The Parreott Family
As the roots of Asbury Park’s African American Music History continues, we left off with the story of Clifford Johnson, his tales of Springwood Avenue’s popular Jazz era and the 1970 riots as a sign of the changing times, and we pick up with the story of Dorian Parreott.
Dorian was interviewed by the Asbury Park African American Music Project and I also spoke with him recently.
The Parreotts are a well-known family in Asbury Park, with a long history of community service. Dorian’s brother, David Jr. is a Reverend and former Asbury Park police officer. His nephew, Kevin Sanders, is a former Asbury Park Mayor.
David Parreott Sr., their father, also served on the Asbury Park police force for 35 years. David married Dorian’s mother, Esther Fauntleroy in 1924. They moved that year from Virginia to Asbury Park. They had seven children, five girls; Esgloria, Alymra, Thais, Divilla, Rovena, and two boys; David Jr. and Dorian.
Dorian, the sixth youngest of the family, was born September 15th, 1935 and the first to be born in Jersey Shore Hospital. All of his other siblings, except for Rovena, the youngest, were born at home with a mid-wife, at 1022 Mattison Avenue.
Dorian’s mother was a stay at home mom who loved to bake. She was a natural entrepreneur and sold her fresh baked rolls to the community. Dorian and Divilla would deliver the rolls to people in the neighborhood.
They had a tea room called The Almyra Tea Room. People would come in bus loads from New York City, where some of Esther’s siblings lived. “They would come and eat, go to the beach, then come back for dessert and tea before returning to the City.”
Esther was also musically inclined and, like most families on the west side, they had an upright piano in the living room. She taught herself and her children how to play by ear. Later, they would formally learn how to read music in school.
Like his parents, Dorian held an entrepreneurial spirit. In their backyard was a large BBQ pit where his father would cook chicken and ribs for family and friends. “There would always be lots of people in our back yard, I would shine shoes and sell lemonade to make extra money, along with my paper route.”
Much of the music of Asbury Park’s Springwood Avenue began in the Church. For Dorian it was St. Stephen AME Zion Church, now on Springwood Avenue. Dorian was also first turned on to music by his Uncle, George Fauntleroy, a well-known saxophone player in New York City. Uncle George played several reed instruments and traveled around the world with big bands. He encouraged Dorian to follow his passion.
Dorian learned how to play all of his instruments except the piano in the Asbury Park school system. First at the Bangs Avenue school and then Asbury Park High School from his music teacher and band director, Frank Bryan.
With musical talent in his DNA, it’s no surprise that Dorian plays a host of instruments: drums, saxophone, clarinet, alto horn, French horn, trombone, flute, piano, and sings!
When Dorian was 10 years old he was walking down Cookman Avenue one day and heard the Salvation Army band playing. One of the band members saw him hanging around watching them and gave him an Alto Horn to play around with, but Dorian’s mother made him return it.
“My mother was a devoted Christian, I was only allowed to play in my church. “
When Dorian got into high school he and his friends Reggie Brown, Eddie Singletary, George Floyd, Leonard Martin, Robert Brooks, Clifford Johnson, Stanley Smith, Carl West, Everett Taylor, David Parreott, William Dozier, and James Blackwell would practice together. “We started to sound pretty good, so we formed a band and named it The Cubops. It came from the influence of Latin, Jazz, and the early 1950’s rock music we used to play.”
The band would often be invited to play at neighborhood block parties in the Asbury Park Villages. Where they would hold dances every weekend.
Dorian’s most exciting gig came at the age of 17 during his Junior year in high school. The band was invited to play at the Apollo Theater in New York City. They brought a 12-piece band and a squad of dancers–Shirley Harris, Betty Griffin, Deloris Sims, and Charles Smith–playing mostly Latin and Jazz. The audition was on a Tuesday. They were invited back two days later to perform for Thursday night’s Amateur Show.
They continued to play at many of the venues on the west side: The Elks Club, The Turf Club, The Capitol and The Savoy Ballroom. “Count Basie’s trombone players used to come and play with us. They would sit in on their breaks and we would jam together.”
They were fun times for Dorian and still remain great memories.
Along with being in the High School Band and his own band, Dorian was also very athletic. He played basketball, tennis and football in high school. In 1953 Asbury Park High School won the football State Championship, he was the kicker and played defensive end. And he was the No 1 tennis player in both high school and college.
After graduating high school Dorian attended North Carolina Central University on a four-year basketball scholarship, majoring in music education.
Dorian returned to Asbury Park in 1960. He was a music teacher, band director, and Supervisor of the Fine Arts department in Asbury Park High School for a total of 23 years. He studied instrument repair in Newark, NJ and worked for Scott’s Music in Asbury Park in 1961. He continues to run his own instrument repair business which he has had for the past 50 years.
In 1962 Dorian married his wife Yvonne, (Hampton) Parreott, a nurse by profession. They had two children: Dorian II and Michele.
With many of the music venues being lost after the riots, the music returned to where it began and still resides today; in the church. Every fifth Sunday, St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church on Prospect Avenue hosts a Jazz concert from 3 pm – 5 pm in the afternoon.
There are so many wonderful stories about the west side of Asbury Park, I could write about them for a long time. It was a thriving and tight-knit community that worked hard and played their instruments even harder; they were the people who kept Asbury Park alive. It was a culture of class, dignity, pride, and soul; in their music and in their hearts. The work of the Asbury Park African American Music Project is to document the oral histories of these musicians and more before they are lost to history.
Photos provided by AP-AMP.