I love writing but I can assure you that what I write, in this instance, will in no way do justice to its topic. With that disclaimer out of the way, this picture is of Ernest “Ernie” McLean. He plays guitar, thirty minutes at a time, deep in New Orleans Square. He goes unnoticed by most Park goers. They briskly walk passed him, often without so much as a curious glance. I frequently find myself in the rather inconvenient position of being enamored with such overlooked things. What makes it most inconvenient is that I wish to shout for the attention and regard of these diamonds in the rough but my voice is not one of authority or persuasion. This all leaves me feeling rather helpless. Regardless, I want to share a few things about Ernie and I have full confidence that many of the wonderful people who join us on our daily tours are the type who will understand and appreciate it.
I think the most commonly known bit of information or lore about this gentleman is that he is the last cast member that Walt Disney himself hired. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but what I do know is that he is one of the guitarists who charted the course of modern music. He is an original member of Cosimo Matassa’s legendary studio band. He played with Fats Domino and recorded what some consider to be the first rock’n’roll song. He was a long time member of the Dave Bartholomew band.
I spoke with Ernie the day that I took this picture and learned a bit more than what the typical Google search will find. He came to L.A. with Scatman Crothers, a name that should sound familiar to Disney fans. Scatman was the voice of Scat Cat in The Aristocats. As I understood what Ernie shared, Frank Sinatra wanted Scatman to go on tour with him. This left Ernie looking for a job, which he found at Disneyland and he’s been there ever since. Ernie has also played with the likes of Lou Rawls, Dr. John and even Sonny and Cher.
Speaking with Ernie is one of the highlights of my life. I have listened to him play so many times in New Orleans Square, always too timid to approach him, unsure that I could express my gratitude for his gift to all who hear him. It’s not just that he is a good musician. It’s as if his soul pours out of him through his fingers as they race effortlessly across the frets, enriching your whole being. That’s the way music ought to be and that’s the way Ernie plays it.
He has an album for sale at Disneyland which you can find in the LaMascarade d’Orleans shop. I bought it right away, and Ernie graciously signed it for me. I highly recommend purchasing the album and supporting this wonderful man. He deserves to know he is appreciated.