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  • Writer's pictureVeda Dean

Dave Brubeck's humble roots

In 1933, Peter and Elizabeth Brubeck and their sons Henry, Howard, and 13-year-old Dave moved from the California Bay to manage a cattle ranch in Ione. Their ranch happened to be near the home of the long-established Scully family. Years later, Dave became one of the most influential Jazz composers of the 20th century. 

Although the Brubecks were cattle ranchers, Elizabeth was an educated concert pianist and taught lessons on the side, however, they didn't own a piano. The Scullys offered her the piano in their dining room starting a close relationship between the two families. 

The Scully's Civil War era dining room piano Courtesy Samuel McCarthy

Dave Brubeck and young Bob Scully developed a close friendship with each other and Dave would often ride on horseback to the Scully house to spend time with Bob and play their piano. Dave said later in life that many of his compositions were inspired by the tempo of a horse’s gait. 

Dave left home to attend the University of the Pacific in Stockton studying Veterinary Science. The head of the department forced him to quit the major saying "Brubeck, your mind's not here. It's across the lawn in the conservatory. Please go there. Stop wasting my time and yours." And so he did, going on to lead one of the most successful careers in the industry. But he wouldn’t have had his long career in music if it weren't for the rosewood piano in the Scully house. 

In the 1970s, Etta and Bob Scully advocated to change the name of the road adjacent to their house to “Dave Brubeck Rd” in honor of him. Dave would frequently visit the home and even signed the guestbook which remains at the house to this day (pictured below.)

Dave and Lola Brubeck signed the guestbook in 1982


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