Sunday, December 14, 2014

Excerpt from Diving Deep for Sea Shells: Peggy Lee at Hollywood Bowl - September 5, 1953

We played the Hollywood Bowl Saturday Night “Pops” program on September 5, 1953. Peg was soloist and the first “nightclub singer” to appear at the Bowl. Hollywood Bowl Magazine described Peg as thus: “Miss Lee possesses a smooth, sleek prettiness, and in person she offers one of the warmest show personalities in the entertainment field, plus a voice that is exquisite in tone and quality.”

Peg was nervous during rehearsals with the prospect of performing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Los Angeles Philharmonic was comprised of 97 musicians. This was the closing concert of their 32nd season. The season had begun in June. There we were, Peg and her quintet on front stage center with the orchestra in place behind us.

This concert was so precious to me. It is the most meaningful event of my career. Daddy was bass trombone player in the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He was seated behind us with the orchestra. He was in the brass section near the back of the Hollywood Bowl’s shell. That was his tenth year with them. What a privileged experience to be on the same stage with him. Daddy in a symphonic orchestra and me in Peggy Lee’s jazz group!

Although I was nervous, I was familiar with our part of the program. Peg wore two gowns, one for the first part and another after intermission. The first gown was a white creation of Howard Greer,
with a Spanish mantilla. He designed Shirley Temple’s wedding gown in 1945. Greer also designed a coral flame-colored chiffon gown for the second part. Peg later gave me both gowns. I would wear them on stage with her. I had a collection. I later gave them back to Nicki and her daughter, Holly. Some of them were used for a collection requested by a museum. Peg didn’t require me to wear black as she did her male musicians. She preferred them in black suits.

Peg asked her friend Victor Young to conduct the concert. He was better known for film scores. He worked and wrote a lot with Peg. He composed a piece for the orchestra entitled “New York City Ghost.” This stunning piece contained a narration on which Mr. Young and Peg collaborated. This “mood poem” was never recorded by Peg. An instrumental version was recorded by a jazz group consisting of: Herbie Harper (Trombone), Bud Shank (Tenor and Baritone Saxophone), Harry Babasin (Bass), Marty Paich (Piano) and Roy Harte (Drums). I worked with Bud Shank many times on sessions and concerts. He was a superior musician, as was Marty Paich. I have completely forgotten the music and narration. The other songs we played were: “Just One of Those Things,” “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” “Golden Earrings,” “MaƱana,” “Too Marvelous for Words,” “Legend of The Well,” and “Lover.”

Friday, August 29, 2014

Dominic Joseph “Don” DeLellis

Uncle Don in Military School

Stella's Uncle Don was was born on October 12, 1909. He was also her Godfather. They shared a close bond until his death in January of 1958. We were not able to get his photo in Diving Deep for Sea Shells. We share it here for the moment. In future editions we will correct this.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Book Selfies

pictured: Edwina

Diving Deep for Sea Shells is making its way into hearts and homes all over the world. Send us your photo with it. Thank you to everyone who is already reading!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Website Redesign

This website is under construction.

We look forward to sharing information and updates about Diving Deep for Sea Shells and exclusive content.

If you have already read Diving Deep for Sea Shells please let us know what you think in the comments.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Diving Deep for Sea Shells is now available for:

Amazon Kindle
NOOK (Barnes & Noble)

You can also find it at many other retailers that sell ebooks.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Writing Diving Deep for Sea Shells

Stella and Edgar during a writing session. (Santa Monica, May 2013)

We are so happy to have our book released!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Diving Deep for Sea Shells is now on sale!

Diving Deep for Sea Shells is now on sale at:

Balboa Press Bookstore


Barnes & Noble

Hardcover and paperback are available.

Coming Soon:
ebook version

Thursday, July 24, 2014

About Diving Deep for Sea Shells + update

Stella Castellucci tells the story of her remarkable life in music. Born in Los Angeles in 1930 to musician father Louis Castellucci, Stella would go on to continue and further his legacy. Stella joined Peggy Lee’s touring jazz group in 1953. They would form a close friendship that would endure past Peggy’s life. Stella witnessed and took part in a very creative time for Peggy Lee in the 1950’s. They would closely collaborate on the 1958 Decca release Sea Shells.

Stella would also appear on the albums: Songs in an Intimate Style (Decca, 1954), Black Coffee (Decca, 1956), Dream Street (Decca, 1957), The Man I Love (Capitol, 1957), Jump for Joy (Capitol, 1958), Pretty Eyes (Capitol, 1960) and Christmas Carousel (Capitol, 1960).

Learn the story behind the making of these and other classic recordings, including the Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong album Porgy & Bess. Stella remains a devoted friend to her “Big Sister” Peggy, even appearing for Lee’s 92nd birthday celebrations in North Dakota. This book was created through extensive email exchanges, phone conversations and visits between Stella and Edgar. We hope that the love and joy in writing it carries over to our readers. Fans of Jazz, Peggy Lee, harp music and the album Sea Shells are sure to enjoy the look back.

+ + +UPDATE+ + +
We are now awaiting our release date from Balboa Press, our publisher. Info will be posted here as soon as we receive it. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Excerpt from Diving Deep for Sea Shells

Diving Deep for Sea Shells [Stella's memoir of her life in music] is now being published. We look forward to announcing the release date.

Here is an excerpt: 

One day in June of 1953, I had just come home from what would be my final lesson with Mr. Cafarella. I received a phone call from Pete Candoli. He was a well-known jazz trumpeter, and a member of Peg’s group. We had worked together in the staff orchestra at ABC. I hadn’t seen him since leaving the ABC staff orchestra. The conversation went something like this:
Pete:     Stella… I’m at Peggy Lee’s house. We are rehearsing with her group for an upcoming tour. We are beginning our engagement at Ciro’s in one week. Peggy has always loved harp and wants to add it to the quartet. Come on over, bring your harp and sit in!
Me:        Pete, I just don’t think I’m the person you want. How could I do that? I've never played jazz or with jazz musicians! 
Pete:     I know how you play. I used to listen to you playing alone backstage on broadcast breaks. You would be noodling (a jazz slang word for improvising) around on the tunes. I know you can do it. You know the tunes and you’ve got ears, so come on over and give it a try!
(After much protesting, he finally won.)
Me:        Alright, I will give it a try.
Pete then gave me directions to Peg's home in Holmby Hills, a section of Beverly Hills. I was simply astounded. I had never met Peg nor given a thought to working in a jazz group. The words “harp” and “Peggy Lee” didn’t seem to go together. Peg admired the sounds of a harp. She had a recording of New York harpist Laura Newell’s playing of Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro. While at ABC, I liked to sit and run through tunes in different ways. I didn’t know Pete had been listening or ever noticed. I wasn’t even driving yet so I asked Daddy to take me. He loaded up my Lyon & Healy style #22 in our station wagon and off we went. Daddy was excited for me.
We arrived while they were in rehearsal that afternoon. The door opened and we were greeted by Lillie Mae Hendrick. She was Peg’s cook and housekeeper. She said, “Come right in! Miss Lee is expecting you in the living room where they are all rehearsing.” Peg came up to me and extended a strong handshake. She said “Hi Stella, I'm Peggy. Won’t you sit down with us and listen for a while? When you feel like joining in, just jump in when you feel like it.”  I listened to them go over their material and “hung my ear out” as we say in jazz. You’re not reading music, you’re making music. The group consisted of: Pete Candoli on trumpet, Martin “Marty” Paich on piano, Joe Mondragon on bass and Frank Capp on drums. Today, Frank Capp leads the renowned jazz orchestra Juggernaut.
Well, that's what happened. They were in the middle of Cole Porter's “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” I knew that song well. It was cemented in my memory. Somewhere around the bridge (transitional passage connecting two sections of a song) I went to the harp and began chording around. We were “faking” as the term goes, without music. Playing in a jazz group is “faking” of the highest order. And yet, perhaps “faking” is a convenient but erroneous term. What the musician actually is doing is creating: the endless colors of harmony with substitute and altered chords, the rhythmic surprises of anticipation or suspension, the constant improvising on and away from the melody and the give and take of rubato playing. All are the subtle elements of jazz. We played jazz and the great songs I grew up loving and knowing. I went through a few more songs with them. We went on for about an hour before Peg called a break. She said nothing to me regarding the rehearsal. I had no idea what Peg would be like. I just knew that I liked her right away. 

©2014 Stella Castellucci & Edgar Amaya