By MARK C. PEYKO | Metro Monthly Editor
Ella Fitzgerald, widely regarded as one of the greatest jazz singers of all time, was married in Youngstown during a two-week engagement at the Merry-Go-Round nightclub in 1947.
Fitzgerald was performing in early December at the West Side club with her jazz trio, which included musicians Hank Jones, Ray Brown and Charlie Smith. Her appearance in Youngstown followed a one-week engagement in November at Chicago’s Regal Theatre.
According to records at the Mahoning County Courthouse, Fitzgerald and Ray Brown were married during a civil ceremony on Dec. 10, 1947. The marriage license was signed and recorded on Dec. 12 by Mahoning County Probate Judge Clifford M. Woodside. Bruce R. Black served as justice of the peace.
Stuart Nicholson republished the document in his book, “Ella Fitzgerald: A Biography of the First Lady of Jazz.” In the document, Brown listed his address as New York City while Fitzgerald gave 608 North Ave. in Youngstown as her place of residence. Brown and Fitzgerald listed their ages as 21 and 29, respectively.
In “Ella Fitzgerald: The Chick Webb Years and Beyond,” authors Ron Fritts and Ken Vail included a news brief from New York that announced the nuptials. It read: “Ella Fitzgerald, famed jazz singer, was married December 10 to Ray Brown, star bassman recently with Norman Granz and formerly in the Dizzy Gillespie band.”
By 1953, the couple had split. In the Sept. 10, 1953 issue of Jet, a headline in the magazine read: “Ella Fitzgerald sues mate for Mexican divorce.” According to the publication, Fitzgerald had filed for divorce in Juarez, Mexico, charging her spouse with incompatibility. The magazine noted that Fitzgerald was estranged from Brown shortly after their marriage in Youngstown and tried to keep her divorce plans secret, but a reporter uncovered the divorce papers in Juarez.
© 2014 Metro Monthly. All rights reserved.