Ethyl “Elegant Ethyl” Fernbach

Ethyl “Elegant Ethyl” Fernbach

Louisiana, USA
Death 8 Jul 1964 (aged 64)
Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Pomona, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Memorial ID 25714188 · View Source
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"Death Stills Pianist," the Daily Report obit was headlined.

Fernbach was born in 1900 in Louisiana and came to California from Texas in 1922. She moved to Pomona in 1928 and lived at 1307 N. Garey Ave. with her husband, Paul. They had no children.

She died July 8, 1964, at age 64 after a sudden illness.

Before she was Elegant Ethyl, she played gospel music on KOCS-AM (1510) daily. Showing uncommon flexibility, she turned out to be willing to play in saloons and bowling alleys.

She worked Shanty Devlin's from about 1959 to 1961, and after that had her own club, also owned by Devlin. Elegant Ethyl's was at Ninth and Baker in Cucamonga behind the Red Griffin Inn. The stone building now holds offices for Cask 'n Cleaver.

"She was kind of raucous, banging on the piano, singing old songs and being harassed by - and giving it back to - the college kids who would come to drink beer and trade quips with her," reader Tony DiTommaso of Upland told me.

As Claremont was a dry town, college students packed into Shanty Devlin's and Elegant Ethyl's. In their own way, they adopted her. One senior class at Claremont Men's College dedicated its yearbook to her.

As the Daily Report obituary put it: " 'Elegant Ethyl' had a legion of friends in the West End, from those who remembered the 'Roaring 20s' to the present college crowd."

To perform, the plus-sized Ethyl wore a cotton housedress and no makeup. She had glasses with thick, frosted lenses and was almost blind.

Her fee of $15 per night included one beer, which she drank between sets.

In other words, no one mistook her for Kitty Carlisle.

"She was a pretty colorful person, anything but elegant," DiTommaso said.

Kaltenberger no longer knows where the ironic nickname came from, but Ethyl apparently was good-humored enough not to mind it.

He drove her home after the bar closed each night.

"She'd talk about customers. Laugh and carry on," Kaltenberger said.

Did she enjoy performing?

"Yes. Especially after a beer," he said. "She thought you should drink one beer."

Rene Biane and Bob Patterson remember her too. She played blues for the lovelorn, parlor songs, ragtime, Tin Pan Alley tunes, Dixieland.

"Beer Barrel Polka," "Mississippi Mud," "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" and "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover" are among the songs she played regularly, and from memory, often in response to shouted requests.

Her best-known number was "(Won't You Come Home) Bill Bailey."

At DiTommaso's urging, I phoned Cask 'n Cleaver founder Chuck Keagle and mentioned Elegant Ethyl. He knew the name instantly.

"She just beat the hell out of the piano. She was incredible," Keagle said delightedly.

I want to give my heart felt thanks to David Allen (columnist with the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin) for permission to use the above information about "Elegant Ethyl". For more information and photos please visist The David Allen Blog.

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  • Created by: Kym☺
  • Added: 2 Apr 2008
  • Find A Grave Memorial 25714188
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Ethyl “Elegant Ethyl” Fernbach (19 Jan 1900–8 Jul 1964), Find A Grave Memorial no. 25714188, citing Pomona Cemetery and Mausoleum, Pomona, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Kym☺ (contributor 46877465) .