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13/04/2015

Wedding singer at daughter’s ceremony was no ordinary entertainer

One day in 1973 our daughter, Nicole, announced that she would like a garden wedding on our backyard patio.

 

How do you plan a garden wedding, I wondered? I had never before been faced with this problem. What should I do about music, decorations and the reception?

 

A short while later, we were invited to the wedding dance of a distant cousin. My wife, Jokki, and I never missed the chance to go dancing and we accepted the invitation. There was a small orchestra and one of the entertainers, a saxophone player, so impressed me that at intermission I went up and talked to him.

 

“Do you suppose the orchestra would play for my daughter’s garden wedding?” I asked.

 

“I will come and play for your daughter’s wedding,” he said. “Do you have a piano?”

 

“A baby grand,” I said.

 

 

Pictures: cheap wedding dresses

 

We agreed to the terms and I gave him the location and date.

 

On the day of the event the patio was decorated, the food arranged for a reception, and a reverend called.

 

What if he doesn’t show? I was getting nervous and it was time for the musician, Eugene Jackson, to appear. Would someone have to improvise the music?

 

I waited out front with a space saved in our driveway. At the last minute, a big white Cadillac came down the street, past our driveway and wheeled into the middle of my neighbor’s driveway. Al, my good friend and neighbor, was invited so it was OK.

 

The wedding march was played and the ceremony completed with friend Al taking pictures. It was a gala afternoon with food, punch and music. Eugene played all afternoon.

 

The guests gathered around and nobody wanted to leave while Eugene played almost until sundown. He stood on the piano bench and rendered saxophone solos. He played the baby grand and sang and seemed to enjoy the audience as much as they enjoyed him.

 

Afterward, I was amazed to find that he was the kid who played Pineapple in some of Hal Roach’s “Our Gang” comedies of the 1920s, playing Farina’s older brother. At age 6 he was dancing for nickels and dimes on the streets of Los Angeles, where he was discovered by Roach. If you are wondering where the nickname came from, Roach looked at his Afro and called him Pineapple.

 

He went on to star in “Buster Brown” comedies, played Red Foxx’s friend in episodes of “Sanford and Son” and acted in Mary Pickford’s “Little Annie Rooney.” As a grown-up, he starred in many movies and in vaudeville.

 

At the time I hired him to play at my daughter’s wedding, I was not aware of any of this. Evidently, he was available wherever there was a request for entertainment and he was truly an all-around entertainer who could fit into any venue no matter where or for whom.

 

He certainly filled the bill at our little ceremony. He presented us with a signed glossy photograph depicting the various phases of his life.

 

We saw him one more time with our friends, Al and June, at a small club playing piano and singing for the patrons, proving once again that he was available wherever an entertainer was needed and truly one of a kind.

 

Eugene “Pineapple” Jackson was born in 1916 and died in 2001 at the age of 84.

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