The last trip

Finally fronting his own band in New York and then...

Stan moved to New York after the Goodman gig in Pennsylvania, toured the clubs, jammed with Dizzy and Wardell at Minton's and, with the support of Benny Goodman, got assigned by the William Morris Agency. There were plans for a big band, that rehearsed but never came into beeing (eventually after Stan's death organized by Benny), but Willard Alexander at the agency helped him to form a group of his own. The club Three Deuces on 52nd Street featured him as "The Be-Bop King of Sweden".

Chuck Wayne recalls in Sima's movie: "I was very surprised to hear this wonderful player with so much understanding about American jazz, bebop particulary, and who knew how to play the chord changes and everything. We became aquinted. Stan heard my trio and we then we had this group that Stan fronted on the Three Deuces, one of the prominent clubs on 52nd Street. We had a wonderful quartet with Max Roach, Clyde Lombardi, Gene DiNovo and myself. We were playing tunes that we thought were very hot at the time. One of the tunes that Stan liked very much was Cottontop because it had many of the type of bop phrases that were into prominence at the time."

Max Roach continues the story:
"We worked at the Three Deuces just a few weeks, but American musicians were very impressed by him. The feeling that he brought to the music and his openness to the musicians, especially in our society which is a double society in a sense. There is always that underlying black and white thing, but we never felt that from Stan. And of course we knew about the relationship between June Eckstine and him; a black woman and a white man. Something that would happen but was not something that was talked about."

June Eckstine and Stan Hasselgard were in love. We dont' know how it started (maybe when Stan played with Billy Eckstine at a Jubilee show in February) but at this time the Eckstines were divorcing. 

On November 18, 1948 Stan recorded two V-Discs and four days later took off from New York together with June Eckstine and with Bob Redcross – Billy Eckstine's chauffeur – behind the wheel. The first stop was to be Chicago, where "Mr. B" was to sign the final divorce papers, but then the witnesses contradict. Redcross says the were to drive Stan to California for a job, other sources claim that he was going to Mexico in order to reenter the United States to renew his residence permit. Some even say that the couple were going to get married in Nevada.

It all ended on Route 66, near Hammond in Illinois early in the morning of November 23. Bob Redcross took a nap in the backseat. June was driving, skidded, probably falling asleep, and crashed the car. Stan and June were thrown out of the car as it overturned. She broke an arm, Redcross a toe and Stan his neck.


Metronome readers' poll 1948
Clarinet. Benny Goodman won, narrowly edging out Buddy DeFranco by just 25 votes. The rest of the vote-getters on the list were Stan Hasselgard (who had died in November 1948 in a car crash), Woody Herman, Jimmy Hamilton, Artie Shaw, Barney Bigard, John LaPorta, Herbie Fields and Hank d'Amico.

Max Roach remembers Stan Hasselgard.

"Benny really dug Stan. I was at a rehearsal with the band in late November 1948 when Benny got a call telling him Stan had died in an auto accident in Illinois. Benny went white and canceled the rehearsal."

Eddie Bert interviewed by Marc Myer.

Bob Redcross back at the scene of the accident in Jonas Sima's movie. Redcross was Billy Eckstine's (and later Dizzy Gillespie's) road manager and driver. His main contribution to jazz are the wax discs on which he recorded Carlie Parker in 1943 (see Stash Records). Parker also named a tune after him, always misspelled as Red Cross.