get a Ph.D. in acoustics and maybe also guitar. He’s still very, very active in music.

And then I got a regular rock and roll band where I played guitar. Our bass player, Bill Reynolds … at the time, his dad was president of CBS Records, so we got to go in with a big-time engineer, Lud Gluskin, and record several tracks. I still have those tracks as MP3 files, so that’s kind of fun.

I was playing all the covers of the artists my dad had on his shows. I worked at the Teenage Fair every year, and many of my friends worked there as well. Towards the end of it, I remember I was the stage manager for the stage inside the Palladium. There was a band called Delaney & Bonnie, and they came to play and they brought Jimi Hendrix with them. So, I was the stage manager for Jimi Hendrix and when he left, I took his guitar cord and I had it for a million years, but it’s gone now.

I would have been playing rock and roll for the reason that most boys play rock and roll, which is to meet girls. But as it happened, I fell in love with a girl when I was 13 and we were together all through junior high and high school. I wasn’t interested in getting other girls. It was just really fun getting to play music, particularly if you had an audience dancing to it.

Did you continue with music in college?

My girlfriend, who was a year ahead of me, got into Stanford. I couldn’t get into Stanford and I was in the dumps because I just wanted to be with her. She was older than I and more mature and by the time she got to Stanford, she was onto bigger and better guys.

I ended up going to a liberal arts college in Florida called New College and got kicked out after a year. I played guitar there and joined a commune in upstate New York in 1969. I continued to play music half-heartedly for a couple of years. We had a band called The Cosmic Daddy Dancers, that was a rock and roll band. Then we had a bluegrass band called the Spurs of the Moment – because it was hastily assembled – and a jug band.

By the time I was in my early 20s, I had stopped playing music. I was living in upstate New York. Havin grown up in L.A., I just loved living in the country. I was living at times in very remote locations, without electricity. We lived in one house that had a hand pump in the front yard, a mountain top, and you couldn’t see any other structures from the place. I just got involved in farming and living in the country and it was too difficult to keep playing music. I didn’t really start seriously playing again until I was 58.

All that Teenage Fair stuff was happening until I left for college. I went to college and two years later, my dad was dead. He died of lung cancer at 47 – I was 19. My last conversation with him … he was recalling how he would drive into the office. He lived in Encino, he would drive into Hollywood every day on the 101, just terrible traffic, assuming that he’d retire and enjoy the fruits of all that labor. And he was so regretful that he postponed having fun, and now wasn’t going to get the chance.

I remembered that conversation when I was 58. I was feeling my own mortality and I just was determined not to let the same thing happen to me. I couldn’t afford to retire but I wanted to find some activity that eventually on my deathbed, I could look back and have no regrets for a moment spent doing it.

I thought, I could become a jazz musician. That, to me, embodied the most exciting and rewarding way to have fun. I’ve always loved the upright bass. I still have my guitar from when I was a teenager, but in my early 30s, I wanted to buy a bass, mostly just to have it. 

I was working in Pacific Palisades and there was a bass player named Charlie Haden. And he had a beautiful bass that he wanted to sell, so I bought Charlie’s bass. I remember going to see him – I had never heard of him. He was already well-known in jazz circles, but I wasn’t in jazz circles. I went to his house – he had just had triplets. The first question he asked me was who my favorite bass player was. 

This is just kind of naïve on my part to think that Charlie wouldn’t care if I named someone other than him, and I immediately named Steve Swallow. There was a group called the Gary Burton Quartet and Steve Swallow was the bass player. He subsequently switched to electric bass but then he was playing acoustic bass and he’s still my favorite acoustic bass player. So, I said “Steve Swallow,” and [Charlie] gave me this really… not angry [look], but he clearly wasn’t pleased.

I didn’t have the money to buy his bass, so I got a loan from the musicians’ union and bought it. So, at 58, I still owned that bass. I didn’t know how to play it really – the bass is a physically difficult instrument to play and Charlie had his bass set up with the action quite high. 

When I decided I really wanted to learn how to play, I took his bass down to a place that’s still in business called Lemur Music in the San Juan Capistrano area. And Jerry Buffo – I think his name was – the owner, with his wife. I brought the bass in and his eyes opened wide. I said, “This bass has kind of a pedigree.” And he said, “I know all about that bass.” 

Charlie’s bass had been commissioned by a bass maker in Germany. Three basses were made from the same tree. Charlie bought one, Ron Carter bought another one, and the person who had them commissioned kept the third one. Jerry was aware of that story, so he was excited. 

I said, “I know it’s a beautiful bass, and it makes me feel important just to own it.” In fact, Charlie had wanted to buy it back several times and I always refused. 

Jerry said, “Well, do you like the bass?” I said, “No, that’s why I’m here. It’s hard to play. I want a warmer sounding instrument with a longer sustain.” 

He said, “Okay, let me take this back into the shop and see if I can work with it.” And then he pointed to a rack of basses, and in the rack was an orange bass – the color of orange juice. He said, “While I’m working on your bass, try playing that.” So, I took it out and it was the most beautiful sounding bass I had ever heard. 

So, I played it for about a half hour and he came back in. He said, “I’m not going to be able to do much – it probably needs to go back to Pöllman and they’re going to have to do the work. What did you think about the orange bass?”

And I said, “It just sounds beautiful to my ear.” He said, “I think it’s the finest instrument I have here, but I can’t sell it because it’s so ugly.” 

It was spray-painted and there was dirt in the paint. It wasn’t varnished… and it had a big hole in one of the lower bouts, you could put your hand through it.

He said, “In its condition, I just can’t sell it. Why don’t we talk to Pöllman about shipping Charlie’s bass back? In the meantime, why don’t you take the orange bass? At least, you’ll have a bass to play.”

I took it. I didn’t have much confidence in my ear and I wondered whether when I tried playing it at home it would sound different, but it sounded great. I looked inside one of the F-holes and there was a tag that had the name of the person who made the bass, along with the [model] number of the bass. The maker was Thomas Martin, so I Googled it and came up with an English phone number. I called the number and a guy answered with an English accent.

“Thomas Martin?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “I have one of your basses here and I love it. But I don’t know whether to buy it or not.”

He said, “What’s the number of the bass?” I said, “It’s number 68.” And he said, “Oh, the vivid orange bass.”

I said, “Yes – I’m so glad you said that because I didn’t want to insult you, but it’s the ugliest looking instrument I’ve ever seen. It’s bright orange, and it’s got a big hole in one of the bouts. And the bass I own is a beautiful Pöllman bass that Charlie Haden owned. So, I don’t know what to do – I own the prettiest bass and I want to buy the ugliest bass.”

He said, “I tell you what – if you’ll bring me back the bass back to England, I’ll refinish it so that it’s proper. It was commissioned by a player in – I think it was the Toronto Symphony – and he wanted all these cosmetic things that you don’t like about it. I’ll be really happy to get it back looking like it should.”

So, I picked up Charlie’s bass from Lemur and I took it to Lisa Gass, one of the great luthiers of Los Angeles. She had worked on Charlie’s basses and so I took it to her and asked how much she thought she could get for it if I sold it. She told me, so I made a deal with Lemur to buy the orange bass at a reduced price that would give me enough difference between the cost of that bass and the money I would get from Charlie’s so that I could afford to fly the orange bass over to England and back.

So that’s what I did. I flew back and Thomas refinished it. That was in 2008 or 2009, when I was 58. And I just adore the bass – it’s still the most beautiful sounding bass I ever played.

The first thing I did was enroll in Long Beach City College’s beginning jazz course. I didn’t know anything about properly playing the instrument. I took that course one day a week for four weeks and I didn’t learn anything there. Then, Stanford had an immersion program called the Stanford Jazz Residency. And I took the bass up to Stanford and I auditioned.

This is how ignorant I was. I knew I had to audition so I had learned one of Steve Swallow’s solos from a fabulous (Gary Burton Quartet) album called, “Duster.” I’d learned it note-by-note, just by ear. The faculty member who was auditioning me said, “Go ahead and play something.”

I played Steve Swallow’s solo, and he was nonplussed because I didn’t really have the technique. I was playing the notes correctly, more or less. You could tell I was doing something, but it didn’t answer his question of where he should place me or if he should let me in.

He said, “Why don’t you play a blues for me?” I didn’t know what he meant by that. I had no knowledge of music. So, he placed me in an ensemble with a piano player, a woman from Japan who spoke no English and had never played jazz before. That will just give you a kind of benchmark of where my playing was – it was at zero, maybe slightly minus.

I went through that – it was about ten days. And then, I just started looking for any opportunity after work to drive to a club that would let me sit in and play. So that’s how I got started.

David Ross (on bass), presented an outdoor concert featuring Los Angeles jazz vocalist Barbara Morrison, on June 26, 2021. The concert was part of Ross’ “Jazz on the Bay” series, which takes place monthly in Long Beach. Photo by Laurence Bernstein

How did you create the Jazz Salon?

The first opportunity I got was at the Omni Hotel downtown, up on Bunker Hill. I approached them about doing a series of summer jazz concerts outdoors and they liked the idea and they were willing to pay decently. I put together a band of musicians that I had met by that time and we played our first weekly gig, but I could tell that I wouldn’t be able to keep the gig going if I didn’t get a bigger band. 

The reason that I picked the bass, rather than playing the guitar again, is that the bass has a functional role in jazz. It has two functions, primarily. One is to keep time. It’s the bass player – not the drummer – who is primarily responsible for the pulse of the music. 

The second thing that the bass is responsible for is what they call spelling out the chords – making clear to the other players what the chords are. I figured if I could learn how to do those two functions competently, then I could be the bass player with people that are a lot better than me and they would take all the solos and do all the flashy stuff.

I needed to find those better, flashier musicians. I ended up, out of sheer, blind luck, hiring for the gig two great, experienced horn players, a sax player and a trumpet player. I was so excited when they said they would do it. 

The night before the gig, I wanted to be able to play some Miles Davis tunes because I had these great players. So, I tried to learn “Milestones,” and I practiced and I practiced. I didn’t sleep at all. I got to the gig and I went over to the horn players, they were in suits and ties. I told them how thrilled I was and I asked them if they knew “Milestones,” and they said, “Sure.” 

I went over to the piano player and I said, “Let’s do ‘Milestones.’ I’ve practiced it, but I’ve never been able to get out of the bridge back into the A part at the right moment – could you help me?” He said, “Yeah, I’ll make it real obvious to you, just keep looking at me and I’ll make it real easy.”

So, I counted it off – it was like a dream. I went, one, two, one, two, three, four… just like on the record, it was amazing. The piano player helped me and I was able to get out of the bridge. 

Those two musicians – the piano player as well – but the horn players in particular, Nolan Shaheed and Plas Johnson, became my mentors. The piano player was Matt Politano, a beautiful piano player who continued to help me. With those guys, I was able to attract other really high -quality jazz players. That was in 2014, or so.

When I started playing, I had that stereotype of jazz musicians as being extremely competitive. Like the story when Bird goes to Kansas City to sit in. He was still Charlie Parker, he hadn’t become “Bird” yet. 

When you went to sit in, they would play a difficult song in an impossible key, just to embarrass you and they embarrassed him. That’s happened to me a couple of times, but 99.9 percent of the time, musicians that I’ve had a chance to play with are exceptionally bright, creative, generous, and wonderful. So, I feel really lucky in so many ways.

In about 2015, the LA Athletic Club had spent a lot of money redecorating their restaurant and bar area. I had been a member for a long time and they showed it to me. At that point, there still wasn’t the level of after-hours activity in downtown LA that there has been subsequently.  At the club, the only activity in the evening was people after work, coming in to work out. Very few of them stayed for drinks or dinner afterwards, they just went home.

The club had spent a lot of money redecorating the room and I thought, that was misspent, because nobody is going to enjoy it really – unless you got a band. If you had a jazz group to play here, [they] could really build up an audience.

They were reluctant – very reluctant. But gradually, they came around and within a year after that, I was playing a [weekly] concert that I called the Thursday Night Jazz Salon. I remember I got the beloved pianist Llew Matthews many times. Early on, I had a different piano player every week, including such great players as Mark Massey, Mahesh Balasooriya, David Arnay, Sam Hirsh, Todd Hunter, Otmar Ruiz, and Isamu McGregor.

I was in hog heaven. That went on until March 12, 2020. That was the last Thursday Night Jazz Salon. 

I videotape every time I play, because I still don’t believe what’s happening, and when I get really old, I want to be able to play all those videos back to show myself that it really happened.

What’s next for the Jazz Salon, in the era of streaming concerts?

Jazz Salon “2.0” is based on the declining revenue from jazz everywhere, [which is] a bit odd because there are a lot of young players. Jazz is a unique genre in American music because even though it hasn’t been considered America’s popular music for over 50 years, it’s highly respected. If you talk to a rock and roll or a hip-hop artist and tell them that you play jazz, they immediately assume that you are a more sophisticated, more advanced player than they are. So, it’s still very well thought of.

I don’t know the reason in any authoritative way, but it’s gotten harder and harder to sell tickets. In 1980, there were 59 jazz clubs in Los Angeles, with jazz in most cases, seven nights a week. Now, we’re down to a handful, and I’m not sure, post-pandemic, how many there will be.

Even before the Jazz Salon closed, I needed to find a way to bring in more revenue. I’ve never taken in any pay. For me, it’s just a joy to play and I’m hiring people who have devoted their professional careers to playing, so they’re the ones that need and deserve to be paid. I need to bring in more revenue to pay them better. I tried streaming to bring in tips online. But the problem was that jazz skews to an older audience, and that audience was not used to streaming, and so I wasn’t able to make much headway. 

But when the virus hit, I thought, here’s an opportunity because jazz lovers of all ages have [now] gotten used to streaming. They know how to do it, they’ve upped their bandwidth if they needed to raise the quality of the stream, they’ve maybe bought headphones or speakers. And so, when we start being able to play live again, there’s a certain percentage of those people – particularly because of their age – who, when they think about driving to downtown LA, paying a cover charge, the gas and the parking and all the rest of it, are going to say, “I’ll just watch it on a stream. Maybe I’ll go once a month [for a live show], but the rest I’ll watch from home.”

So, I continue to watch the streaming. I watched Cecile McLorin Salvant, whose singing I love – she was streaming out of her apartment. Or that great piano player back in New York, Emmet Cohen, who does a stream every week. But I get fidgety watching it because even though the quality of the music is high, the experience as a viewer is low. It’s often a single camera, the video and audio quality are marginal.

So, I thought, we’re going to differentiate ourselves. I think back to the variety shows of the 1960s that were heavily rehearsed. They were trying to attract the biggest audience they could, so all the decisions they were making were based on their sense of what might attract and keep a big audience. There were at least four cameras and it was professionally directed. It really drew you into the music. I want to use that as a model. I was going to have really high-quality video and audio and then multi-camera, professionally directed, professionally lit, and professional sound.

I went to a really well-known local jazz piano player, Tamir Hendelman, and asked him if he would be interested in playing on that kind of stream. And he said he would be, but the piano that we had been using at the Jazz Salon is a fabulous instrument, but it’s a hybrid instrument. It’s made by Yamaha, it’s called the Avant Grand and from the keys to the hammers, it’s their most expensive acoustic grand piano. But the hammers don’t hit strings – they hit sensors and the sensors have sampled that same beautiful grand piano [sound]. It even has a motor in it that causes the keys to vibrate as if they were hitting a string, so it really feels like you’re playing, and it sounds really good.

But [Tamir] said that if I really want the attract top-tier players, I’m going to have to get a top-tier acoustic grand piano. It took me nine months and I finally, through the good fortune of meeting one of the finest piano technicians in town, Jason Kane, who introduced me to the Kasimoff family. Since the 1960s, they’ve handled the Blüthner line of pianos, which along with Bösendorfer, Bechstein, and maybe Hamburg Steinway, are among the top four pianos in the world. 

The dilemma that the Kasimoffs have had with the Blüthner is that even though there are a few jazz pianists who are aware of them – Billy Childs loves the Blüthner; Ahmad Jamal, whenever he comes to LA, goes to the Kasimoffs to play the Blüthner; Roger Kellaway rented one of their Blüthners for a long time – most jazz players have never heard of them. The Kasimoff family was willing to make an arrangement, where we would use a Blüthner grand and have top jazz people play it, and hopefully get the word out about what an amazing instrument they are. Tamir came down and he played the Blüthner and was very happy with it. 

Now we’ve got a beautiful room, it’s the main ballroom of the Los Angeles Athletic Club. It’s 100 feet by 50 feet, with 30-foot ceilings and openings on two walls with full-length, door-sized windows. I can put a full band in there and keep it COVID-safe. 

My dream is to have the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra come in, set up for a couple of weeks and bring in great singers. I’d love to bring in Mary Stallings, Patti Austin, people like that. It will be fun for the artists because they’ll get to [sing] with the greatest jazz bands in the world. They don’t often get a chance to play with a big band. And if John (Clayton) was up for it, they would have beautiful arrangements. 

I wouldn’t be able to play bass, but that doesn’t matter. It would help me to put the Jazz Salon back on the map. I would make those streams available to the network of jazz venues. I’m in an association of jazz venue operators and jazz support groups called the Western Jazz Presenters Network and I’ve talked to them about if I can provide them with a stream using really top LA artists, would they be interested in showing that stream to their members and supporters. So, that’s the hope – that I can build the reputation of the new Jazz Salon as a destination – on a stream – for jazz lovers. 

I love the full circle aspect of this, from your father bringing rock and roll to television, to you bringing jazz and helping to rescue live performance in the pandemic era.

I mentioned one of my last conversations with my dad. About a year before that, when I was [living in] the commune, before he died, he came to visit me, which was really meaningful. I adored my dad, but I lived with my mom, so I didn’t get to see him as much as I wanted to.

He was back in New York on business so I flew down to New York City, we rented a car. We had to drive for three or four hours – it was in the middle of winter – to this commune out in the country filled with kids, aged 20 years old, boys and girls. A wood stove in the living room for heat. For my dad to walk into that … he didn’t grill me, he didn’t ask, “How many people will be there? Will I feel comfortable?” None of that – he just dove in, [he said] “Let’s do it.”

Most of us slept in the living room on mattresses, there was probably a dozen of us. But a few of the more “senior” commune dwellers had bedrooms or walk-in closets they had converted into bedrooms. I remember Jean Feingold – I think her name was – offered her bed up to my dad, without her in it, of course. So, my dad slept on a mattress on the floor. I remember that night before he went to bed, he was freezing, because he was in a business suit. So, we all gave him jackets and he sat by the stove and ate brown rice and vegetables. He never complained about anything. 

The next day before his plane left, we took a walk to town, it was about a mile away. He wanted to buy me [winter gear], I didn’t have any of that. So, we walked into a little store and he bought me boots and gloves. He asked me if I had any idea at all of what I wanted to do in life. And what I said was that eventually, I’d like to have a music school, that would be really fun. 

I’ve done a lot of things in my life.  I’ve been a car mechanic and a boat mechanic and I’ve painted and varnished boats down in Newport Beach. I used to manage the post-production for all the Norman Lear shows at Metromedia, “Different Strokes” and all that stuff, and produced over 50 music videos for people like Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne. And then I had a program to improve the quality of communications for Fortune 500 companies – I had the Gas Co., California Edison and Transamerica, all these big companies [as clients]. I was in the corporate world for 15 years, and then I’ve had my own financial services firm for about over 15 years. 

I’ve done all those things, but I’ve never done the thing that I told my dad I wanted to do until now. It’s not a school, but it’s a place where music is going to get made, and I’m going to be the student.

My dad has been dead for 50 years now, and I haven’t dreamt about him since… last night. That’s how recently I’ve dreamt about him. So, it’s a beautiful thing for me in so many ways, but that way that you’ve just mentioned, that idea of full circle, is one of them.

To view streams of past concerts, find information and tickets for future events, and to contact David Ross, visit The Jazz Salon website.

Photo by Laurence Bernstein

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Laurence Bernstein says:

    Lovely article!


    Virus-free. http://www.avast.com

    On Tue, Jul 27, 2021 at 5:02 PM Making Life Swing: Jazz on TV and in Other Unexpected Places wrote:

    > take5jh posted: ” Bass player David Ross has lived the consummate L.A. > story. His mother, Peggy Lloyd, was the daughter of silent film star Harold > Lloyd. And Ross’ father, Bart Ross, produced some of the earliest variety, > talk, and game shows in Los Angeles, including “Th” >


    1. take5jh says:

      Thank you, Laurence, for the kind words and your beautiful photography!


  2. Matt Palmer says:

    Good stuff, Joanie! David Ross is an interesting cat and type of a Renaissance man to boot. I met Charlie Hayden a few times and seen him play back in the day at SMC College auditorium and at McCabe’s. I believe his son played bass in a band that opened for his dad…too bad Charlie has passed. I liked the cool bass stories in the article which appeals to the guitar geek in me.

    On Tue, Jul 27, 2021, 5:03 PM Making Life Swing: Jazz on TV and in Other Unexpected Places wrote:

    > take5jh posted: ” Bass player David Ross has lived the consummate L.A. > story. His mother, Peggy Lloyd, was the daughter of silent film star Harold > Lloyd. And Ross’ father, Bart Ross, produced some of the earliest variety, > talk, and game shows in Los Angeles, including “Th” >


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