Ernie Chavez (Ernest Torres Chavez)
BiographyWatsonville, California, USA
As a five year old boy, the story goes, Ernest Torres Chavez would scale a fence next to the family's first home in North 11th Street in San Jose, California, and quietly enter the house next door. The neighbors then would be surprised to hear the boy making noise on the guitars stored in the back room. The music stayed with him. He left San Jose High School at the age of 17 to join the National Guard, where he played tenor sax at his base in Tacoma, Washington. Read more... called Three Bees and a Queen. He played around the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. The group, which also featured pianist Jose Castro and singer Treasure Ford, reached its high point in the early 1950's when it was given second billing at the London Palladium. In the 1950's he settled in Los Angeles, where he played for several years with Cuban-American composer Rene Touzet and his Latin jazz orchestra. He also worked as a member of the house band at the Band Box, a well-known comedy nightclub. It was there that Don Rickles often used Mr. Chavez as a straight man, hurling racial slurs at him while Mr. Chavez chuckled and the audience roared. One night Mr. Chavez came back with a swipe of his own, recalled Rita Chavez-Law who married Mr. Chavez in 1950. "Some day I want to be just like you, Mr. Rickles" he said. "How's that?" Rickles asked. "Vicious." said Mr. Chavez. The audience roared. Rickles never asked him back on the stage after that. Other LA stints included music arrangements for Nancy Wilson and filling in for recording sessions with band leader Harry James. He also had a one-time speaking role in "The Ring". Other bit parts included Musician roles in "strangers When We Meet" and a spot on the TV series "Bourbon Street Beat." After his divorce in early 1960's Mr. Chavez returned to San Jose. He played sax and flute for lounge combos around the Bay Area for 30 years. A working musician until health problems took him off the stage, Mr. Chavez developed a brain tumor and died in 1992.