Tributes: The Life of Erroll Garner, A Pittsburgh Legend

Erroll Louis Garner born June 15, 1921, was an American jazz pianist and composer. Known for his swing playing and ballads, Garner was best known for his composition, the ballad "Misty", and has become a jazz standard.


Garner started playing piano at the age of three. His older siblings were learning piano from Miss Bowman. From a very early age, Erroll Garner would sit down and play everything she taught back by ear, just like Miss Bowman.


"Because Garner could not write down his musical ideas, he used to record them on tape, to be later transcribed by others."



Garner was born with his twin brother Ernest in Pittsburgh, PA as the youngest of six children. He attended George Westinghouse High School as did fellow pianists Billy Strayhorn and Ahmad Jamal.


When he turned seven, Garner began appearing on the radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh with a group called the Candy Kids. By the age of eleven, Erroll was playing on the Allegheny riverboats. He also played locally in the shadow of his older pianist brother Linton Garner.


Garner is credited with having superb musical memory. After attending a concert by the classical pianist Emil Gilels, Erroll returned to his apartment and was able to play most of the performed music.



The first of Erroll Garner's music was recorded in late 1944 at the apartment of Timme Rosenkrantz. They eventually were issued as the five-volume Overture to Dawn series on Blue Note Records. His recording career began to progress in the late 1940s when several songs like "Fine and Dandy", "Skylark" and "Summertime" were cut.


Garner's 1955 live album Concert by the Sea was a best-selling jazz album in its day featuring Eddie Calhoun on bass and Denzil Best on drums.



In 1954, Erroll Garner composed "Misty", first recording it in 1955 for the album Contrasts. Lyrics to the song were later added by Johnny Burke. "Misty" rapidly became popular, both as a jazz standard and as the signature song of Johnny Mathis. It was also recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Stevens, and Aretha Franklin. Clint Eastwood used it as the basis for his thriller Play Misty For Me.


Erroll Garner went on to inspire generations of jazz musicians and artists. Garner transitioned at the age of 55, in 1977 after losing his battle with lung cancer. Thankfully from the efforts of Octave Music (the company Garner formed with his manager in 1952) — and the Erroll Garner Jazz Project, his music is finding new ears through a series of new releases and creative multimedia.

For more about Erroll visit www.errollgarner.com

Instagram: @errollgarnerofficial

Facebook: /officialerrollgarner/

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