University of Texas at Austin

Ross Russell:

A Preliminary Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Creator: Russell, Ross, 1909-2000
Title: Ross Russell Papers
Dates: circa 1920s-1980 (bulk 1940s-1970s)
Extent: 58 boxes, 2 oversize folders (24.36 linear feet)
Abstract: The papers contain correspondence, research materials, lecture notes, and manuscripts and drafts of books, screenplays and articles. Also included are unfinished works of fiction and non-fiction, photographs, legal papers, transcribed interviews, and promotional literature for Dial recordings.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-03662
Language: English
Access: Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Purchase, 1980 (R8972)
Processed by: Chip Cheek and Deborah Guidry, 1998

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Scope and Contents

The papers of Ross Russell, best known as a jazz journalist, jazz historian, and the founder of Dial Records, contain correspondence; research materials; lecture notes; manuscripts and drafts of his published books ( The Sound, Jazz Style in Kansas City and the Southwest, and Bird Lives!), as well as of screenplays, articles, and numerous unfinished works of fiction and non-fiction (most prominently an in-depth biography of Raymond Chandler); photographs; legal papers; royalties; reviews; transcribed interviews; and promotional literature for Dial recordings. The papers remain in the same order as received, and loosely reflect the following divisions: I. Correspondence, II. Jazz Writings, III. Business Records, IV. Academic Papers and Other Writings, V. Photographs, VI. Addenda.
Of special interest are letters in the correspondence files from Russell's fellow jazz historians throughout the United States and Europe. These correspondents include nearly every major figure concerned with jazz criticism and history, such as Martin Williams, Whitney Balliett, Max Harrison, Charles Delaunay, Rudi Blesh, Leonard Feather, Ralph Gleason, André Hodeir, Gunther Schuller, Nat Hentoff, Marshall Sterns, and Ira Gitler. There is additional correspondence from and interviews with such jazz luminaries as John Lewis, Cootie Williams, Sonny Criss, Bud Freeman, Don Lanphere, Hampton Hawes, Fats Navarro, Jessie Price, Jay McShann, Gene Ramey, Kenny Clarke, Chan Richardson, Red Rodney, and most importantly, Charlie Parker, interviewed in a backstage dressing room between sets.
Between 1949 and 1951, Dial Records expanded its scope to include contemporary classical music. Because of these business dealings, the collection also includes letters and manuscripts from Ernst Krenek and Rudolph Kolisch, as well as seventeen letters from Arnold Schoenberg.
The archive also includes a number of photographs which were reprinted in Russell's published jazz studies. Also present are other prints, proof sheets, and contact sheets produced from photographs by Russell, along with photographic essays of the 1968, 1970, 1971, and 1974 Monterey Jazz Festivals, as well as the 1968 Newport Jazz Festival, the 1967 Dixieland Festival at Disneyland, and the 1969 Jazz by the Bay Festival. The Russell files also include candid photographs of the Modern Jazz Quartet, Louis Bellson, Sonny Criss, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, John Handy, Hampton Hawes, Harold Land, Don Lanphere, Tony Ortega, Jessie Price, Archie Shepp, and Randy Weston.
The sale of the Russell Collection was handled by Laurence McGilvery, who provided a box-by-box inventory of the original 15 cartons of papers. The collection has since been rehoused into archival containers, and the following folder list compiled. Since the papers have been accessed using the McGilvery list for several years, this new folder list includes references to the box and folder numbers given in the McGilvery list.
Held separately in the Ransom Center are 3500 LP recordings and 78 RPM discs (1,500 of which are jazz related), and reel-to-reel and cassette tapes. Included are many Dial test pressings of jazz recordings by such masters as Charlie Parker, Kenny Dorham, Dexter Gordon, and Red Rodney, as well as recordings of works by Schoenberg and other mid twentieth century classical composers. The Library holds 265 books, which deal primarily with jazz and jazz-related topics. Some 400 periodicals, including complete or nearly complete runs of Jazz Review, Clef, Record Changer, and Jazz Record, as well as booklets, pamphlets, programs, and record catalogs are also present.


Lawn, Richard. "From Bird to Schoenberg: The Ross Russell Collection,"Perspectives on Music, ed. Dave Oliphant and Thomas Zigal (Austin: Humanities Research Center, 1985), pp. 137-147.
"Introduction,"The Bebop Revolution in Words and Music, ed. Dave Oliphant (Austin: Humanities Research Center, 1994), pp. 7-9.

Ross Russell Papers--Folder List