Tomorrow, it is 60 years since Duke Ellington appeared on the cover of the Time Magazine and was featured in a five-page article.
He himself said that it was “the epic ride of Paul Gonsalves, which brought us on the cover of Time Magazine” (Music Is My Mistress page 191) but the true story is a little bit more complicated.
Back in the early 1990s, Charles H. Waters – the Ellington scholar and a DESOK member – stumbled upon the information that the portrait of Ellington, which appeared on the Time Magazine cover and was done by the Western artist Peter Hurd, had been done already in early June (between June 8 and 17), i.e. almost a month before the Newport Festival.
This triggered Waters to look into the story of the cover and he published an extensive article in Annual Review of Jazz Studies 6 (1993) based on thorough research.
He unfolded that the decision to write a cover story had been taken long before Newport – most likely in the late spring of 1956. The writer of the story, Carter Harman, interviewed Ellington in parallel to the painting of the project and at that time Ellington himself proposed that the peg for the article should be his appearance with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra in New Haven, Connecticut on July 12, 1956.
Harman was of course also present at the Newport Jazz Festival and he must have sensed the excitement that the performance(s) of Ellington (and Gonsalves) on the last night of the Festival created.
However, it was apparently Ellington’s press agent, Joe Morgan, who pitched the idea that Harman should use the Newport Festival as the hook to get his bosses to publish an Ellington cover story.
Harman took this to the assistant managing editor, Otto Fuerbringer – responsible for Time Magazine’s cover stories – and finally he agreed to run the story in the August 20, 1956 issue of the magazine.
In August 1956, Time Magazine ran cover stories also on the shipping tycoon Stavros Niarchos, former U.S. President Harry Truman and the Egyptian President Nasser.
For Columbia Records and for Ellington, the timing of the article was perfect. The Newport Festival recordings including those of Ellington were going to be issued in September so Time provided some good promotion.
This was also done by Down Beat. It published its report on the Newport Festival also in the August 20, 1956 issue where Leonard Feather wrote the story on Ellington.
Members of DESS can read the full article in the Ellington Archive / Articles https://ellington.se/marknadsplatsen/ellington-arkivet/articles-and-documents/