Born Irving Conrad Ashby, 29 December 1920, Somerville, Massachusetts
During the rock & roll era, Irving Ashby was a prolific session guitarist in and around Los Angeles, where he worked as a freelance musician. But like so many session players on R&R records, he was basically a jazzman, who had to adapt to the Big Beat in order to pay the bills. Irving Ashby was in demand primarily for his solid rhythm playing, but he was also a very adept soloist.
Ashby began playing guitar at age nine. As a teenager he played with local bands in around his hometown Somerville. In 1940 he joined Lionel Hampton's band and continued playing with Hampton for two years. Ashby is the guitarist on Hampton's influential "Flying Home" (1942), which is usually credited to sax man Illinois Jacquet. In 1947 he joined Nat 'King' Cole's Trio, replacing Oscar Moore, and recorded prolifically with the Trio until he settled permanently in Perris, California, in 1951. He joined Oscar Peterson's trio in 1952 and was a prominent member of Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic at that time. He also led his own sextet, with which he recorded for the United Artists label, and was active as a teacher, publishing a guitar instruction book in the process.
In the mid and late 50's Ashby was more often found in the recording studios, both as a guitarist and an upright bass player. For Imperial Records he played on many instrumental recordings, first with the Ernie Freeman Combo (biggest hit: "Raunchy"), later with drummer Sandy Nelson. Ashby also recorded instrumentals under his own name, including a fine version of "Big Guitar". His 1957-58 recordings for Imperial, usually with Plas Johnson on sax, still await reissue (as do his earlier R&B recordings on Enterprise with Bumps Myers). Some of the many (non-jazz) artists Ashby has backed: Joe Turner, Larry Williams, Sheb Wooley, LaVern Baker, B.B. King, Pat Boone, Jody Reynolds, Chan Romero, Amos Milburn, Perez Prado, Louis Jordan, Meade Lux Lewis, Marvin and Johnny, Helen Humes. By the 60's Ashby was also working outside the music field, but continued playing from time to time, sometimes brought back into the limelight by various guitarists whom he had strongly influenced, such as Howard Roberts.
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