Ernie Fields Collection – From the Vault
OKPOP presents “From the Vault” where we explore the stories behind the collections under the care of the OKPOP Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Executive director Jeff Moore discusses how the collection of Ernie Fields, Sr. came to the museum, a brief history of Ernie, Sr., and our relationship with Ernie Fields, Jr. and daughter Carmen Fields.
The Ernie Fields Orchestra was one of the most popular jazz big bands among African Americans on the club circuit that stretched from Kansas City to Dallas in the 1930s and ‘40s. Bandleader/trombonist/pianist Ernie Fields was born in Texas on August 28, 1904, but raised in Taft, OK. His early ensemble, The Royal Entertainers, shattered norms by being the first African American group to play Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa. But it was with his later band, The Ernie Fields Orchestra, that Fields found national success.
In 1939, Fields recorded a minor national hit, “T-Town Blues,” and began touring nationally. After WWII, however, his mambo-style version of “In the Mood” cracked the top ten on the Billboard pop charts. Just 30 years into his career, Ernie Fields finally achieved national recognition…and a gold record to boot. Retiring to Tulsa in 1960, he was inducted in to the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in 1989. He passed away in 1997.