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In Focus: Frederico "Fred" Elizalde

Frederico "Fred" Elizalde was born to a rich and influential family. A relative was the official representative of the Philippines at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth. He began playing piano at an early age and composed a Minuet at age 4 years. He and his brother, Manuel ("Lizz") spent their early years in the very best of schools in the U.S.A. He went to study in Madrid, Spain and at 14 years of age he was at St.Joseph's College in London for 2 years.

He then went to Stanford University (Calif.) at age 16., where he led the Stanford University Band at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, CA. Not happy with this career move, his parents shipped him off to Cambridge Univ. in England, where he immediately took over the "Quinquaginta Ramblers". Fred quickly gained attention for his playing and compositional skill and he was signed by (Bert) Ambrose.

His next big step came when he signed to play at the Savoy Hotel In London. (He played in the second room; the Savoy Orpheans remained the 'Main Band'.) Fred sent his brother Manuel to the USA to find some 'hot Jazz' musicians, and "Lizz" found some good ones. At the Savoy Elizalde's orchestra featured many American musicians, including some men out of the original The California Ramblers, Adrian and Art Rollini, Max Farley, Chelsea Quealey, Fud Livingston, Bobby Davis, and others.

On Sunday, June 23, 1929, 'Fred Elizalde and his Savoy Music' gave a concert (featuring singer Al Bowlly) at the Shepherd's Bush Pavilion. A 'souvenir programme' of "The Melody Maker for the Invitation Concert for Musicians" listed the following musicians then in the band.
  • Fred Elizalde - Leader
  • Chelsea Quealey - First Solo Trumpet
  • Norman Payne - Second Trumpet
  • Nobby Knight - Third Trumpet
  • Jack Collins - Trombonist
  • Bobby Davis - First Alto Saxophone
  • Max Farley - Second Alto Saxophone
  • Fud Livingston - First Tenor Saxophone
  • Arthur Rollini - Second Tenor Saxophone
  • Adrian Rollini - Bass Saxophone
  • Phil Cardew - Arranger & Relief Saxophone
  • George Hurley - First Violin
  • Ben Frankel - Second Violin
  • Len Lee - Third Violin
  • Mario Lorenzi - Harp
  • Jack Hill - First Bass Guitar
  • Tiny Stock - First String Bass
  • Bill Busby - Second String Bass
  • Billy Mason - Piano
  • Ronnie Gubertini - Drums
  • Al Bowlly - Vocalist & Guitar
In 1928, he won The 'Melody Maker' poll for the inappropriately titled tune "Heart of a Nigger" (sic), which -equally inappropriately- was changed to "Heart of a Coon" (sic). He made several trips to France and Belgium for residencies. The "staid" audiences at the Savoy didn't appreciate Elizalde's music and he took the band on the road to Northern England and to Scotland between Sept. and Dec. 1929, after writing the scores for two movies. Fred then wrote the music for the short lived "Intimate Revue" in March 1930. After this, the band broke up and Elizalde moved to Biarritz (France) where he began to study and compose classical music.

In 1931, he did a world tour and returned to England, where in 1932 he made some recordings before returning to Spain. In Spain he wrote the opera "Le Pajara Pinta" and studied with Manuel de Falla. He then conducted various orchestras in Spain. It was during this time that he reverted to using his real name of Frederico Elizalde. In 1933 made a brief return to London for recordings, moving back to Biarritz in 1934. In April 1935 his "Sinfonie Concertante" was premiered.

He composed and conducted throughout Spain in 1935 and '36, and then served as an officer in the Basque Regiment of Franco's Army during the Spanish Civil War. He was wounded at Oviedo, decorated for bravery, and was invalided out of the army, and returned to the Philippines in late 1937.

 In the late 1930s, he returned to Paris and remained confined in his chateau during the German occupation where he continued to compose. It is difficult to understand what the German's had against him, considering he fought for General Franco's side, but along with other notable artists, he was on the German's list of people to be watched. (As unbelievable as it may sound to us today, the Nazis were probably wary of him because he played the "decadent" music of America and Britain.)

In 1946, he moved to Santa Monica, Calif., but returned to London in 1948 to perform his own "Piano Concerto". His "Violin Concerto" was recorded in London in 1950. He then returned and spent most of the rest of his life in the Philippines with the Philippine Broadcasting Company. Elizalde was an avid sportsman and won 4 gold medals, in shooting, with the Philippines team in the 1954 Asia Games. He died the 16th January 1979.

These notes on Fred Elizalde were kindly submitted by Mr. Derrick Wilkinson (to Big Bands Database Plus).

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