Celluloid Improvisations logo Jazz on Film Mark Cantor

Gene Rodgers and The Vs “My, My, Ain’t That Somethin'”

called The Vs. The group was so named because of the letter ‘V” in each of the names of the members of the trio: Willie Lee Von Terrell, guitar; Ivy Anne Glasco, string bass; and Ivern Whittaker, drums. The group retained the name when legendary Central Avenue pianist, Lady Will Carr, joined in 1944, making it a quartet.

Ivern told me that The V’s had its genesis as a vocal duo in the Floyd Ray big band. “So, it was sometime in 1938, I suppose, and Floyd had heard me and Willie Lee Von Terrell sing, I don’t recall where, but he convinced our parents to allow us to travel with him on a series of one-nighters and theater dates. We got to Texas, and Ivy [Ivy Anne Glasko] joined us, making it a trio. Ivy had a great voice, and she would get solo songs with the band, along with singing with the trio. We recorded some sides [for Decca Records] in 1939, although I haven’t heard them in years. Now we were billed as The Vs, and we played many top locations with Floyd’s orchestra, including the Apollo (twice, once with the Nicholas Brothers) and the Palladium in Los Angeles. I think we recorded with the band when we were in New York City.”

After the Ray orchestra broke up — a victim of the draft, notes Whittaker — the group stayed together, working as a vocal trio, and then taking up instruments as a matter of convenience and necessity. (Whittaker received encouragement, and perhaps some tutoring, from drummer Lionel Hampton.) Ivern recalled, “Around this time Lady Will Carr joined the group, making it a real jumping quartet.” “We were really hot,” she added, “and we played throughout the city, including Hollywood and Central Avenue. We played Billy Berg’s Swing Club in Hollywood, also the Streets of Paris. I think the Streets of Paris was on Hollywood Blvd. Also The Palladium and the Florentine Gardens. We made it down to Central Avenue and I recall playing at The Last Word and Jack’s Basket Room. Lady Will was by far the best musician in the group, and she would sit in on piano. The men all respected her playing.”

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