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FIELDS, ERNIE (1904–1997). Bandleader Ernie Fields was born in Nacogdoches on August 28, 1904 . In his youth, before turning to a career in music, he studied to become an electrician at the Tuskegee Institute. He also played trombone in the school's marching band, a skill he later took with him to Tulsa. There he began playing part-time at clubs in and around the city; he also met his wife, Bernice, to whom he remained married for more than sixty years.
Eventually, around 1930, Fields formed his own big-band jazz outfit, the Royal Entertainers, and had considerable success. As his popularity grew, he and his band toured the Midwest and Southwest. He made several recordings for various jazz and blues labels, including Frisco, Bullet, and Gotham. In 1939 the group traveled to New York City, where they recorded for Vocalion and played shows at the legendary Apollo Theater. With the advent of rock-and-roll and the decline of big-band jazz in the 1950s, Fields downsized his band and transformed it into a rhythm-and-blues group. He also dabbled in the record industry and served as an arranger in various rock and pop recording sessions. He moved to Los Angeles in the late 1950s. In 1959 he founded his own record label, Rendezvous, and cut a blistering rendition of Glenn Miller's classic "In the Mood." The single—a huge hit—attained gold-record status and remained on the charts for twenty-three weeks.
Shortly after this success Fields retired from playing and recording in 1966. He subsequently worked as a promoter and talent manager in the Tulsa vicinity and was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in 1989. He died in Tulsa on May 11, 1997, and was buried in Green Acres Memorial Gardens in Tulsa County. He son Ernie, Jr., was a successful bandleader and producer in his own right .
Colin Larkin, ed., Encyclopedia of Popular Music (London: Guinness, 1992; 3d ed., New York: Muze, 1998). Dave Oliphant, Texan Jazz (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996). Tulsa World, May 18, 1997.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Bradley Shreve, "FIELDS, ERNIE," accessed September 22, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ffi47.
Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on October 5, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.