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Babs Gonzales

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Biography

Babs Gonzales (Lee Brown, October 27, 1919 – January 23, 1980) was an American jazz vocalist and band leader of the late 40’s Be Bop era and later was known as an effusive beat poet. He may be most notable for penning the song “Oop-Pop-A-Da”, which was made famous by Dizzy Gillespie, but originally recorded and performed by his own band, three bips and a bop, a scat group that later was briefly expanded for some sessions as Six Bips and a Bop in December of 1948. Babs was also a road manager in the early 50’s for the James Moody band and was also once the chauffeur for Errol Flynn. In 1967, Babs published an autobiography titled, “i, paid my dues - good times…no bread - a story of jazz.”.

Gonzales was born Lee Brown in Newark, NJ; however, he and his brothers were all called Babs. He studied piano at an early age and learned to play drums. Looking for whatever money-making opportunities he could find, he made his way to Los Angeles, as he recalls in his memoir I Paid My Dues… Wearing a turban in Hollywood in the 1940s, he called himself Ram Singh. His networking and hustling talents landed him the job as Errol Flynn’s “foreign” chauffeur. He adopted the name Ricardo Gonzales to pass himself off as Mexican rather than black, in order to get a room in a good hotel. He tells of getting a break as a vocalist when he was asked to fill in for Mel Tormé.

Singing career

Gonzales worked with Charlie Barnet and Lionel Hampton’s big bands before forming and leading his own group, Bab’s Three Bips & a Bop (1946–49).

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