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Published: 12/3/2008

Firm owner could 'swing' as a first-rate jazz pianist

Myers Myers
HIRES / BLADE Enlarge

El Myers, 83, a longtime Toledo area jazz pianist who was president of a visual production business, died Monday in his Sylvania Township home.

The cause of death was not known. Earlier this year, he had Guillain-Barr syndrome, which led to some paralysis in his legs, his son Mark said. He was determined to stay active and forced himself to walk.

"He was doing fine. He was mobile and talkative and moving around," his son said.

Mr. Myers' last professional performance was in 1998 at the Toledo Club. He still played at parties and private gatherings and practiced every day, but chose not to take on paying jobs.

"He couldn't maintain the standard he expected of himself when he went out and played in public," his son said.

He recently finished putting together a solo piano CD of recordings from the late 1990s on.

"He could swing. That's important when you play jazz," said pianist Jim Gottron, a friend for decades. "He was harmonically deep. He took his music very seriously.

"He played with all the real good guys - [trumpeter] Jimmy Cook and [saxophonist] Gene Parker and [bassist] Jeff Halsey," Mr. Gottron said. "He was always considered a gentleman. He would always have a nice suit and tie or sport coat and tie. No matter where he was, he would look sharp."

Mr. Myers, from the piano led jazz groups of various sizes, from trios to sextets, for decades. His quartet in the late 1940s and the early 1950s featured Buddy Sullivan on tenor saxophone and played at clubs and private events around Toledo. He played on a regular 15-minute broadcast on the former WSPD-TV, Channel 13.

In 1964, he made a conscious decision to retire from music because, he wrote in his musical autobiography, "the music business [generally speaking] was going in a direction that didn't appeal to me."

A decade later, while listening to Mr. Park and Mr. Cook at a club, he was invited on stage to play. The experience "rekindled my interest and desire to start playing professionally again," Mr. Myers wrote.

For much of the 1980s and 1990s, he played regularly at Rusty's Jazz Cafe. He also played with the Toledo Jazz Orchestra and at a local jazz festival.

Born Elvin Myers, he grew up in West Toledo and was a graduate of DeVilbiss High School. He played piano from childhood, but played drums in the 80th Army Ground Force Band at Fort Bragg, N.C.

In the late 1940s, he joined the trio of bassist Vivian Garry and her husband, guitarist Arv Garrison, who was from Toledo. As the trio toured the East Coast, it had several engagements at the Royal Roost in New York City, where they shared the bill with the likes of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis.

Those stops were highlights of the tour, but Mr. Myers chose to leave the trio and return to Toledo.

"I loved the music, but I did not like the business part of it," Mr. Myers told The Blade in 1993.

He received a bachelor of business administration degree from the University of Toledo. In 1951, he went to work for a firm that became Walbridge & Bellg, which was later known as W&B Productions-Visual Communications.

He bought a partnership interest later and was president through the firm's closing in 2002, although he formally retired in 1995. His son Tom bought much of the firm's photo equipment as he started a business partnership.

Mr. Myers and his companion of 24 years, Carol Avery, "shared a love of music, and they enjoyed the weekends at the cottage" at Bird Lake in Hillsdale County, Michigan, his son Mark said.

His wife of 34 years, Mary Jane "Korky" Myers, died in January, 1983.

Surviving are his daughter, Tracy Myers; sons, Mark and Tom Myers; sister, Gerrie Scott, and a granddaughter.

The body will be in the Coyle Funeral Home after 2 p.m. tomorrow. Services will be at 10 a.m. Friday in St. Joseph Church, Sylvania.

The family suggests tributes to the Hospice of Northwest Ohio.



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