Ken Crawford's Jazz Record Collectors' Bash: A History

Article excerpt

Ken Crawford is remembered by many of us as a generous jazz enthusiast. He loved being around jazz record collectors, which was his motivation for organizing the yearly gathering. After he gave up hosting the event, he continued attending until illness kept him from doing so. His death in 2006 at age 80 left us all saddened, but the Bash continues, an enduring legacy. This article also appears on www.jazzbash.net.

Through the summer of 1974, Rutgers University's Institute of Jazz Studies sponsored annual discographical conferences, essentially weekends of lectures and socializing. A prime force in establishing those conferences was Walter C. Allen, who died in December of that year at the age of 54. Allen was author of Hendersonia - The Music of Fletcher Henderson and His Musicians, the comprehensive work that set the standard against which all future efforts would be measured. At the time of his death, Allen was working on an expanded version of his biography of King Oliver. With Walt gone, the 'discons' ceased.

Enter Ken Crawford, Jr. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Ken was a researcher, host of a radio program on which he played vintage jazz recordings, and jazz film collector and archivist. He was also a founding member and one-time president of the IAJRC. Wanting to have a place where jazz record collectors could annually gather, as they had done at the Discons, Ken established what he informally referred to as a 'Collector's Bash'. Here, in part, is how he described the first Bash in an advertisement in the spring 1975 IAJRC Journal:

"As a tribute to the memory of our good friend, Walt Allen, we are holding what we hope to be a genuine jazz record collector's Bash [sic], featuring the playing, trading, buying & selling of jazz records, along with just plain listening to our kind of music. Aside from this, we may or may not have a speaker, on Saturday afternoon, to be decided later, however, there will definitely be a jazz-film show, on Saturday evening from 7:30 PM until 10:30 PM. This Bash is not in any way to be compared to Walt Allen's great discons of past years, but merely a get-to-gether [sic] for collectors, in memory of Walt. If this sounds like your bag, we hope to see you there."

So began what has become an annual tradition. The initial Bashes were just Saturday affairs with a gathering of collectors on Friday evenings. Ken also showed selections from his vast rare jazz film archives.

The first Bash, in 1975, was held at the Ramada Inn in New Brunswick, but the following year moved to the Holiday Inn on Route 1 South in neighboring North Brunswick. As the years passed, the Friday hours were extended, starting at 1:00pm and both days were advertised as ending at 3:00am.

As an added attraction, Ken engaged Ed Hutto, an engineer by profession, who had created a series of historical presentations utilizing three slide projectors with as many screens, along with a pre-recorded synchronized soundtrack. Simultaneously projected on the screens were images of bands, individual musicians and 78 disc labels accompanied by Ed's narration and musical excerpts from recordings. Among the presentations made by Ed were those about Fletcher Henderson, Bunny Berigan, two on Duke Ellington (early & late years), bands and singers of the 1930s and 1940s, the Dorsey Brothers and the history of RCA Victor. The one about the Dorsey Brothers was advertised in advance by Ken Crawford as being a two-hour presentation. Some of the presentations had become so popular that Bash attendees had requested to see them a second time.

By 1992, the Bash had outgrown the North Brunswick venue and so it moved to another Quality Inn in Somerset, about 10 miles away.

In 1994, Ken Crawford advertised the Bash as 'Our 20th!' Approaching his 70th birthday, the effort of organizing the Bash was showing on its founder. …