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The Mysterious
Metropolitan Opera House Concert
January 5, 1952

supplement to

The Duke – Where and When
A Chronicle of Duke Ellington's Working Life and Travels

Since "The Duke - Where and When" is very large, I moved some material to supporting webpages. This one is about a concert that is widely misdated and mislocated.

This webpage was created and is maintained by David Palmquist,
with considerable input from fellow researchers
Last updated

Various discographies and printed Ellington chronologies report Ellington and his orchestra played at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City on Saturday January 5, 1952. I am convinced this did not happen and that the concert in question was in Portland, Oregon, on March 24, 1952. Further research may prove me wrong, and some enquiries are still under way.

Date of event Ending date
(if different)
Other place
Venue Event/People Primary Reference New
Date added
/ updated
1952 01 05
11 a.m., 8:30 pm
.New York, N.Y.Metropolitan Opera House

  • The New Desor, Timner, Nielsen, Lord's and Girvan discographies list the titles recorded here with minor differences as shown below
  • Fifteen songs recorded at this concert are on the Acrobat 3 CD set ACTRCD9033. Ellington introduces "V.I.P.’s Boogie" with

    'We start our second half, uhh, with a tune taken from one of our, well, taken from our, well, taken from our latest Columbia record release, titled "The V.I.P.’s Boogie." '

    That record was released February 29. When introducing "Blues at Sundown," Duke said

    'And now a little bit of a forecast, on our latest or rather our next Columbia record release, titled "Blues at Sundown"… '

    That record came out April 4. On the other hand, he introduced Frustration with

    'the purpose of these annual concert appearances... '

    but had not been to Portland since 1947.


Duke Ellington & His Orchestra
Cook, C.Anderson, Terry, Nance, Woodman, Jackson, Tizol, Hamilton, Procope, Smith, Gonsalves, Carney, Ellington, Marshall, Bellson, Betty Roché, Grissom

Titles recorded, as shown in various discographies and the Acrobat CD:
New DesorNDCS
The Hawk Talksxxxxxx
Sultry Serenadexxxxxx
Sophisticated Ladyxxxxxx
I Got It Bad and That Ain't Goodxxxxxx
A Tone Parallel to Harlemxxxxxx
Take The "A" Trainxxxxxx
V.I.P Boogiexxxxxx
Jam With Samxxxxxx
Blues At Sundownxxxxxx
Fancy Dan--x----x--
Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Mex--xx----
Once There Lived A Foolx--xx----
Tulip Or Turnipxxxxxx
Basin Street Blues xxxxxx
Skin Deepxxxxxx
Don't Get Around Much Anymorexxxxxx
In A Sentimental Moodxxxxxx
Mood Indigoxxxxxx
I'm Beginning To See The Lightxxxxxx
Prelude To A Kissxxxxxx
It Don't Mean A Thingxxxxxx
Don't Get Around Much Anymorex----------
I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart &
 Don't Get Around Much Anymore


  • The Riverview Ballroom in Sauk City, Wisc., advertised a January 4 Ellington dance. It would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for the band to make it to New York the next day in time for an evening concert, let alone one in the morning. The band as a unit did not travel by air until the late 1950s, so it would have traveled 960 miles by bus, train, or both. It is possible the dance was postponed, since the Riverview Ballroom also advertised a May 24 Ellington dance. Further research is needed.
  • The Palais Royale Ballroom in South Bend, Ind., advertised a January 5 Ellington appearance. If the orchestra played there that night, a concert or concerts in New York would be ruled out. It may be, however, that the appearance was cancelled or postponed. The ballroom was built by Palace Theatre Corporation and the band was advertised as playing 4 stage shows June 11 in the Palace Theatre, next door. Both buildings were built by Palace Theater Corporation and may have still been under common management. Further research is needed.
  • The Metropolitian Opera House would not have been available for either Ellington concert January 5 because "Goetterdaemmerung" played there at 1:30 p.m. and La Bohème at 8:30 that evening. MOH archivist John Tomasicchio confirmed in 2015 that its database shows Götterdämmerung and La Bohème that day and it shows the 1951 Ellington NAACP concert as well and an entry for the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1965. He said nothing about January 5, 1952.
  • Unlike the January 21, 1951 Metropolitan Opera House concert, as at the time of writing, no ads or publicity for a January 5, 1952 concert there by Ellington can be found in the online newspaper archives at
    The MOH ads in the New York Times don't mention Ellington either.
  • While Vail II describes the concert as a NAACP benefit concert, NAACP didn't hold a fundraiser show in 1952 until March 6, when "NAACP's Great Night" was put on in Madison Square Garden. Ellington was not named in the publicity or advertisements, nor would he have been there, since he and the orchestra were on the west coast.
  • The late Ellington chronicler Art Pilkington expressed doubt about this January 5 date and venue. A note dated 7/2/91 on the January 1952 page of the Igo itinerary says:

    'The NAACP Benefit Concert was originally scheduled for Carnegie Hall but was moved to the Metropolitan Opera House to accommodate more people. Two concerts: 11:00 am with Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra Young Peoples concert & 8:30 pm with West Point Cadet Glee Club. Art has no record of DEO in either of these concerts?'

    The switch from Carnegie Hall to the Metropolitan Opera House was a year earlier.
  • DEMS 1999/1 p.26, discusses this and the entry on page 125 of Timner IV:

    'Although tapes are apparently in existence this date is questionable. The New York Times 30Dec51, page8- X listing, titled "Concerts and Opera programs of the week," details the following:

    Carnegie Hall - Saturday, 5Jan52
    11:00 a.m. Philharmonic Symphony - Young Peoples Concert conducted by Igor Buketoff.
    8:30 p.m. U.S.Military Academy Band and the West Point Glee Club.
    Duke Ellington is not mentioned at this venue on this date.
    Metropolitan Opera House - Saturday, 5Jan52
    1:30 p.m. Gotterdammerung
    8:30 p.m.LaBoheme
    Obviously no mention of Duke Ellington.
    I have been unable to substantiate this alleged NAACP Benefit Concert with the Schomberg Centre in NYC.'


    'Jerry Valburn has a poster announcing this concert and confirms that it has taken place; tape exists.'


    'The location was the Metropolitan Opera House because the Carnegie Hall was too small, as Phil Schaap explained in his presentation for "Ellington'86" at Rutgers University. '

  • Mr. Hoefsmit may have misunderstood Mr. Schaap, or Mr. Schaap may have been mistaken. Mr. Schaap's comment appears to relate to the January, 1951 concert, since The Billboard says:

    'Duke Ellington will give his annual local concert January 21 at the Metropolitan Opera House. Duke's last six annual dates here have been at Carnegie Hall, which has a smaller capacity. Event is being presented under the auspices of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.'

  • In Down Beat, 1952-11-05, Ellington described the 1951 Metropolitan Opera House concert as his ninth most significant moment, but does not mention playing there in 1952.
  • Ellington's introductions to "V.I.P.'s Boogie" as his latest record and "Blues at Sundown" as his next one suggest the concert was betwwen the dates these records were issued, February 29 and April 4, respectively.
  • The Acrobat CD liner notes say, in part:

    'This release comes from the archives of the San Francisco Traditional Jazz Federation ... The archive comprises a collection of jazz recordings amassed during the 1950s and 1960s by broadcaster Ken Ackerman, and widely known as the Ackerman Tapes...
         The information that came with the Ackerman recordings from the archive indicated that the tracks ... were from a show in Portland Oregon, with a pencil note that read "Metropolitan OH Jan. 5th 1952." A reference to Lords confirmed that the orchestra indeed performed at New York's Metropolitan Opera House on that date, and the track sequence with a couple of minor inconsistencies, lines up between the two...'
    (emphasis added)

  • The concert as presented on the Acrobat CD has Betty Roché and Jimmy Grissom singing as well as a solo by Willie Smith.
  • While Stratemann says Grissom was Ellington's new vocalist in December 1951, he was not used on the “Blues at Sundown” recording of December 11. The band was in the midwest from December 14 to the end of the year, so his presence seems to confirm the concert was not before January 1952.
  • Smith left the band after the late March Seattle appearances and was replaced temporarily by Peter Kilbert, followed by Hilton Jefferson, who New Desor has joining the band on April 1. New Desor, Timner, Girvan and Vail say Jefferson played April 29 in Yakima. Smith's presence confirms the concert was before the end of March.
  • Roché left the band in 1943 and appears to have returned for the Blue Note run in late December 1951, although the Blue Note contract did not require a vocalist. Stratemann:

    'Betty Roché was back in the band during this engagement, but just for the duration, it appears. After the January 3, 1952 exit from the Blue Note, there's no trace of her with Ellington for the next two months.'

  • Other than the possible Metropolitan Opera House concert, there is no indication the band had a female singer during January before Debbie Andrews (a.k.a. Lucille Clay) joined January 31 in Chicago.
  • Miss Roché does not appear in band advertisements or publicity during January or February.
  • Miss Andrews was with the band only a month or so. She joined the band the last day of January in Chicago and likely travelled with it through the deep south to southern California, reaching San Diego February 22. She is named in reviews of February 6 (Keesler), February 27 (War Memorial Opera House), March 1 (Shrine Auditorium), and March 3 (Berkeley Community Theater).
  • The band was in Los Angeles February 29, went north as far as the Bay Area and Sacramento.
  • The night Ellington's orchestra played Sacramento, March 1, Miss Roché was advertised as singing at the Mo-Mo Club in that city.
  • Miss Andrews sang in the March 3 San Francisco concert.
  • The band returned to southern California, working in or near Los Angeles March 7 to 18. The March 29 Courier reported Miss Andrews "had to leave Los Angeles in a hurry for Indianapolis where her youngster was seriously ill."
  • The Courier's report may be right and she did not stay in the band after Los Angeles. On March 21 the orchestra set out on a tour lasting until June 10 through the Pacific Northwest, southwestern Canada and the mountain and prairie states. Miss Andrews was named in the March 22 Albany Democrat-Herald's announcement of that night's concert-dance in Salem and in same-day ads for Portland March 24 and Seattle March 25 but she is not in the Salem recordings and is not mentioned in reviews of the latter two concerts.
  • Miss Roché was not recorded in Salem March 22 but was recorded March 25 in Seattle. Since her name appears in several reviews or columns in Vancouver, Bellingham and Milwaukee, it appears she joined the band permanently by the time it reached Seattle.
  • The Portland concert was March 24, the day before Seattle. Acrobat CD 1 track 6 is Miss Roché singing I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good. This recording is identical to her singing of that song on Ackerman Tape Number 110 Side A Index 6, which is listed on the tape box with her initials (BR). The title typed on the tape box is

    'A. DUKE ELLINGTON ORCH: Betty Roche
    Portland, Oregon. Stage show.

  • At the time of writing, searches of,, and online newspaper archives for late December 1951 and early January 1952 yield nothing related to a NAACP benefit concert in New York in January 1952. This contrasts with many mentions between January and March of the March 6, 1952 "NAACP's Great Night" benefit show at Madison Square Garden involving many big names, for which Ellington was not named. He and his orchestra were on the west coast at the time.
  • Metropolitan Opera House:

    • Stratemann, p.331
    • The Billboard 1950-12-09 p.16
    • Vail II
    • Timner 4th and 5th editions
    • Timner corrections- 4/22+30+33+34
    • Nielsen
    • Acrobat 3 CD set ACTRCD9033
      Duke Ellington & His Orchestra
      Rare Live Recordings 1952-3
      Metropolitan Opera House, New York, 5th January 1952...
    • Brooklyn Eagle, Brooklyn, N.Y.
      • 1952-01-02 p.11
    • Emails, Tomasicchio (MOH)-Palmquist
      • 2015-12-04
      • 2015-12-07
  • Sauk City:

    • The Capital Times, Madison, Wisc.
      • 1951-12-14
      • 1952-01-02
      • 1952-01-03 p.8
      • 1952-05-15 p.4
    • Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, Wisc.
      • 1951-12-14 s.2 p.12
      • 1951-12-23
      • 1951-12-30 s.1 p.8
      • 1952-01-03 s.2 p.5
      • 1952-01-04 s.2 p.9
      • 1952-05-18 s.2 p.5
  • South Bend:

    • The South Bend Tribune, South Bend, Ind.
      • 1952-01-03 p.5
      • 1952-01-04 p.8
      • 1952-01-05 p.5
      • 1952-06-09 p.12
      • 1952-06-10 p.4
      • 1952-06-11 p.8
  • Minneapolis:

    • Minneapolis Morning Tribune and Sunday Tribune, Minneapolis, Minn.:
      • 1952-01-16 p.27
      • 1952-01-20 s.F p.3
    • Variety 1952-01-30 p.62
  • Debbie Andrews:

    • Courier, Pittsburgh, Penn.
      • 1952-02-16 p.17
      • 1952-05-03 p.23
      • 1952-05-10 p.23
    • San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, Cal.
      • 1952-02-17 p.20
      • 1952-02-23 p.2
      • 1952-02-24 "This World" p.10
      • 1952-02-29 p.6
    • Daily News, Los Angeles, Cal.
      • 1952-03-01 p.19
  • Record store:

    • San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, Cal.
      • 1952-02-24 p.11
  • Betty Roché

    • The Sacramento Bee, Sacramento, Cal.
      • 1952-03-01 p.8
    • The Vancouver Province, Vancouver, B.C.
      • 1952-04-17 p.21
    • Valley Times, North Hollywood, Cal.
      • 1952-05-16 p.12
    • The New York Age, New York, N.Y.
      • 1952-06-28 p.21
  • March 1952 NAACP benefit:

    • Brooklyn Eagle, Brooklyn, N.Y.
      • 1952-02-26 p.7
      • 1952-03-03 p.6
      • 1952-03-04 p.7
    • Daily News, New York, N.Y.
      • 1952-03-03 p.41
      • 1952-03-04 p.51
    • The New York Age, New York, N.Y.
      • 1952-01-05 p.16
      • 1952-03-01 p.14
      • 1952-03-08 p.17
  • The Ackerman Tapes
    - boxes and labels:

      Tape 109 Tape 110 Tape 111 Tape 115 Tape 116 Tape 117 Tape 130
New Desor
NDCS 1030

Identifying the source of the CD concert:

I created these 30 second sound clips to identify which Ackerman tapes CD 1 and the first 2 tracks of CD 2 of the Acrobat set came from.

On the left are the first 30 seconds of each CD track, and on the right are the first 30 seconds of the same recording on the tapes.

They confirm the Acrobat CD is from Ackerman tapes 109 side A and B and 110 side A.

Acrobat CD sound clips
Disc and track number

Ackerman Tapes
Tape and index number
sound clips
(Click images to enlarge)
Disc 1 track 01
The Hawk Talks
The Hawk Talks
Ackerman Tape Number 110 Side A Index 1
Disc 1 track 02
(opening remarks)
(opening remarks)
Ackerman Tape Number 110 Side A Index 2
(opening remarks)
Disc 1 track 02
Ackerman Tape Number 110 Side A Index 2
Disc 1 track 03
Sultry Serenade
Sultry Serenade
Ackerman Tape Number 110 Side A Index 3
Disc 1 track 04
Sophisticated Lady
Sophisticated Lady
Ackerman Tape Number 110 Side A Index 4
Disc 1 track 05
Ackerman Tape Number 110 Side A Index 5
Disc 1 track 06
I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good
I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good
Ackerman Tape Number 110 Side A Index 6
Disc 1 track 07
A Tone Parallel to Harlem
A Tone Parallel to Harlem
Ackerman Tape Number 109 Side A Index 1
Disc 1 track 08
Take the 'A' Train
Take the 'A' Train
Ackerman Tape Number 109 Side A Index 2
Disc 1 track 09
- V.I.P.'s Boogie/Jam With Sam
- V.I.P.'s Boogie/Jam With Sam
Ackerman Tape Number 109 Side A Index 3
Disc 1 track 10
Ackerman Tape Number 109 Side A Index 4
Disc 1 track 11
Blues at Sundown
Blues at Sundown
Ackerman Tape Number 109 Side A Index 5
Disc 1 track 12
Skin Deep
Skin Deep
Ackerman Tape Number 109 Side B Index 1
Disc 1 track 13
Ackerman Tape Number 109 Side B Index 2
Disc 2 track 01
Tulip or Turnip
Tulip or Turnip
Ackerman Tape Number 109 Side B Index 3
Disc 2 track 02
Basin Street Blues
Basin Street Blues
Ackerman Tape Number 109 Side B Index 4