Las Vegas Sun

October 27, 2021

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Jazz drummer Poole dies at 73

John Poole, an accomplished jazz drummer and longtime road manager of jazz great Anita O'Day, has died in Las Vegas. He was 73.

Poole, regarded as a master of the brushes on such O'Day recordings as "On a Clear Day," "Sweet Georgia Brown," "My Funny Valentine" and "They Can't Take That Away From Me," died Sunday of heart failure at a local hospital.

There will be no services for Poole, who lived in Las Vegas for 16 years.

"He was a leader in the jazz world," said former Sun Assistant Managing Editor Jim Barrows, who also is a jazz pianist and a longtime friend. "John made four appearances at the Newport Jazz Festival and had gigs at every major jazz club in the nation -- the Black Hawk, Basin Street East and the Blue Note, among others."

Poole, who made his first Las Vegas appearance in 1941 as a member of the U.S. Drum and Bugle Corps marching in the Helldorado Parade, appeared with numerous jazz legends over the years.

He did three Carnegie Hall concerts and made nine tours of Japan. Poole worked with Charlie "Bird" Parker in 1954 in Detroit and with Benny Goodman on a 1959 tour of Europe. He performed with Duke Ellington in France and on the same bill with Louis Armstrong at Madison Square Garden in the mid-1950s.

Poole's albums include "Live in Concert, Tokyo 1976," where he did a seven-minute drum solo on "The Song is You" and "Carnegie Hall, Big Band," with trumpeter Roy Eldridge. He also performed on the acclaimed early 1960s album "Anita," with O'Day and on the 1956 album "Anita Sings the Most" with pianist Oscar Peterson

John Poole began working with O'Day in the 1940s. They appeared in the 1958 film documentary "Jazz on a Summer's Day," which launched Day to worldwide stardom.

Born July 21, 1925, in Long Beach, Calif., Poole was the son of an equestrian police officer, Vivian Poole, who died in a boating accident. John never knew his father, bantamweight boxing contender Jake Poole.

Poole's great-grandmother, Mary Tibbitts, was credited with planting the first orange tree in California in Riverside in 1873.

An aunt bought Poole his first drum when he was 6 years old. His first drumsticks were those used by his great-grandfather, who was a drummer boy during the Civil War. As his career progressed, Poole preferred to use the brushes instead of sticks.

At 12, Poole played his first professional gig at the Iowa County Fair for $100. At age 14, he won the U.S. rudimental drumming championship, and a year later, he won a regional Gene Krupa contest, besting among others future jazz great Louie Bellson. Poole credited Krupa and Buddy Rich as being his inspiration.

Poole performed for the University of Iowa band and, after being drafted into the Navy, performed at USO shows in military swing bands.

After leaving the service, he joined the Vido Musso group, in which O'Day was lead singer. She and Poole became good friends and she made him her road manager when she went out on her own.

When O'Day and Poole toured England in 1960, their fans included the then-unknown rock group, the Beatles.

Poole and O'Day appeared together on an episode of "60 Minutes" as well as on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson." Their last jobs together included a tour of Texas and Louisiana with the Buddy Rich Band and a tour of Norway with the Woody Herman Band, both in 1987.

Poole and O'Day parted ways that year and he retired. They remained friends. O'Day still performs and plans an appearance at this year's Newport Jazz Festival.

Poole, suffering from an enlarged heart, spent the last two years of his life dictating his memoirs, which Elaine Poole, his wife since 1970, is putting into book form. In those memoirs, he discusses his music and overcoming a drug addiction, she said.

In addition to his wife, Poole is survived by two sons, Donald and Jonathan Poole.